Alex Watson (at the time of recording, Head of Product at The Telegraph) takes us behind the scenes of a complex, rapid and responsive re-platforming of one of the UK’s largest news websites (up to 1 million unique users per month!) What he reveals is that good story-telling is critical, as internal communication is essential when you’re running big projects – from keeping stakeholders on side to make sure multiple technical teams are all aware of what’s happening. Naturally, roadmaps, planning sessions and metrics all play a role, but they are a part of your product story, not the story itself.
The obvious challenges with any large technical project are that there will be a lot of stakeholders (in the case of the Telegraph, business execs, journalists, users), and the platform’s architecture is tangled. Adding to that, they first had to build a team, and then the team nominated an ambitious deadline for themselves.
However, there are also “narrative challenges” for internal communication when working on any big project. It’s easy to scare people with an information overload, or to lose their buy-in with either too much or too little detail!
Tell a Story
The principles of good storytelling are crucial to communicating well, and clear communication is essential when working on a large project inside a large organisation. Structure your information, and your visuals, to tell a story and avoid scaring people. That means you need to care about details as well as overarching themes, and your story has to be believable (think timelines).
Make sure the purpose of your product development (and your story) is clear, and that will help the rest of the organisation buy into it. To help everyone build confidence, remember:
- Consider your audience (stakeholders) first
- Remind people of the story
- What’s your motivation?
- Involve everyone in the planning and process
- Build a common understanding