Agile Transformation for a Digital News Organization
Minneapolis’s Star Tribune newspaper worked with SDG to implement agile practices and roles.
Product team organizational design
A major daily newspaper company transforms to tackle new challenges
The Minneapolis Tribune published its first newspaper on May 25, 1867, just a few months after Minneapolis received its city charter. For well over a century, the Tribune and its competitor and then sister paper, the Minneapolis Star, prospered. By the 1990s, the Minneapolis Star Tribune was one of the leading daily newspapers in the USA.
In the mid-1990’s Star Tribune transitioned into a modern-day, technology-driven media company. In 1996 the company launched an online edition, eventually adding a mobile site and smartphone apps. These digital properties enabled Star Tribune to build on its strengths of delivering the news when and how readers wanted.
But in the 21st century, new challenges emerged. The news industry’s financial fortunes and subscriber base have steadily declined, and website audience traffic, after some years of growth, has leveled off.
Star Tribune’s leadership realized that to compete in this challenging industry, they needed to transform their technology and product processes to a more agile model. And in 2019, they engaged SDG to help.
Guiding an agile journey
SDG began by assessing how the Star Tribune digital organization planned and delivered software. The goal: to better understand their agile maturity and improve their product planning and delivery processes. Through close collaboration with Star Tribune’s leadership and operational staff, SDG identified opportunities to improve and partnered to implement agile process that aligned with Star Tribune’s organizational goals.
They implemented the Scrum framework, working with Star Tribune leadership on foundational tenets. As a part of this implementation, Star Tribune introduced roles of product owners and Scrum master and defined products and aligned them to the newly established roles and cross-functional teams.
SDG coached the employees of Star Tribune during this transformation. Workshops included an overview of agile, Scrum basics, agile estimation techniques, story creation, and story mapping. They paired this work on agile with the continual maturation of Star Tribune’s DevOps processes.
To ensure alignment and focus on technical excellence, SDG’s agile coach worked closely with the teams to establish agile ceremonies, including weekly planning sessions, two-week sprints, and reviews and retrospectives. The retrospectives proved especially valuable, serving as a forum for the team to share feedback and strenghten their working relationships — and ultimately the quality of their products. Many people in the organization had not worked together closely before, so this was a significant shift in how Star Tribune’s software was built.
After the initial project, SDG remained engaged with Star Tribune to support a successful transition and ensure they’re meeting their product goals and fulfilling their important mission. SDG continues to consult with Star Tribune leadership on their agile transformation, and the organization’s advertisers and audience are seeing the results.
Benefits of the transformation
- Acceleration of software delivery
- Greater adaptability to changing market priorities
- Increased productivity
- Enhanced software quality
- Improved team morale
- Process analysis and consulting
- Product strategy
- Agile coach
- Scrum master
- Documentation and training