A meeting

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
An iPad with the Pearson app

What we did with Pearson

Agile training

Usability testing

Lean development

Product Owner coaching

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.

A whiteboard

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.

Head of Digital Programmes, Pearson

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 stand ups, Show & Tells and retrospectives.

A design of the app

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.

Product Owner, Pearson

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.

Lots of ideas written down

What we did with Pearson

Feature validation

Ruby on Rails development

User prototyping

Design iteration

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.

Kids at a school
Martyn Evans, Head of Product, Unboxed

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.

Pearson website

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.

Product Owner, Pearson

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 skillset to accelerate in digital product development, the Pearson team are 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.

A meeting

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.

Product Owner, Pearson

Unboxed team

Murray Steele
Jack Bracewell
Martyn Evans Ben Wong
Jolie Lanser