Monday, 12 February 2018

Design Sprints at Cancer Research UK

Finding new, faster and more user-centric ways of working to help us beat cancer sooner is a core purpose of our team here at Cancer Research UK. For a while now, but more intensely so in the last few months, one of the tools we’ve been using to achieve that are Design Sprints.

So what are Design Sprints, and how can you use them in your organisation?

Design sprints come from Google, where design partner Jake Knapp started running them in 2010 with teams like Chrome, Google Search and Google X. Then in 2012 he brought them to Google Ventures – an important note, as Google Ventures doesn’t just deal with software companies, but with a variety of organisations. Here is Jake’s definition of a design sprint:

“The sprint is a five-day process for answering critical business questions through design, prototyping, and testing ideas with customers. It’s a “greatest-hits” of business strategy, innovation, behavioral science, design, and more - packed into a step-by-step process that any team can use.*”

Sounds brilliant, right? But in practical terms… what does it mean?

In a nutshell: during a Design Sprint, a group of people from your organisation come together for 5 days, in a room, to try and solve a problem or answer a question. By the end of those 5 days, they will have come up with a potential solution, sketched it, built it – and what’s best, they will have tested it with real users.

Any team can try out a Design Sprint, and no challenge is too big to answer. To get started, here’s what you’ll need…

A team

Design Sprint best practice says that your team should be made up of 7 people or fewer. You can stretch this a bit, but we did find that smaller teams were more effective.

One of these people will be your Decider – someone who can move things along by making an executive decision when the group can’t. This role should be played by your problem or idea’s stakeholder. This ensures that whatever solution you end up building, they’re confidently bought into it.

Another person will be your Facilitator. This role requires a lot of energy, to keep the team motivated and on track throughout the week. If you have someone in your team who has some experience of Agile ways of working, this role might suit them well since they’ll be familiar with some of the activities that will happen in the Sprint – but it’s not essential.

As for the other team members, who you need depends partly on the problem you are trying to solve. In our Sprints, we try to always have a UXer, a ‘technical’ expert (for example, someone who knows your CMS, if you’re working on a website-based idea), someone with content and message strengths, and someone who brings a marketing/commercial point of view. At Cancer Research UK, we mostly self-organise our Sprints: it’s a brilliant opportunity to let teams organise around the work!

Remember: the strength of the Design Sprint comes from having a varied group of people working together for a short but intensive period of time. The wider the range of points of view you can bring in, the better! You might not all agree at the start of the Sprint, but you will have reached a consensus by the end of it (you will – I promise!).

Time and space

A Design Sprint takes 5 consecutive days. This may feel like a big commitment, but if you consider how much you will get done in those 5 days (and how long it might otherwise take to get there), it’s hugely productive. And after all, if your team can’t dedicate 5 days to this idea, is it really an idea you believe in?

Once you get more familiar with the structure of Design Sprint, you might find you want to shorten the process to 4 or even 3 days – but if it’s your first try, we found it better to stick to the 5 days.

You’ll also need a room, with lots of whiteboards, post-its, and sharpies. Try to use the same room each day if you can.

A challenge

What type of question can you try to answer in a Design Sprint? According to Jake Knapp, the bigger the challenge, the better the Sprint.

For example, we’ve used Design Sprints to:
  • find out the viability of a new product
  • review the roadmap of an existing one
  • kick-off a new marketing campaign
  • bring a fresh perspective on a problem when we were stuck
Design Sprints can be used for all of these questions – and more!

How do you start?

If you want to get started with doing Design Sprints, my advice would be to simply start! Many of us here at Cancer Research UK didn’t have any experience of facilitating a Design Sprint: we read the Sprint book (see footnote below), talked about it as a team, and then we just went for it. It might seem a bit daunting to dedicate a week to something you’ve never tried before, but what you will learn from designing, prototyping and testing an idea with real users in a week is so valuable, that it will be worth the initial discomfort.

