I recently took over as lead of our Product Design & Delivery group here at Harvard Business Publishing's Higher Education unit. This is a very successful department with a rich history in distributing and creating top content for business curricula, so where and how to evolve it forward has been a challenge requiring serious consideration. Here are some thoughts on what we're planning.
I started my tenure at HBP in this Higher Ed Products group in 2006, back when it was first blessed with the capability to develop new products. Prior to that time, the Product team had focused on distributing case studies from Harvard Business School (HBS) and other content partners, Harvard Business Review articles and HBR Press books and chapters, and eLearning developed at HBS. But around 2006 the unit was blessed with the ability to create new content, so in effect the first 'revamp' of that department happened then. Our new team at that time started developing our Brief Cases product line as well as creating our line of business simulations and augmenting our online business courses (work had been done on both of these at HBS but we standardized the platform, UX, and dev approach and rolled out new products). And since then, that team has released our Core Curriculum line of topical readings as well as scaling all of the other content.
Meanwhile, a few of us had split off in order to form a Delivery Solutions team that developed new channels and formats for content delivery, including leading cross-unit initiatives on the design and implementation of our XML content transformation workflow, creation of our iOs App and mobile offering, and creation of our LMS integration offering.
Now, we're merging those Product and Delivery teams into a single team that can best develop engaging content designed to live into those channels and create incredible learning experiences. Hence the new department 'revamp'. But how to best do that is challenging. I decided to focus a revamp of the department along 4 Practices:
- Learning Design
- User Experience
From a process perspective, the most significant change will be implementing a Product Management practice. This is part of a larger effort across our entire publishing company to approach product management more fully and consistently. We have a new Director of Product Management that will focus on the broad portfolio view, managing the queue of which products to develop, revise, and retire. She'll also oversee the entire product lifecycle across all departments in our unit, ensuring alignment and transparency. We've explored the Pragmatic Marketing Framework and will likely adopt elements from it. But our guiding principles are to impelement a process for developing new content that is market-driven, transparent, predictable, and profitable.
In addition to product management, we'll also continue our exploration and implementation of agile software development processes (we're working with a great coach from FreeStanding Agility). As a company we've been more fully investing in agile over the past few years, focusing primarily on scrum, kanban, and when appropriate, a mix of both. We're now utilizing kanban techniques for content and editorial management processes, too.
One area where product management and agile processes will converge will be on how we rapidly prototype and test products with our customers. Rapid prototyping, lean publishing, MVP -- these have not traditionally been part of the DNA of our product development process, but now will be. To that end, we'll be introducing a Beta Labs program whereby we can quickly stage up prototypes to test with real customers.
Our content remains the foundation of our product intake and development efforts. Rigorous and Relevant are the tenets of this practice, and the quality of our content is what has allowed us to retain our market position and fend off competitors. We have an outstanding editorial team who know how to work with faculty to develop and refine great content. Developing more interactive and media-rich content will be a primary goal here. But the fundamentals of content development remain the same -- we need to continue to cultivate and retain great editors and subject matter experts.
We want to be more deliberate about bringing instructional design to our content develop efforts. We've always engaged in instructional design as part of our product development and project management practices. But it's been pretty inconsistent. As we venture into providing assurance of learning via more deliberate tracking of learner outcomes and analytics, we'll need to be bringing a learning sciences perspective to bear as part of our design toolkit. Two of us on the team have a master's degree in Technology, Innovation and Education from Harvard's Graduate School of Education, and one of us is getting an Instructional Design master's from the University of Massachusetts, Boston. We're looking forward to bringing this perspective into maturity and operationalizing it as part of our product dev process.
Finally, we want to be more customer-centric in how we evaluate, design, build, and deliver our content. This is part of our new product management process practice and it's also part of our desire to evolve our lean publishing and agile approaches. Our products increasingly will face multiple delivery channels, may be expressed via multiple content formats, and will need to satisfy learning experiences across multiple devices and modalities. Understanding what our students, faculty, and administrators want and need along those dimensions will be a critical skillset for us moving forward.
More posts to follow as we grow out the practices.