This week Sift Media launched a new version of AccountingWEB.co.uk, the 6th site to be released on our in-house developed publishing platform which we have named ‘Spark’.
As a project, Spark has taken 24 months to develop and gradually migrate all of our websites. As a platform for our content and audiences, Spark has not only changed the functionality and appearance of our websites, but has affected the very way that we run our business.
As a digital publisher, our ‘why’ is to inspire action in our communities. Whether a member is looking for advice on hiring their first staff member in threads on UKBusinessForums.co.uk, or downloading a guide on ‘creating a rewarding company culture’ from HRZone.com, the new platform hosts engagement that creates that ‘spark’ for action to take place.
Previously our 7 sites were becoming a barrier to progress. As our Chief Operating Officer, Ian, mentions in this post from last year – “when we upgraded the sites to Drupal 7, our team was relieved to have finally migrated most of our sites to the latest version of Drupal yet frustrated that we still faced the challenge of having to manage and upgrade individual sites.”
Our teams required better insight from the data and also required better tools to do their jobs. We needed a platform on which we could grow, rather than having our developers concerned that something might fall like a house of cards if they tried to implement a new feature.
With a company that has built itself around scaling vibrant online communities, the business faced challenges far in excess of just ‘building a new website’. Each of our sites has its own editorial team and it’s own distinct identity. It is often easy to see a website as another owned asset, when in actual fact, a website focused around a community is never a static entity. Content is constantly added, edited, updated, and sometimes removed. There are often complex campaigns with multiple content types as well as activity that bridges external mediums including social networks and rich media channels.
We’ve taken an agile approach to developing Spark. Our focus was to successfully migrate to a new platform in the form of a Minimum Viable Product in the first instance. Completing this successfully with HRZone.com a year ago. Since that point we’ve been able to move across our whole portfolio all while gathering requirements and releasing features and updates to the sites on one code base.
To do this, we adopted the ‘Agile’ methodology. Agile working was conceived with development in mind but here at Sift it’s been rolled out to a number of teams which you’ll find we’ve been using it for releasing products as well as marketing campaigns and even editorial. This was a huge educational journey for the team – just as the project itself remained agile, so did our workforce and the training being provided. Recruiting the right people and building a strong company culture was as core to the project as the technical build itself.
Don’t stop me now
Spark now forms a central point for the business. We have a clear product roadmap aligned to business goals, and a team that can react to both our community and client needs. During the process we have gathered a huge amount of information. Bringing this together in an intelligent manner was the key that allowed us to produce something we are proud of and know will work for our business. We now have an innovative platform bespoke to our needs that is not available anywhere else.
Developing Spark gave us the opportunity to rethink how we run digital projects. It changed the mindset to shared thinking and vision. By doing so we have created a ‘Sift’ way of developing and a product that displays the values of our company culture.