Unlocking a new digital learning revenue stream with Pearson


A shift to digital from Pearson’s traditional publishing model

  • Bringing agile culture to a traditional waterfall environment
  • Kick-starting a number of legacy projects
  • Co-designing new products with customers
  • Three MVPs released after just four sprints

Opening up a vital new digital revenue stream

Pearson is the largest education company and book publisher in the world. Following their transition to digital from a traditional publishing model, the newly appointed Head of Digital Programmes needed to get a portfolio of new educational products off the ground in order to establish their digital offering. A traditional waterfall culture had bottlenecked progress - nothing was being delivered and this vital new revenue stream was blocked.

What our client had to say

Head of Digital Programmes | Pearson

“We knew we had to move to digital but we just didn’t know how. Having previously invested time and money in a small number of trial projects, our progress had slowed down and we needed to learn how to speed up.”

Applying agile in a traditional waterfall environment

With the aim of developing more of a ‘startup’ culture, we embedded our team into the Pearson offices, coaching in agile and lean product development as the team were applying new skills. Project Managers were converted to the Product Owner role, hierarchy was dissolved and Scrum ceremonies were put into diaries, starting with daily standups, Show and Tells and retrospectives.

What our client had to say

Head of Digital Programmes | Pearson

“Learning on the job was a challenge, but having the Unboxed team working alongside us, and applying what we were learning to this project, really sped up our progress. We were learning the skills we needed to know.“

Kick-starting legacy projects stuck in the pre-planning stages

On a mission to deliver valuable results, three legacy projects, which had been stuck in the pre-planning stages for over three years, were selected to pilot. Each was targeted at different learner groups to open up this new digital offering to wider market combinations. The first step: carrying out a series of inception workshops to kick-start the product backlogs of stories to begin.

Co-design session sketches

Working with customers to co-design new products

By the early sprints, the teams were in a position to begin carrying out a series of Discovery discussions and workshops with end users. Early stage prototyping was used to trial potential features, and usability and design testing to begin forming an initial direction. The feedback gathered was also used to begin refining interfaces and trial ideas for a first round of potential features to be delivered.

What we had to say

Martyn Evans | Head of Product | Unboxed

"Having the Product Owners and developers involved in the design process was the starting point in creating a cross-functional team. Cross functional teams deliver more value over a broader skill set.”

Deploying regularly to speed up progress

Newly deployed features were shared during fortnightly Show & Tells. Stakeholders were seeing an increase in tangible progress and giving their feedback on a regular basis, directly from the first sprint – something they weren’t used to with traditional “big bang” waterfall releases. Sprint-by-sprint, buy-in from stakeholders was gradually increasing as results were being seen - the project was quickly gaining momentum.

Sketch and prototype

What our client had to say

Head of Digital Programmes | Pearson

“What raised eyebrows was how fast we were able to get something in front of the users. Every two weeks we’d bring back the next iteration for feedback, continuously sharing progress.”

Quickly launching minimal viable products

After just four sprints, three MVPs had been released, with one launched publicly at the BETT show - the world's leading education technology event, attracting 35,000+ visitors. From developing the skill set to accelerate in digital product development, the Pearson team is now in a position to expand this to the rest of their portfolio. Opening up this new digital learning revenue stream has paved the direction from the traditional publishing model.

What our client had to say

Head of Digital Programmes | Pearson

“In just four sprints we had a working prototype to share at one our key calendar events. We have taken the first steps into building our new digital learning product offering and now have a clear roadmap of how to go forward with this.”