And if you do decide to give Design Sprints a try, or if you already use them in your charity – we’d love to hear how you use them!

Giulia Merlo
Lead Proposition Manager

*Jake Knapp with John Zeratski & Braden Kowitz, Sprint: How to solve big problems and test new ideas in just five days, Bantam Press, 2016.

Monday, 29 January 2018

User centric digital learning and development

How we’ve made our learning content easier to find and easier to use. Without using a learning management system.

In the Talent and Development team at Cancer Research UK we want people to spend less time searching for our learning content, and more time using it to help us beat cancer sooner.

In this post we’ll share how we’ve made our learning content easier to find and easier to use, and what we’ve learned along the way.

We’d love to hear from you if you’re doing anything similar, have ideas to share, or any questions.

People search online to learn
As this great post by Kallidus points out:
  • “80% of people say Google or other search engines are vital to learn what they need to do their job”.
  • “Just 28% of people start their search for learning using their organisation’s LMS”.

What does this mean for Learning and Development (L&D) teams?
At Cancer Research UK we’ve taken 3 main lessons from this:
  1. As an L&D team, we can’t control how or when people learn.
  2. We could help people find useful stuff quickly by curating great content.
  3. When we want people to see our own content, we need to make it easy to find and easy to interact with. Otherwise people will give up or not even bother looking for it in the first place.
Our team has worked hard over the last couple of years to create and curate some great learning content for people to access. Like guides, videos, online discussion groups and workshops. So we decided to see how easy we could make it for our users to find.

Here’s how we’ve done it:

1. Joined forces with our Digital and Internal Communications teams

Internal Comms, because our learners’ ability to find and use digital learning content is part of their overall experience of using our internal digital platforms at Cancer Research UK. And Digital, to give us some guidance on how people use online content.

2. Started with our users

Our starting point was to understand how people found our content and what their experience was when they got there. We mapped this out with a lot of post it notes, and decided what we thought were the main pain points:
  1. People struggle to get to the learning content they want. They often end up landing on the wrong system. Then they get annoyed and do something else.
  2. If people do get to the right place (our main learning pages), they are confused by lots of words, fonts and colours. Plus the landing page content mainly promotes face- to-face sessions, most of which were fully booked. Not the message about self-directed learning that we want to send. So they get annoyed and do something else again.

3. Tested early with users

To validate our assumption that we should start by fixing these problems, we ran some usability testing. I’d highly recommend doing this. It involves getting users into a room and asking them to do some typical tasks on your system. We watched, took notes and gave them a score of 1-3 depending on how easily they could complete the task. An ‘X’ means they couldn’t do it at all.

Here’s how people got on:

People used these words to describe the page:

And the pages scored an overall usability score of 44.5/100. To put this in context, average is 68 and an ‘A grade’ user experience (UX) is 80.

4. Designed some new content

So we knew we needed to improve our pages. We used a digital copywriting technique, ‘KFC’ (Know, Feel, Commit). This was new to our team, and having got over the Zinger Burger cravings, we now swear by it.

First write down on post it notes everything you want your user to ‘Know, Feel and Commit to’, as a result of reading your content. Stick the post its up in a table on a flipchart.

Next, take all the post its from the ‘Know’ and ‘Commit’ columns and plot them on a Business/ User need grid.

Here’s what we put together for our new home page:

Focus: high user need and high business need
This stuff should go at the top of your page.

Guide: high user need, lower business need
This stuff should go second highest on your page.

Drive: high business need, lower user need
This stuff should go third highest on your page. You want them to read or do it, but it’s not primarily what they’re looking for.

Meh: low user & low business need
This stuff should go at the very bottom. It isn’t useful to anyone but has to be included, like terms and conditions.

5. Went where our users were

We had to work out where to host our content. To this point we’d had everything on a Sharepoint site dedicated to learning. But we decided to change to the place we knew that our users go most and feel most comfortable. To reduce the separation between 'learning' and 'work'. As David James puts it in  this post:

"It is often confused that L&D's clients are Learners, when in fact they are Workers."

