Web content 2010 - Transforming The Economist using Scrum - 2010-06-08


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  • How many people here already know what Scrum is – a show of hands? We're transforming The Economist online using Scrum on a couple of different levels – we're using Scrum to transform The Economist online (the website) from what it once was to what we need it to be, and we're transforming The Economist online (the company) from what it once was to what we need *it* to be as well
  • New issue of the print publication hits news stands/is delivered to subscribers every Friday All articles from print publication are published on/imported into The Economist online every Thursday There's also some "web-only content" - articles posted on The Economist online that do not appear in the print publication; a dozen or so blogs (right now, with more to come); a dozen "channels" where editors "curate" content from The Economist online and from around the Web We have more than 3 million registered users on the site Average time spent on the site per visit is more than 20 minutes Average (commenting) user posts 3.6 comments per month
  • Increasing ad revenues is all about increasing page views Increasing print subscriptions through the website is, for me, more complex – that's about the science of customer acquisition, which I won't be touching on in this presentation So, we're trying to increase page views on the site I'm not an expert in content strategy like a lot of you are But I called Kristina Halvorson last week to bounce these next few slides off her and she said my points *may be* "components" of a content strategy
  • I mentioned that our average user spends more than 20 minutes on the site per visit (which I think is an incredible amount of time) We've done a bunch of user testing and learned that many of our readers would read more content (and spend more time) on the site if there *was* more content on the site More content would then = more page views, which is what we need to increase our ad revenues We've added more content ourselves via blogs and channel pages although this has (I'm speculating) increased our production costs We want to find ways to increase the volume of content on the site without increasing the cost of producing it
  • We want to draw on the intelligence of our editors, our readers and guest journalists We want to give our readers the tools they need to very actively discuss and debate the global agenda If we do this well, we believe our readers will help us increase the volume of content on the site without increasing the cost of producing it *while* increasing page views simply by virtue of the fact that there will be more content
  • We also want to involve our editors in the "curation" of content on channel pages, etc. "Curation is the new black" - @deburka So – we know we want to increase page views and we have a strategy for doing so, but what challenges do we face in executing on our strategy?
  • The Economist online was initially managed through a custom CMS built with ColdFusion, Oracle and a bunch of bolt on third part applications Functionality was added over the years, but the system became inflexible – we couldn't extend it in the ways that we needed to execute our content strategy Moreover, we were paying interest on the technical debt we'd accrued due to immature engineering practices, which prevented us from focusing fully on the task at hand
  • We practiced the waterfall method of software development Requests for new features were bundled together and managed as projects that took months to deliver (and very often did not deliver what our internal customers wanted)
  • Read Daniel Pink's most recent book "Drive" There is a large gap between what science knows about human motivation and what business seems to know about human motivation (and that we need to close that gap) High performance teams need autonomy – they need to direct themselves, they want mastery – they want to get better and better at what they do, and they want purpose – they want to feel like their work is about something bigger than themselves Technical debt, outdated development practices and outdated management practices had led to unmotivated teams All of these things were impeding us in our attempts respond to our situation, which were (and are) to increase our online ad revenues and print subscriptions through the site
  • Drupal was a fit with our content strategy – to give readers the tools they need to engage in discussion and debate and to give our editors the tools they need to curate content on the site We were excited by the promise of open source – the potential for zero time-to-market where features are developed by the community We were excited by the strength of Drupal community – we wanted to be part of something bigger than ourselves
  • Scrum is a learning system If software development were a sport, Scrum would be the rules – Scrum doesn't tell teams HOW to build software, it simply frames the software development game Scrum works by having small , self-organizing , cross-functional teams work in time-boxed iterations to deliver potentially shippable code based on a commonly-understood definition of DONE "Hey I don't tell you how to tell me what to do, so don't tell me how to do what you tell me to do! I know what I'm doing!"
