Digital Publishing Roadmap – an update

As Head of Delivery and Performance for our Digital Publishing Division, one of the things I’m responsible for is making sure that our roadmap is maintained and managed. Andy, our Service Manager, wrote about our roadmap back in September.

As Andy said, “Roadmaps are good. Public roadmaps are better and public roadmaps where we talk about how they evolve as we go along are the very best of all.” So, why the radio silence since September? To be honest there hasn’t been a great deal to write about over the last few months. It’s not that everyone isn’t working really hard or that things aren’t being achieved. It’s simply that everything has moved forward pretty much to plan, and that generally doesn’t make for a very exciting read. But now that we’re approaching the start of the last financial quarter we’re starting to see some real changes.

The mechanics

So, before I launch into our progress I should probably offer some context. Keeping the roadmap on track is no easy task. There are dozens of things that can block delivery of roadmap items: money, having the right people, technology and process, to name but a few. When we set up the roadmap we had to decide how to monitor these blockers. My initial thought was to use a traditional RAG (red, amber and green) status for each roadmap item but it soon became clear that it might feel a bit demoralising for item “owners” to downgrade items from green to amber or amber to red. Instead, I came up with a confidence rating system, using 1 (very confident) to 5 (there’s probably more chance of winning the lottery). When an item owner changes their confidence rating in one direction or another it works as an excellent conversation starter to ask “why?” Using this format owners have been very open about barriers that have been removed and blockers they are facing. This makes it much easier for me, at our monthly roadmap reviews, to get a clear picture of where the roadmap is and to help the owners stay on track.

Changes this quarter

There are 70 items on our roadmap. The average confidence rating is a healthy 2 and, encouragingly, there is only one 5 and eight 4s. In this last quarter we’ve seen confidence for “creating custom feeds for super users” dip simply because the work hasn’t yet been scoped. Likewise for “enhance public support for the Platform API”; confidence reduced as we hadn’t yet been able to appoint someone to undertake the work. Conversely, confidence in “integrate the delivery of small area data into our website” increased as a result of bringing in a dedicated team to deliver an alpha.

 Good progress has been made against “improve publishing and formats”, including “redesign the statistical bulletin” and “exploration of new content formats”. Likewise, “ensure the public can access our performance data” is about halfway towards completion.

Our work to “broaden the scope of social media channels” saw our SlideShare strategy completed this quarter. Confidence has also increased in our “support of the 2021 Census” as a result of engaging a supplier to manage disclosure control and our progress in relationship and requirement management for the census programme.

An area where we’ve perhaps seen the greatest shift this quarter is in the work we’re doing to “support the GSS digital/data plans”. We have held 5 out of the 7 planned deep dives to understand the landscape of data across other Government Statistical Service (GSS) departments, and a supplier has been engaged to produce an end-to-end prototype using candidate department data.

So, lots of good stuff for the team to be proud of. But there are still challenges ahead. Our work to “create and automate an archiving and retention schedule and process” hasn’t yet progressed as we’d hoped, due to delays in starting our initial investigations.

What next?

There’s still much to deliver over the next 3 months and there will be no let up in pace for our team. The success of this year’s approach to our roadmap means that we will be adopting the same, if slightly refined, approach again for 2017 and 2018. We have begun to formalise the items for our next roadmap – identify priorities, owners and timelines. But more on this in the New Year…

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