We’re lucky to have a trusted intranet that’s been built with users in mind and has great search capability. It's hosted on the content management system, Drupal. So we tested what would happen if we put our new content on the intranet.

To give an idea of how much we changed things, here’s the home page that we started with:

And here's what it looks like now:

6. Usability tested again

Our hunch was that the new pages would be easier to find and more usable. We ran some more usability testing to find out. And we saw a massive improvement:

People used these words to describe the page:

And the overall usability increased to 77.9/100, well above average and not far off the UX gold standard of 80. A great improvement from a couple of weeks’ work.

7. Writing for the web

We’re now improving the rest of our pages using the KFC process and the tips that we’ve learned from our digital content team.

Before we start on content for any topic, we get hold of a list of people we know have come to a session on that topic. We ask them what they wanted to learn and why. Their answers help us structure our content by what our users want to hear, rather than by what we want to tell them.

An example from our personal resilience page:

What’s next?

We know from our testing that our pages are now easier to find and more usable. So people waste less time searching for learning content, and can spend more time doing jobs to help beat cancer sooner. Early signs are that more people are accessing the pages too. We're gathering qualitative feedback and continually improving the content.

We're also looking at learning management systems to help us recommend content and training to staff. But any new system needs to enhance the existing user journey, not replace it. It has to work for the user or there's little point in having it.

As anyone who’s read anything by Jane Hart will know, modern workplace learning is much more than making existing learning opportunities ‘digital’. We need to help people take control of their own learning, not wait for it to be arranged for them.

All of our content aims to encourage this kind of behaviour. It won’t get us there on its own, but it will help if it’s easy for our users to find and easy for them to use.

Ed Willis
Learning Designer

Thursday, 18 January 2018

How can you learn if you don’t test?

Even in my few years of working in fundraising and marketing here I’ve noticed a real shift in mind-set from the very top. We’ve stopped thinking we know everything! Instead of thinking we’re right without question, we’ve adopted an approach where our decisions are increasingly based on insights. We’re listening to our supporters more than ever and they inform the direction in which we move.

Stop being so vague and give us an example

Ok, ok. I’ll cut to the chase. I joined a Digital Spoke in 2016 to help design and develop a personal account for our supporters to use. Without going into the exact details of the product, it changed our team’s way of working beyond just this project. We worked in synergy with the Digital team and learned so much about adopting an agile approach to tasks while also gaining a huge amount of experience of different digital tools!

But I don’t want to talk to you about all of that. As exciting as it was, I think the way our team worked independently post-Spoke is the most impressive part of the project.

What’s so great then? Spit it out already!

The first thing we did was to maintain our daily stand ups which helped keep everyone focused. Each morning we huddled around a screen which showed all of the bitesize cards on our Trello board and we’d assess their progress. Reviewing this frequently really helped to keep things front of mind while also holding people accountable for completing tasks.

Both before and during our series of recruitment communications we held testing plan meetings where we could vote for which ideas we wanted to test using an effort vs. impact matrix. Where possible we’d go for what we felt were low effort, high impact tests! By holding these meetings in between each recruitment drive they also acted as an evaluation of the previous tests which was very useful context for planning.

What about when people signed up?

During the Spoke we gained a lot of experience at creating and manipulating dashboards and custom reports on Google Analytics. This allowed us to understand in real time how users were interacting with the product, what was working well and where we should be focusing our attention. Of course we sought expert advice for more difficult queries, but for the most part we were self-sufficient which was very encouraging.

Some of the trends we spotted through analytics caused us to implement real time optimisation tests. For example, when we spotted a dip in the conversion rate on the registration form we A/B tested different wording and infographics using Optimizely in an attempt to bring this up again.

How did people know what you were doing?