  • Web content 2010 - Transforming The Economist using Scrum - 2010-06-08

    1. 1. Transforming The Economist online using Scrum Web Content 2010 – June 8
    2. 2. Introduction <ul><li>I'm Rob Purdie </li></ul><ul><li>Scrum Practice Leader, The Economist online </li></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>[email_address] </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>http://twitter.com/robpurdie </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>http://facebook.com/robpurdie </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>http://robpurdie.net </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><li>The opinions expressed in this presentation are mine and do not necessarily express those of The Economist Group </li></ul>
    3. 3. Session outline <ul><li>Background (5 mins) </li></ul><ul><li>Content strategy (5 mins) </li></ul><ul><li>Challenges (5 mins) </li></ul><ul><li>Transformation (15 mins) </li></ul><ul><li>Questions (10 mins) </li></ul>
    4. 4. The Economist <ul><li>Weekly news and international affairs publication </li></ul><ul><li>Started in 1843 by James Wilson </li></ul><ul><li>Background </li></ul><ul><li>Content strategy </li></ul><ul><li>Challenges </li></ul><ul><li>Transformation </li></ul><ul><li>Questions </li></ul>
    5. 5. Our aim <ul><li>&quot;...to take part in a severe contest between intelligence , which presses forward, and an unworthy, timid ignorance obstructing our progress.&quot; </li></ul><ul><li>Background </li></ul><ul><li>Content strategy </li></ul><ul><li>Challenges </li></ul><ul><li>Transformation </li></ul><ul><li>Questions </li></ul>
    6. 6. Our reach <ul><li>Today, The Economist sells 1.4 million copies per week </li></ul><ul><li>The Economist online gets 20-30 million page views and 4-5 million unique visitors per month </li></ul><ul><li>The Economist online gets over 20 thousand reader comments per month </li></ul><ul><li>Background </li></ul><ul><li>Content strategy </li></ul><ul><li>Challenges </li></ul><ul><li>Transformation </li></ul><ul><li>Questions </li></ul>
    7. 7. Our situation <ul><li>We need to increase our online advertising revenues </li></ul><ul><li>We need to increase the number of print subscriptions sold through the website </li></ul><ul><li>Background </li></ul><ul><li>Content strategy </li></ul><ul><li>Challenges </li></ul><ul><li>Transformation </li></ul><ul><li>Questions </li></ul>
    8. 8. Our response <ul><li>Find ways to increase volume of content on the site without increasing cost of producing it </li></ul><ul><li>Background </li></ul><ul><li>Content strategy </li></ul><ul><li>Challenges </li></ul><ul><li>Transformation </li></ul><ul><li>Questions </li></ul>
    9. 9. Our vision <ul><li>To make our site the premier destination online for analyzing and debating the global agenda by  drawing on the intelligence of journalists, readers and guests </li></ul><ul><li>Background </li></ul><ul><li>Content strategy </li></ul><ul><li>Challenges </li></ul><ul><li>Transformation </li></ul><ul><li>Questions </li></ul>
    10. 10. &quot;The return of the expert&quot; <ul><li>Involve our editorial staff in the curation of content from The Economist online and around the Web </li></ul><ul><li>Background </li></ul><ul><li>Content strategy </li></ul><ul><li>Challenges </li></ul><ul><li>Transformation </li></ul><ul><li>Questions </li></ul>
    11. 11. Legacy systems <ul><li>We had an inflexible content management system </li></ul><ul><li>We had technical debt </li></ul><ul><li>Background </li></ul><ul><li>Content strategy </li></ul><ul><li>Challenges </li></ul><ul><li>Transformation </li></ul><ul><li>Questions </li></ul>
    12. 12. Outdated development practices <ul><li>We were slow to respond to changing business needs </li></ul><ul><li>We needed to be able to deliver business value sooner </li></ul><ul><li>Background </li></ul><ul><li>Content strategy </li></ul><ul><li>Challenges </li></ul><ul><li>Transformation </li></ul><ul><li>Questions </li></ul>
    13. 13. Outdated management practices <ul><li>Command and control management crushes creativity and problem solving abilities </li></ul><ul><li>Our teams were unmotivated - high performance teams need autonomy, mastery and purpose </li></ul><ul><li>Background </li></ul><ul><li>Content strategy </li></ul><ul><li>Challenges </li></ul><ul><li>Transformation </li></ul><ul><li>Questions </li></ul>
    14. 14. Move to Drupal <ul><li>We chose to replace our proprietary legacy systems with Drupal </li></ul><ul><li>Drupal fit with our content strategy </li></ul><ul><li>We wanted to become part of a contribute to a vibrant open source community </li></ul><ul><li>Background </li></ul><ul><li>Content strategy </li></ul><ul><li>Challenges </li></ul><ul><li>Transformation </li></ul><ul><li>Questions </li></ul>
    15. 15. Adopt Scrum as framework <ul><li>Scrum was designed to address the dysfunctions of modern management </li></ul><ul><li>It's an empirical process </li></ul><ul><li>Products are delivered incrementally and iteratively </li></ul><ul><li>Scrum teams are self-organizing </li></ul><ul><li>Background </li></ul><ul><li>Content strategy </li></ul><ul><li>Challenges </li></ul><ul><li>Transformation </li></ul><ul><li>Questions </li></ul>
    16. 16. Scrum process flow <ul><li>Background </li></ul><ul><li>Content strategy </li></ul><ul><li>Challenges </li></ul><ul><li>Transformation </li></ul><ul><li>Questions </li></ul>
    17. 17. Perfect is the enemy of better <ul><li>Our transformation is ongoing </li></ul><ul><li>We're not trying to be perfect, but we're always and aggressively trying to be better </li></ul><ul><li>We're working to change old habits and to beginning to think about our team members' intrinsic motivations </li></ul><ul><li>Background </li></ul><ul><li>Content strategy </li></ul><ul><li>Challenges </li></ul><ul><li>Transformation </li></ul><ul><li>Questions </li></ul>
    18. 18. Questions <ul><li>? </li></ul><ul><li>Background </li></ul><ul><li>Content strategy </li></ul><ul><li>Problems </li></ul><ul><li>Transformation </li></ul><ul><li>Questions </li></ul>