5 weeks to make it – how to keep your cool and switch a major brand online in only 5 weeks – Kristal Ireland’s Benchmark 2018 talk review

Sep 25th, 2018

Following the move to public ownership of the east coast railway franchise, Ireland found herself with an eCommerce platform worth 100s of millions of pounds that was going to need some big changes – and not much time to make them

While I’m among the few, apparently, who knew the LNER brand (my eldest son was obsessed with trains for a while, resulting in me learning a truly excessive amount about trains – after all, they were responsible for the Flying Scotsman back in the mid-19th century), most people in the audience will have been familiar with at least some of the feelings that Ireland shared with the Benchmark audience.

In February 2018, the Department for Transport announced that the InterCity East Coast franchise would be brought back in to public ownership, meaning that the eCommerce platform that Ireland’s team had developed for the franchise on behalf of Virgin would need to shift domains and brands in under five weeks.

While Ireland was unable, for commercial reasons, to share exactly how this was done, she was able to deliver excellent insight in to how her and her team were able to get through a period of disappointment and upheaval.

Ireland talked the audience of through the stages of grief that the team went through, detailing the importance of reminding your staff about their past successes and galvanizing them against the challenges that will present themselves.

One of the key tools, she says, was strict, well planned out process flows in order to ensure that the ‘minimum viable product’ would be achieved at the launch of the renewed product. While this meant that they would have to drop some of the whistles and bells, that they had to skip the rebranding of the mobile app, but it also meant that people would be able to buy tickets, use existing tickets and use the site.

Krystal Ireland’s top tips for survival:

  • Acknowledge, accept and respect people’s emotions.
  • Select, energise and cement your A-Team.
  • Accept help – even if it’s painful.
  • Be clear and consistent on MVP – and communicate to senior stakeholders what this is and manage expectations.
  • Plan, plan and replan – including what happens if you fail.
  • Don’t sack your agencies – they’re part of your team too.

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