One of the key principles of agile working is to share progress and learnings with stakeholders and the wider organisation. Although we did this regularly with key stakeholders, we wanted to improve how we communicated to the wider organisation. It required an adjustment to how we approached the project but it definitely helped improve our skills and confidence at presenting. We’d give engaging updates every two weeks or so where anyone could show up and listen. The best thing about them was the questions we’d get asked which provoked thoughts and ideas we hadn’t previously considered.

To make this more accessible, we’d record the presentations and upload them to our Wiki page which increased our reach. This also allowed us to re-watch each one retrospectively to hone and improve our public speaking skills.

So what’s happening next?

This is a really exciting time to be working for Cancer Research UK. The direction we’re moving in as a charity is becoming inevitably more digital and we’re facing this challenge head on by devolving skills, knowledge and expertise into the product and marketing teams. This success of this Spoke is simply one example. The way we’ve carried these skills on post-Spoke and continued this way of working has really helped to take this project from strength to strength – but this is a process that is becoming more prevalent in all areas of the charity.

Graham Goodings
Digital Producer

Tuesday, 2 January 2018

Writing for the Web at Cancer Research UK

A few weeks ago at Cancer Research UK we had the 200th person attend our ‘Writing for the Web’ course. After celebrating with a ticker-tape parade and a commemorative Twix, it got me reflecting on the course, and why we started running it in the first place.

We’ve written a bunch of stuff about our digital devolution model, and how we aim to make digital a core part of everyone’s job at the charity. And a key part of this is how we communicate our brand online.

So my team started a 2 hour workshop for anyone who publishes content on our website. And, because we have the skills to deliver this internally, it means we can be flexible and run the course as often as needed - without spending money on external training providers.

So what’s covered?

Write the way your users read

Most people get that print and digital content are different. We understand that reading this blog on an iPhone is a fundamentally different experience than reading an article on copywriting in a magazine. 

But, what we sometimes don’t recognise is that as readers, we have fundamentally different attitudes to how we approach content in print and digital. 

Someone much smarter than me called Jakob Nielsen did a bunch of research using eye tracking software to record how people read content online.

He found that, whereas with traditional print content we (in European languages at least) read left to right and top to bottom, in digital we tend to scan around the page in more of an ‘F’ shape.

As users we go to websites with a specific problem, and we’re scanning the page to get the ‘gist’ of how well the page we’re on will solve that problem for us.

So our content needs to make it clear to users how we’re meeting their needs at a glance. They won’t take the time to wade through irrelevant or hard to understand information to get what they’re looking for. If they aren’t convinced our content will help them they’ll just leave.

Which is why we need to make it clear how our content will benefit our users.  

Write for your users, not for you

There’s an old saying in copywriting, “features tell, but benefits sell”. The idea is that just explaining what your product or service is won’t engage your users. Instead you need to explain how it will make your users’ lives better.

This is the most important thing about writing for digital. If you can relentlessly focus on how your content is going to help your users, rather than how your content is going to help your organisation, it’s the quickest way to improve its performance.

So what does this look like?

Well, imagine for a second you’re a humble pie maker, who wants to promote a competition on your website, 

You might use this as your opening line:

To celebrate 10 years in business, we’re running a competition to win free pie for a year.

Here, the focus is very much on your business. It’s a statement of fact, and it’s written from the perspective of your business. It’s feature-led.

Now imagine an alternative opening line:

Win free pie for a year with our anniversary competition.

Here the focus is on what the competition will do for your user. Does your user care that your business has been around for 10 years? Probably not. Do they care about free pie? Well, who doesn’t? So this sentence is more benefit-led.

Ok, great - but why is this important?

Well, think about it in context of scan reading. If a user’s quickly skimming your page, you’ll want to draw their attention to relevant content as quickly as possible. And they’re much more likely to engage if they can see, at a glance, what’s in it for them. 

Then, once we’ve got their attention, the next thing we need to do is make sure we express ourselves in a way that’s easy to understand. Which is where Plain English comes in. 

