I recently worked for Historic Royal Palaces (on a 2 year contract) as their Strategic Digital Channel Manager: Responsible for Digital Product Management, my mission was to design and build a compelling customer centric experience for our visitors that would provide sustainable incremental growth in online revenues for HRP. I also took responsibility for the identification and creation of the target operating model to support the new digital products under development.
Scope covered all things digital from mobile-web and apps, through to ticketing and retail, covering six palaces (Tower of London and Hampton Court, Kensington Palace, Kew Palace, Banqueting House and Hillsborough Castle). The programme of work comprised the following ongoing work-streams, all of which were under my management and leadership:
- Digital product strategy and prioritised dev roadmap (agreed with stakeholders across the business).
- Target operating model definition and implementation
- Website re-platforming and delivery into HRP’s managed environments from a 3rd party agency.
- Information Architecture ( and UXD) to underpin new web and mobile customer journeys.
- Adoption of solution architecture and a lift and shift of the website based on cloud hosted CMS/CRM (Umbraco/Dynamics on MS Azure) re-platforming and delivery into client’s environments from 3rd party suppliers.
- Mobile first website redesign, based on a UXD focused Information Architecture and designed around our visitors wants and needs
- Digital governance and led analysis of new business models to support the digital strategy and adoption to a new target operating model / capabilities underpinning a future proofed digital experience and sustainable incremental growth in online revenues.
- Web innovation and testing work streams
- Product development of a ‘Digital Visitor Guide’ (mobile/augmented reality) for orientation and storytelling.
New Operating Model and Governance
Central to the success of this programme was a paradigm shift to a new business and operating model for HRP. Revenue would be generated in a different way and the resource model was to change (with TUPE implications) to support the adoption of new products and services. I ran a consultation processes to engage with all key stakeholders in the creation of a Target Operating Model (TOM). This consultation was pivotal to ensure buy-in from all stakeholders and successful implementation. Scope of the TOM included:
- Customer experience / visitor services (operations and strategy)
- Content management (including audio/video, authoring, publishing)
- Marketing and Digital
- Technology and infrastructure
- Business targets and KPIs
- Financial controls
- Commercial relationships with new and existing 3rd parties / suppliers.
- Corporate management: strategy, planning, monitoring, reporting
- Governance / org structure
- Product management process (keeping roadmaps aligned to business strategy)
Mobile Product – Exploration , Prototype and Test
Innovation: Options investigated, mocked-up, prototyped and tested:
- BLE (Bluetooth Lowe Energy)/Beacons
- Augmented reality
- Mapping for knowledge discovery
- Knowledge separation and treatment
- Screen driven audio route interactions
- Determine best audio delivery / type of headphones
- Locating – where am I
- Haptic notifications – triggering and delivery (including events, exits, general notifications)
- Map based next steps
- Map based audio content
- Location based play / pause
- Directions and routing.
Product Development of the Digital Visitor Guide
UXD approach for this new product development:
- Product Strategy – informed by customer centred studies, interviews, observations, eye-tracking.
- Design concepts / ideation / scamps/ scope
- Customer experience test and learn; based around persona – journeys / UXD methods.
- Backlog creation: Stories/epics, UXD, feature definitions,
- Detailed Tech requirements (devices, NFRs, IT / infrastructure, services, operations, etc)
- Multiple Supplier selections / RFPs
- Detailed front-end design and development (Agile/ iterations)
- Tech delivery: Design, build, integration and test
- Test and bug-fix (Agile methods / iterations)
- Operational and business change
This was broken out into 3 phases:
- Re-platforming (with some refactoring) the initial design to a cloud based service
- Information Architecture
- Website redesign
The pre-existing design, deployed into a new cloud-hosted infrastructure under direct control and management of HRP. Migration and hosting options are discussed further on this link. The digital customer journeys and website content went through a complete migration into a new Content Management System, leaving all pre-existing features and stories in tact. Cut-over took place when the business and operations were in place to directly manage the content through the new CMS.
(2) Information Architecture (IA):
In parallel to the re-platforming, I managed a drains-up review and re-implementation or the Information Architecture (IA). We took a customer centred approach, aligned to industry standard UXD (User Experience Design) principles and based around the personas that had been reviewed and approved by stakeholders. Key steps were as follows:
- Analysis of the As-Is (site structure and IA, analytics, persona(customer) interviews, observed user testing)
- Persona refinement
- Ideation workshops
- Card sorting
- User flows workshop
- Information Architecture creation and review/refinement iterations
- Test/review/refine IA (Treejack)
- Visualisation (visualisation, clickable mockups)
- Test/review/refine IA (Persona testing)
(3) Website redesign:
The new website customer experience was designed, built, tested, in-line with the IA and launch on the new hosted architecture. Website redsesign was part of a wider migration workstream which involved initially replatforming, then refactoring the website. The original website/CMS was hosted by an incumbent agency. This was replatformed into the cloud on MS Azure and the existing design and code ported across to Umbraco, an open source CMS. Umbraco was selected as it provided an upgrade path to Sitecore should it become necessary to up-scale in due course. Once this was complete and stabilised, the website redesign was undertaken. Agile working practices were adopted to deliver the following work-streams:
- Design concepts / ideation / scope
- Backlog creation: Stories, UXD, feature definitions
- Technical requirements definition
- Supplier selection / RFP leading to commercial agreements and SLAs
- Design and Development (Agile methods / iterations)
- Test and bug-fix (Agile methods / iterations)
Definition of Information Architecture (IA): Currently described on Wikipedia as ‘the structural design of shared information environments; the art and science of organising and labelling websites, intranets, online communities and software to support usability and findability’.