Six months on from our last round-up in December, it feels like a good moment to take stock of what we have all been up to.
Obviously, our biggest news has to be the departure of Simon and Sarah (as announced here earlier today). Justin and I are sorry to see them go, and we wish them the very best of luck in their new ventures. Justin, Simon and I have been working together in one way or another for over a decade, during which time we have learned a huge amount from each other and had a lot of fun in the process. As our fellow co-founders of Unthinkable, Simon and Sarah have helped shape what the company is today; indeed, we worked together on our company manifesto just a few months ago, and Justin and I are proud to continue to espouse its philosophy. We look forward to building on the strength of Simon and Sarah’s contribution and ideas as we take the company forward into a new stage.
In project terms, we have (with apologies to vegetarian readers) had the chance to get our teeth into some very meaty challenges. I had the satisfaction of bringing the ITV News digital redesign to fruition - see this post for more details of its on-time and on-budget launch - and in the process rounding out my working knowledge of Agile methodologies and more generally keeping myself up to date on what's involved in the delivery of complex software projects. I'm pleased to add that since I wrote that post, ITV Sport has also launched ahead of schedule and in good time for the Euro 2012 championship. Additionally, without going into inappropriate detail, I am reliably informed that ITV News is well on course to meet the extremely ambitious targets we set for it to ramp up its unique users.
We've been lucky enough over the last few months to do some very interesting work with the BBC. Justin worked with the BBC Academy to create a big exploratory strategy day for BBC News, examining how the BBC should deliver its news experience on tablets. The day brought together technologists, producers, journalists and importantly, audience members into a series of workshops and co-creation exercises.
We also recently wrapped up a review for the BBC of their service and workflow around digital audience feedback channels. Dry as it sounds, we love the insight this kind of work can give us both into the challenges of driving change in complex organisations, and the impact of digital technology on the expectations and behaviour of audience members (or users, or customers - choose your poison) in their relationships with those organisations. In the case of the BBC there is also the angle - that continues to fascinate us - of accountability in the widest sense to a paying public (rather than private customers). Not least, we got to have some fun doing role-play as mystery shoppers with the BBC and other organisations.
Our biggest relationship with the BBC, though, has been with Knowledge and Learning who have brought us in to help with the development of their digital 'product' from a couple of different angles. In the winter we worked with them to guide an ambitious programme of work developing design prototypes on the theme of time-based navigation, and we delivered a research paper looking at the conceptual framework, competitive landscape and emerging best practice around the theme. (Coming at a busy time, this project gave us the chance to work with a valued old friend, Matt Walton, newly emerged into the freelance world from a highly productive stint at BBC Worldwide.)
More recently, we have come back to the question of BBC K&L's product development, this time from the perspective of advising on its strategy around URLs, and thus by extension around workflow, content management, data modelling and ultimately some pretty profound questions about how the whole BBC sees itself developing as a digital player.
Our arts focus has continued in the form of two very interesting and entirely different projects. We are midway through delivering an amazingly ambitious digital creativity initiative called Dean Rodney Singers for Heart n Soul as part of the Cultural Olympiad. Through a project using iPads as the central tool in a music and video collaboration between seven countries, we are learning a huge amount about interoperability, how different creative tools work for different people and the real nature of intuitive design. We are designing and continuously amending the creative process so that the band, a rich mixture of people, some with learning disabilities and some without, can combine their efforts in all sorts of productive ways. We are right now in the process of designing the experience of the installation that will be the culmination point of the project that will happen in September at the Southbank Centre.
Our English National Opera project took us into very different territory. We were invited to do do a rapid assessment of their digital communications and to bring together a group of people from across the organisation to work towards a shared plan. Having seen what a rapid assessment can achieve with the right energy we are keen to see if this is an approach we can develop to enable organisations to get stuck into digital thinking quickly without taking on too much at the start of the process.
In a similar vein we were also asked to do some rapid strategic assessment and concept development for Universal Classics. Given our background in delivering digital editorial services for Radio 3 and the Proms this was a particularly fascinating project and we look forward to the launch of their new service.
This year's Digital Shoreditch provided the platform for us to ramp up the level of ambition around our Group Think format, partnering with The Barbican to deliver a public event in one of their cinemas focusing on the lessons that can be learned from successful collaborations in the digital arena. The turnout and feedback we received for the event suggest to us that the risk paid off handsomely. Sarah has provided a full write-up of the event, and you can see a pretty picture that neatly summarises it here. We were particularly pleased to work with The Barbican on this one, as it enabled us to help them put into practice one of our recommendations, that they forge creative links with the growing tech sector in their east London back yard. Invited along as speaker and panellist for another Digital Shoreditch event, Figtalks, I grabbed the chance to obsess in public about one of my pet topics, digital remembering.
Finally we'd like to take this opportunity to thank Lorna Palmer for continuing to be a valued associate of the company, bringing a combination of intelligence, creativity and efficiency to every challenge we throw at her. In this period, we have benefited from her contributions to our work with a very different set of projects for the BBC and our rapid assessment at the English National Opera.