Write the way you talk 

Back when I started my career, I used to worry about how seriously people would take my writing. I used to think that to sound credible I needed to use lots of long, complicated words. After all, that would help me come across as smart and authoritative, right?

Well, actually, the opposite was true. By loading my writing with complicated phrases I wasn’t coming across as smart. I was coming across as confusing and difficult to understand.

Sarah Richards is another person much smarter than me, and she makes the point that writing in Plain English isn’t dumbing down content, it’s opening it up. Because if we know our users scan information online, and we know they react better to clear, benefit-led sentences, then why wouldn’t we try and make our writing as clear and concise as possible? 

At Cancer Research UK, our guidance on Plain English is pretty straightforward:
  • Keep your sentences short (20 words max) 
  • Use a maximum of 3 sentences per paragraph
  • Only discuss 1 thing per paragraph (it’s easier to scan that way)
  • If you have the choice between a long word, and a short word that means the same thing, then always pick the short word
If in doubt, a good rule of thumb is ‘write the way you speak’. This doesn’t mean talking the same way you would to your friends at Friday night drinks. Instead, think about how you’d explain your content to your users over a coffee and a Twix. What words would you use? How would you speak? 

I imagine you’d be friendly, straightforward and to the point. I also imagine you wouldn’t use phrases like ‘for further information please direct any inquiries to our helpline’. I mean, you might, but you’d come across as slightly robotic if you did.

A great tool you can use to check how clear your writing is, is Hemingway App. It’s a free, online word processor, so you can type straight into your browser window. And, as you type, Hemingway grades how easy your writing is to understand and suggests improvements. The lower the score the better, and if you aim for a score between 6 and 8 you’ll find your content is doing pretty well.

Write better by writing more often

This is just a snapshot of the content training we offer at Cancer Research UK, and as far as content strategy goes it’s one piece of the wider puzzle.

Before you sit down and create your content you’ll need to make sure it answers a clear user and business need. You’ll need to make sure it has appropriate governance so it doesn’t all fall apart once it’s been published. And you’ll need to make sure you regularly test it so you know it’s still doing the job it should.

However, what this training does give teams is a solid grounding in the skills they need for writing for the web. Will they create world class digital content straight away? Well, probably not – it’s kind of hard to after a 2 hour introduction course. 

But writing something that’s a solid base is a great first step. Then based on users’ feedback you can always improve, iterate and optimise your content over time. Plus, bear in mind the only way you’ll become a better writer is by writing. And if your content is in plain, straightforward English that speaks to your users’ needs, it’ll already be better than a lot of content online. 

Chris Flood
Content Strategy Lead

Thursday, 7 December 2017

Digital innovations to beat cancer sooner

It’s been 3 months since I started my internship with the Digital Innovation team at Cancer Research UK. Before this I had no experience in digital so it’s been a steep learning curve.

I didn’t realise before I started what a forward thinking and exciting environment I was entering into. The value of what digital transformation can and has added at Cancer Research UK is amazing. From learning about the innovations going on in the directorate to leading on my own project with the Digital Innovation team, it’s been a fantastic experience.

Everyday innovation at Cancer Research UK

In my time at Cancer Research UK I wrote a bi-weekly newsletter about technology innovation. A part of this was the Innovator of the Week section. This gave me the opportunity to speak to people across the charity about the innovations they’re working on. For example, the analytics and reporting team are developing text analysis programmes to analyse survey responses, so that top level conclusions can be drawn and acted on faster. And the clinical partnerships team are investigating partnering with organisations to research how artificial intelligence can be used to beat cancer sooner.

There are claims that AI could help to identify cancer from scans up to 50,000 times faster, which could make a massive difference to how quickly diagnoses can be made.

As well as these exciting ongoing innovations, there was also the chance to learn about innovation success stories. Our pulmonary nodules app helps clinicians calculate the risk of a pulmonary nodule being cancerous or benign. Helping them to make faster decisions and get the right people the right tests. It was also great to see that although this is a finished product used by clinicians, the team is improving the user experience and making it available for more devices.

