Agile development at scale. Ensuring a mission-critical launch for London Live. Six months to do it.
London Live is a new television channel, broadcast on Freeview, satellite, cable and online. The digital platform brings together live and on-demand television, listings, news, travel, weather, interactive studio screens and maps into an engaging cross-platform experience.
In October 2013, with less than six months to launch, and studios still under construction, we were appointed to architect and develop the digital platforms that would drive the television station and ensure a mission-critical launch.
London Live launched on 31st March 2014, glitch-free and on schedule. Within this short timeframe, we delivered the entire digital platform; including live and catch-up TV, all production workflows, all hosting infrastructure, over 20 integration points, and interactive studio screens – all entirely from scratch.
In 2013, the UK Government launched its local television initiative. While global cities like New York had multiple television stations, the UK had none. With support from the BBC, the government proposed to introduce a similar concept in the UK.
With the potential to reach 4 million homes, the new London channel proposed a 18-hour schedule, with rolling live coverage for news, business, travel, weather and sport across its platform – to be broadcast on Freeview, satellite, cable, online at LondonLive.co.uk and on social media.
With less than six months to launch, the television studios still under construction, no infrastructure in place, and the production team yet to be recruited, we would need to coordinate all elements of the project to run in parallel.
We would need to scope, architect and develop all of the following:
- A cross-platform video experience – including the live stream, rights-restricted catch-up, and short-form video clips, each having different production workflows, distribution and broadcast rights
- All broadcast and production workflows
- All online infrastructure
- Over 20 integration points – many of which were third-party systems that were not yet in procurement (including the broadcast scheduling system, which would only be in place 8 weeks before launch).
- Travel and weather – and feed this data directly to live news broadcast
- Support an unknown amount of traffic at launch.
- Ensure a faultless and glitch-free launch.
We knew that the platform would have to deliver a flawless, cross-platform video experience.
We would need to bring together the live stream with video-on-demand content, supporting short-form (news and clips) and rights-restricted long-form (catch-up) video sources. We also needed to integrate the player with the schedule for the linear channel.
To achieve this, we wanted to incorporate a fully-branded video player that would allow flawless switching between live and video-on-demand streams.
Designing the video experience
we wanted to layer the video with additional sources of content, including local news, weather, travel, events and curated social media. This would mean developing an overall site taxonomy that would work across all sources of content. As well as programme and news categories, we proposed to include the geospatial places database, as used by FourSquare, to meet the requirement for a hyper-local channel that would map content into neighbourhoods, districts and boroughs.
With the taxonomy right from the outset, we proposed that personalisation could then be used to drive content recommendations and discovery, providing user with an experience where “my London is different to yours”.
A proven, reliable and efficient process
We utilised on-site Inception workshops to build an in-depth understanding of Lewisham’s priorities and technology challenges and to rapidly build consensus on a target architecture, roadmap and migration approach. This was complemented with proof-of-concept integrations and test migrations to mitigate technology risks.
During design, implementation and test phases, we then facilitated weekly governance meetings to ensure all workstreams remained aligned across the council to minimise risks (including the dependency on the Dynamics 365 migration).
In addition, we also introduced new DevOps practices to test, deploy, monitor and support the platform and component services.
The go-live was scheduled across a single weekend, with both the Dynamics and Sitecore platforms being launched together. On-premise systems were stopped late Friday with final data moved to the cloud on Saturday. On Sunday, Lewisham’s team carried out testing and the new platform went live on Monday morning. This smooth and carefully managed migration was organised with service continuity in mind – there was a planned outage of just one weekend.
Through the implementation of a modern and integrated digital platform we’ve helped Lewisham achieve notable success, equipping the council to deliver on their vision, and to make access to local services as easy as possible.
We’ve embedded significant cultural changes, leading to a digital-first, agile business, where challenging the norm is the norm. The foundation is also ready to be deployed across shared services at other councils.
Having built the foundational capabilities for the Lewisham web platform, our transformation signals the start of the next stage of Lewisham’s exciting journey as they focus on delivering improved customer experience and digital services.
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