Vamsi Gadey
PRODUCT + DESIGN
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GROUPON UGC OFFSITE

As we started to plan User Generated Content (UGC) product roadmap in 2018, we realized we all had slightly different takes on where we should be focusing our efforts on: consumption vs collection, conversion vs engagement, consumer vs merchant and so on. PMs, engineers and designers found themselves in different meetings talking about different hypotheses and ideas. The process felt a bit disconnected and silo-ed.

I helped plan a product “offsite” would help the product, design and engineering teams take a step back as a team - and reset. The goal was to collaboratively evaluate the current state of the product, identify insights and opportunities, document knowledge gaps and rally around a few concrete themes.

MY ROLE

As a design manager, I helped:

  • plan the agenda and structure of the offsite
  • organize offsite materials working with design, research, product and bizops 
  • synthesize and prioritize opportunities on the product roadmap

TEAM 

  • Director of product + PM
  • Engineering manager + engineers
  • Bizops
  • Design manager (me) + 1 lead designer + 1 user researcher

PLANNING THE OFFSITE

The design, research and product team came together and created a workbook that synthesized insights from different sources into a holistic story. Below are a few highlights from the workbook:

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Documenting the current flow

Given the number of different flows/experiments across platforms (Web, Mobile Web, iOS, Android), verticals (Local, Goods, Travel) and touchpoints (Email, Push, In App, App Launch), it is easy for even the core team to forget parts of the current user experience. During the weeks leading to the offsite, we thoroughly documented the end-to-end UGC collection and consumption flows so the team can baseline what we currently have before heading into brainstorming mode.

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Contextualizing the data

Data becomes a powerful tool when it is contextualized. With limited time we had for the offsite, we didn’t want to leave our stakeholders pondering the implications of data while trying to digest a large amount of information. To contextualize the data, we tied the metrics back to the flows so stakeholders could see at a glance how users’ behaviors changed throughout the flow.

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Identifying key problems

Based on insights collected from prior user research, analytics and competitive audits, we identified key business and experience problems. As we structured the workbook, each section was led with a series of problem statements supported by insights from various sources. This structure allowed us to tie varied insights together into a cohesive story and clarify the problems to focus on.

THE OFFSITE

The offsite was 3-hour long packed with a series of activities in the San Francisco office, followed by a team socializing activity with dinner, drinks and a few rounds of mini-golf. 

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Truly cross functional

We made sure the entire UGC team was invited: key stakeholders from product, design, user research - and the entire engineering team. Participation from the entire team was important not only to bring holistic thinking from all disciplines, but also to make all the team members feel heard.

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Divide & Conquer

We started the offsite by quickly recapping 2017 and going over the broad themes for 2018. Later, we split into three cross-functional teams with each team tackling one theme on UGC
Collection, and one on UGC Consumption. We did this so we could not only cover the breadth of topics, but also be able to go deep on each of them.

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No laptops, only paper!

Before the offsite, we printed all the workbooks so stakeholders didn’t need to open their laptops. The physical printouts helped everyone to stay focused on the topics at hand and allowed for note taking within the material itself.

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Immersion and Reflection

Instead of jumping right into brainstorming, we led the team through a series of immersion and reflection activities. In the immersion activities, we gave stakeholders time to read the workbook and get familiar with current state of UGC. Then during the reflection phase, stakeholders were asked to discuss what they learned, contribute additional insights and document their knowledge gaps as well as hypotheses.

 

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Structured Idea Generation 

In the brainstorming exercises, we gave participants an opportunity worksheet template which encouraged them to be very thoughtful with the type of users they are targeting, the problems they are solving for and the success metrics. This ensured that all ideas coming out of the offsite had a solid foundation.

AFTER THE OFFSITE

synthesis

Synthesize

After the offsite, we synthesized the raw ideas into a refined set of opportunities, based on the problem each idea was solving for. Also, to help the team better envision the experience and start discussions on next steps, we visualized the opportunities in super low fidelity. Finally, all the outputs were put into a presentation and shared with the team.

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Prioritize

To follow up on all the opportunities, we set up a prioritization session where representatives from the cross-functional teams came together and discussed the impact vs. effort of each opportunity. A decision matrix was used to facilitate the discussion. This exercise helped influence the 2018 roadmap and brought the team’s attention to the opportunities that had high impact and low effort.

WHAT WORKED

  • Overall, we all thought the offsite was a great success, especially in helping improve the team morale and establish momentum.
  • We have a better sense of ownership, and hence participate much more actively throughout the product development lifecycle. Good ideas can come from anyone, and the offsite helped instill confidence that anyone could help influence the roadmap.
  • The offsite also pushed us to improve our day-to-day working relationships and processes. We now have a half-hour weekly sync between product, design and engineering to discuss new product ideas, competitive research, experiment results, bugs to prioritize etc.
  • We also started to push each other to think more strategically, tying the individual PRDs back to strategic themes and user problems.
  • We are more cognizant of our assumptions and knowledge gaps, which helps us prioritize the right kind of methodology to fill the gaps (generative user research vs usability testing vs A/B testing)

WHAT COULD HAVE WORKED BETTER

  • Make sure the content fits the time. We decided the length of the offsite before creating the content and ended up having too much content for a 3-hour offsite.
  • Involve representatives from the product in the planning process to make sure everyone is aligned on the themes and topics we focus on.