Voice technology

As an intern in the digital innovation team I got the chance to look at Voice technology. Voice devices are voice controlled speakers, so you can ask them to carry out tasks and communicate with them by talking to them like you would a person. Amazon Alexa devices will activate when you start the command with ‘Alexa…?’. So you can do anything from ordering takeaway, to controlling your heating, to making a to-do list all by asking Alexa.

While only 9% of households currently have an Alexa compatible device, Radiocentre estimate that 40% of households may have a voice device in 2018 and that soon there will be 33 million devices in circulation. This could be a new and exciting way for supporters to engage with Cancer Research UK, and for us to communicate with them.

My team has produced two Amazon Alexa skills; the Cancer Research UK Science Blog skill and the My Alcohol Tracker skill. Amazon Alexa skills and Amazon devices work in the same ways as apps do with smartphones. Apps are downloaded from an app store and then used on a smartphone. Similarly, Amazon Alexa skills can be enabled on the Alexa app and then used on your Alexa device.

My main project was promoting the skills my team had made. This promotion was aimed at external audiences but also internal audiences. It’s important to promote internally, so people know what the team is up to and also so teams who have a use case for Voice know who to come to.

Science blog flash briefing skill

The Cancer Research UK science blog skill works on the Alexa flash briefing. You add your chosen news sources and then ask “Alexa, what's my flash briefing” and Alexa will read out the headlines from the sources you've chosen.
This skill means you can now have the headlines from our science blog featured on your flash briefing. I had the opportunity to write a post for our science blog, which was a great way for me to get to grips with Voice and why we’re looking at it. And after we published the post we found an increase in the amount of people using the skill.

My alcohol tracker

I was lucky to also work on launching the ‘My Alcohol Tracker’ voice skill. You can read more about this skill here. This skill lets you keep track of how much alcohol you’re drinking and aims to raise the awareness of the link between alcohol and cancer. This particular skill was made in partnership with three different teams across the charity, which was a great opportunity for me to meet people in different areas of the business.

I also got involved with the PR team to help launch the skill and they suggested that to increase the chance of the press release getting media attention we could produce a promotional video. We filmed in our Stevenage Superstore with our customers’ reactions. You can view the result here.

The video helped us to launch the skill successfully and a number of media outlets picked it up, most notably The Huffington Post and Vice. It was also watched on CRUK’s Facebook page over 27,000 times.

To sum it up

Working with so many people across these projects was a great opportunity to learn about innovation. You don’t need to have innovation in your job title to innovate and Cancer Research UK has a fantastic progressive attitude that allows innovation to thrive. I look forward to applying what I’ve learnt about innovation in my next role and I am excited to see what the Digital Innovation Team will produce in the coming months.

There are 3 internship cohorts a year and the applications for the summer intake open in March and April. And there's more information on our website if you're interested.

Amelia Hammond

Digital Innovation Intern

Wednesday, 8 November 2017

Our digital transformation - 2 years in

It’s been 2 years since we began the hub and spoke model to start Cancer Research UK on the road to digital mastery. Our aim was to stop the central Digital team being just another service team that acted as gatekeepers to change anything on the website. We adapted our operating model, so the next time a team approached Digital saying “I want to change this”, we said “rather than do it for you, we’re going to do it with you. Then afterwards you can do it yourself”.

The idea is that this empowers teams to make their own changes, and leaves the digital team free to focus on higher value activities like engineering and UX. The organisation would then be in a better position to deliver initiatives and technologies towards the fight to beat cancer sooner.

The hub and spoke model was adopted to be the mechanism to help us become digital masters. I, along with one other colleague, went into a secondment in a new role called a ‘proposition manager’ to test it all out. This was back in October 2015. We had a ‘spoke’ each, and the proposition manager joined with someone from the area of the charity who requested the spoke, who took on the role of ‘business owner’. The proposition manager and business owner decided on what they were going to deliver during the time they had together. The first time doing this was successful, and so it continued.

