How do we execute our top ideas?

Now that you’ve figured out what goals and ideas you want to focus on, you have to map these ideas onto what product thinkers call a “roadmap.” Roadmaps are long-term planning documents that give you a concrete plan for how to turn your ideas into reality. If your organization has decided to launch a membership program, you’ll want to develop a roadmap that takes you to launch. 

Membership Puzzle Project coach and newsroom consultant Emma Carew Grovum created a playbook for creating your own roadmap for MPP’s Membership in News Fund partners. Here’s a roadmap template from Airtable you could use. 

Here are Carew Grovum’s big picture guidelines for building a roadmap:

  • Use a timeline: You can break your timeline down by week, month, quarter, or year. No matter how far out you plan it, the timeline should align with your team’s sprint schedule so you can coordinate the work. 
  • Set up categories: This will define what you’re using the roadmap to track and plan. These categories could be defined by team, by committee, by product, by task type, etc. Regardless, you should choose a simple system and stick to it. 
  • Create parallel tracks: A roadmap allows you to see the plans for multiple projects at once, which enables you to prioritize tasks for both near- and long-term goals. 

In the presentation, Carew Grovum and Pierre Liebovici, engagement editor for Mediacités in France, shared the steps they took to build Mediacités’ roadmap:

  • They made a list of things that were working and things that were not working. 
  • They put the items on the “not working” list on an urgent/important matrix to visualize what needed to be addressed immediately.
Urgent Not Urgent
Important

Increase revenue from members to be sustainable

Lack of KPIs to measure conversion and retention of members


Investigative stories are launched by our journalists without assessing community information needs first

Some staff members still need to be convinced about the benefits of membership

Lack of time to answer and manage all of our readers’ contributions

Not Important

Surge in number of new members in the last six weeks due to a membership campaign


Experiment with new types of storytelling to tell our story better

  • They also put the items on an impact/effort matrix to evaluate how big an undertaking each item was. (On a small team like Mediacités, it’s difficult to take on two high-effort projects at once, even if they’re both also high impact.)
  • They identified two priorities for that quarter:
    1. Solve the lack of KPIs for conversion and retention (an urgent and important item that was low effort)
    2. Increase revenue from members to be sustainable (an urgent and important item that was high effort)
  • They identified short term and long term goals for each of those two priorities and assigned deadlines for each.
  • They broke the goals down into tasks that would need to be completed, and assigned deadlines to those, too.
Low effort High effort
High impact

Lack of KPIs to measure conversion and retention of members


Investigative stories are launched by our journalists without assessing community information needs first

Increase revenue from members to be sustainable

Surge in number of new members in the past 6 weeks thanks to a special campaign

Low impact

Experiment with new types of storytelling to tell our story better


Lack of time to manage and answer to all of our readers’ contributions

Some staff members still need to be convinced about the benefits of membership

You can see this in greater detail in slides 18-35

Your roadmap should break down your top ideas into tasks, along with estimates for how long it should take to complete them. 

Roadmaps often stretch many months, and they require more than a start date and end date. You’ll need incremental deadlines along the way to stay on track and so you can learn as you go, adapting your technology and strategy as you discover what works. 

Many product teams work to execute their ideas in one to four week cycles called “sprints.” The concept of sprints is popular in agile software development, and many newsrooms now prioritize and execute their ideas with them. 

Using sprints to structure the work is useful because sprints break big projects up into smaller increments, and do so in a way that puts the whole team on the same schedule. This helps you standardize the intervals upon which you measure results and run tests – crucial when your newsroom is trying to maintain multiple editorial products across many teams. 

You’ll assign the tasks you identified in your roadmap to a specific sprint interval (or multiple sprint intervals for particularly large tasks). 

Each team chooses a sprint duration that’s based on what they want to accomplish and what resources they have. Whatever you decide, you should keep your sprint cadence consistent over time, so choose a cadence that will work even as your products evolve in complexity. Focus on how long it’ll take you to accomplish a meaningful chunk of work, such as hosting a focus group to help you design your membership program or choosing a payment processor to process membership payments. 

For each sprint, you develop and release a meaningful piece of work, evaluate how it performs, and decide whether you are satisfied with what you did, whether you want to refine it further, and whether you want to move on to the next chunk of work on your roadmap.

While most newsrooms organize sprints around time intervals, that is not the only way to define the beginning and end point of a sprint. Scalawag, a North Carolina-based newsroom covering the American South, has an events-focused membership growth strategy. It plans and executes its events in a series, so it made more sense to align its sprints with that than with a specific increment of time. Read the full case study to learn how Scalawag adopted agile methodology to grow its membership through events.

 

How Scalawag made the growth case for events

Relying on newsletters alone to grow its membership was too narrow for Scalawag, which aims to serve a diverse set of audiences.