It’s now been my amazing job to be part of this for 2 years, and we’ve come a long way in that time. Here’s some of the biggest changes, and the biggest lessons.

You have to have buy in at every level

The model was signed off. We had a team of proposition managers. We had an initial list of teams that had things they wanted to achieve. But when we got to working with those teams, they didn’t know they’d be working in partnership with us (not just giving us requirements), that they had to give 50% of their time, and that we were training them up as we went. So we spent the first 6 months explaining the plan at different levels, rather than executing it. Now, you can speak to most members of staff and they’ll know what a spoke is. They’re excited about getting more ownership of their digital experiences. And they’re experimenting without much input from us.

There’s no rules to a spoke

The only rule of a spoke is there are no rules. Each team is different, has different remits, is made up of different roles, and has different needs. So each spoke is going to be different. There’s no set structure for how they should run, and the team can work to figure it out together. There’s also no set type for roles that need to be in them. Some need a content strategist, UX designer, developer, and every specialist from the hub. Some just need a proposition manager, a digital producer and the business owner with some light touch support further down the line. And it’s ok that all the spokes don’t match. We know that now.

It’s not just about editing the CMS or checking Google Analytics

Digital Transformation means many things to many people (or organisations). For us, it’s a little about the technology, but a lot more about the skills teams have. We learnt very quickly those skills needed to be different for every team. Some would need to set up complex A/B tests, some needed to write user stories in BDD format, and some had to optimize their content for search.

But all those teams needed to be exposed to a ‘digital mindset’ that doesn’t just apply to digital. We’ve written before about how we define a digital mindset. When it comes to linking this mindset to delivery we helped teams recognise that every idea is an assumption that needs testing (with set success criteria). And, once you have the results of your test you can learn and iterate accordingly. This test and learn approach can benefit any person, any team, and any place of work.

3 months for a spoke is best

Although there isn’t set rules, we did find that, in terms of timings, 3 months is about right. It’s long enough for a team to come together and say “what is the value we are trying to deliver to our users?”, short enough to mean there’s a drive in momentum, and not too long so that time drags on without anything being done.

Value needs to be added

Digital transformation doesn’t happen overnight. Some of our early spokes took 8 months to unpick an idea and articulate it in a user centric way, rather than as a business centric, delivery focused idea. Now, we say that the team needs to come to us knowing where they are trying to add value. The finer details like KPIs can be set at the beginning of a spoke.

What's next?

Two years on, and great swathes of the organisation has had a spoke. Some have had 3 or 4, and won’t need more going forward. Many of these teams are springing up their own digital hubs, consisting of generalists at different levels. New ideas are being given the test and learn treatment. Stand ups and huddles happen at desks across the open plan floors every morning. And there’s a shift in the language used - agile isn’t just a buzzword, and experiments aren’t something just our researchers do.

Now we’re busy working on what the next stage of the model looks like. And that’s really exciting. But before we do that it’s nice to take a moment and reflect on just how much the whole organisation has achieved in their journey towards digital mastery.

Ellie Budd
Digital Proposition Manager

Thursday, 14 September 2017

Mastering Digital wizardry – A Business Owner’s Perspective

Since I joined Cancer Research UK 3 years ago there’s been lots of conversations going back and forth between teams about the performance and layout of the volunteering pages on our website. I sat in lots of meetings where we talked about what we wanted to achieve, and the feedback we had from volunteers to back up the need for change. But we didn’t have the resource to move forwards our requests. But then in 2016 a mythical beast called ’the spoke’ happened and suddenly things began to change.
We first saw the spoke as a magical wand we could point in the direction of all of our previous development requests to Digital and  use to banish them – bish, bash, bosh! But actually, the digital hub and spoke model was much more about developing the team’s skills and knowledge so that we could handle those requests ourselves in the future. So it didn’t take long with our Proposition Manager, Rob, to bring us back to reality about what we were actually going to achieve during the 3 months we’d be working together.
It turned out our magical wand was in fact lots of helpful wizards:
Rob – Head Wizard (Proposition Manager) who was going to teach me everything digital (how to edit pages, build forms, run a/b tests, usability testing and most importantly to be able to write clear business cases and to articulate value for future development requests that are needed).
Becky – Training Wizard (Digital Producer) who spent time showing me how to set up lots of A/B tests using Optimizely so that I was able to do this on my own.
David – Technical Wizard (Developer) who was there to build things that we couldn’t do ourselves, like our brand new search function.

What happened during the Spoke?

During the Spoke we focused on how we can recruit more volunteers in 3 key areas: shop volunteers, event volunteers and skilled volunteers. Shop volunteers represent two thirds of the total hours worked in our shops, so they’re crucial for shops to run successfully. Event volunteers donate their time every year to support thousands of participants who walk, run, trek and cycle to raise thousands of pounds for our life-saving research. While skilled volunteers come into our offices and use skills such as photography, graphic design, and project management to add real value throughout the organisation.
We spent about a month working through KPIs to figure out where we could have the biggest impact. This helped us understand the impact of each new volunteer to the organisation, something we hadn’t really considered before. From this, our main focus was on recruiting shop volunteers and we realised that the easiest way to increase the impact of these volunteers  was to increase the number of people who completed an application form and then went on to actually volunteer with us. We managed to increase the number of people volunteering with us by 20% by the end of the project and it’s still a key area for the business at the moment.
With skilled volunteers one of the biggest challenges we had was around opportunities within the business. Although there’s a huge appetite from people to do skilled volunteering, there just aren’t enough roles for them at the moment. The team are looking at new ideas for increasing the number of highly skilled volunteering opportunities within the organisation by focusing on engaging internal staff to make more people aware that this is a resource that’s available to them.
With event volunteering we had less time to spend on this during the spoke, but we’re continuing to run tests to help us drive volunteer numbers.  One particularly successful test we ran was to cross-sell event volunteering opportunities on different volunteer application forms, which saw about 12% of people signing up for other events.

What’s happened since the spoke?

After my 3 month intensive course in digital wizardry I’m starting to put my new skills to the test. A new role was created in our team to focus on all the things that we didn’t get to cover in the spoke – like looking at our volunteering data and the experience for volunteers post-sign up.

What have we learnt?

What’s in a name?

This is a question I’ve been asking myself a lot recently with the arrival of a new mini me due at some point in October. This one has definitely come into question when I took on my new role within our team. My title was  ‘Digital Product Owner’ which caused a lot of confusion in the Digital team, as they thought it meant we’d be building a brand new platform for volunteers, when essentially we’re reviewing and improving what we have in place. So if you’re going to adopt a similar role within your team it’s important to iron out the name first to avoid any confusion.

How much extra resource do you need?

My new found wizardry skills mean that although I can test a lot of things on the site and write successful business cases, there’s still competition from the rest of the business when it comes to resource for development. As a wizard you need to learn to have patience and to realise that things can take a while to move forwards. From a business perspective when training up lots of extra digital wizards, it’s worth thinking about the knock on effect for other areas of the business and about where future investment could be needed.

Surely everyone wants to be a wizard, right?

Remember that not everyone within your team will have an interest in digital, and that’s fine. So invest your time teaching and supporting the people who do, as this will be far more beneficial for both you and them.

Getting to know other wizards

There’s a lot of people within the Digital team. I didn’t realise how many wizards there are that keep our webpages up and running and moving forwards. One of the most enjoyable aspects of my new role is that I’ve got to meet so many people within the business in the last 5 months. It’s great to understand what other projects are happening and to work out where we can all work together

What’s happening next?

In early October, we’ve got a new project starting where we’re going to be focusing on our volunteering data. A lot of our data is stored in separate databases which can mean teams are unclear of the processes they need to follow. We’re going to be working to understand what the needs are within the business and to look at how we improve this moving forwards.