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Learning About How Spotify Builds Products

August 28, 2023
Bill Kimball

It’s about creating an initial product that real users will love and that fulfils the narrative. “We ensure that our products go from being great at launch to becoming amazing, by relentlessly tweaking after launch” –“Continuous Improvement” is the key term here. I wrote about this earlierand highlighted its roots in Japanese car manufacturing. In practice, this means that Spotify will try to ensure a certain quality standard upon launch, followed by further improvements based on real-time feedback and performance. At streaming music service Spotify, engineering teams sprint to develop new features that they hope their users will love. A key element to this is holding on to small, autonomous teams. Squads have 5-10 people with various software engineers and designers, and they take responsibility for a part of the product.

Look at different models of self-organization that fit different scale and risk contexts. Look beyond Spotify and even look beyond agile to gain org-wide agility. Just as startups are focused on finding product-market fit, we believe you should start on a journey to find your organization-context fit.

This means that the company rallied around the teams working on these bets to give them what they needed or wanted. Teams working on the top bets have priority access to meeting rooms, specific engineers to solve specific problems and so on. This directed focus and helped everyone understand the impact of their work. This helped align and organize teams towards working in the same direction. When I joined Spotify, I was amazed at how much data I had access to about signups, performance and finances.

how spotify builds products

If you give your team a goal and let them figure out how to get there, they will be more engaged and have more ownership of the result. The Spotify model has been around for several years, and it has become extremely popular among tech companies. Yet recently, we’ve started seeing more and more reports that it doesn’t actually work. Receive our best content two weeks before anyone else! Take inspiration from a wide variety of future of work practices and companies.

Following this framework will give you a repeatable way to grow your product. Sylvia used this framework at several companies, which means it’s easy to adapt, and you can use it at your company. – Your team needs skills in product, engineering, design, data, and marketing. That doesn’t mean you need one person dedicated to each task, but your whole team should cover these fundamental skills. GoGoVan structures its product teams into one of nine business objectives. Each team works on a single objective, which allows employees on each team to get a deep understanding of their goals. Earliest usable product – A “usable” product is an actual product that early adopters will use without being incentivized.

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Spotify engineers figured out that Agile matters more than Scrum, and principles matter more than any specific practices. Spotify renamed the Scrum Master to Agile Coach because they wanted “servant leaders” more than “process masters.” They also renamed Scrum team to Squads. Engineering Manager, Tyce Clee, wants to give you the benefit of his hindsight by sharing the 5 things he learned while building Encore. How many design systems can you think of that include both phones and fridges? – You need a metric to help you understand whether you’re headed in the right direction.

Before they start building anything, GoGoVan puts themselves back into the customer’s shoes one more time. They review their potential solutions to try and understand if it’s the simplest solution possible. Once they’re satisfied that they’ve found a simple solution, they still don’t start building anything. Ship It – When shipping features, Spotify operates with a limited blast radius. They’ll release a new feature to a small set of Spotify users. Then, they monitor how those people use that feature. If the feature is a success, they’ll roll it out to the entire user base.

  • The Spotify model has been around for several years, and it has become extremely popular among tech companies.
  • Design systems are a team sport, and we’ve had a lot of players…too many to name, but you know who you are.
  • These are things everyone should use—it’s what makes Spotify look like Spotify.
  • For example, when enough Squads use a specific tool, that tool becomes a path of less resistance and other Squads tend to choose the same tool.
  • They have clear requirements, and it’s mostly driven by budgets and timelines.

– What’s the process that users will take to start using your product? These are questions that a model will help you answer. Modeling your funnel will also help you understand what areas you need to improve on to really grow your product.

How The Squad Works

Spotify was founded in 2006, and it’s still a relatively young and small organization. In any other company I’ve been part of before, this would have been a big deal.

We’ve researched the product management frameworks from five successful companies to find out how they consistently create great products. These frameworks give you repeatable guidelines on how you should do product discovery, prioritization, and execution. Perhaps the biggest lesson for us was how important it is to understand the company culture and adapt to it. For a design system to work, it needs to embrace the company’s characteristics and peculiarities. For us, that meant acknowledging the huge product landscape we live in and the autonomous ways in which our teams work. Rather than having a single system or team, we believe it’s better for Spotify to have a family of design systems, taken care of by several distributed teams.

how spotify builds products

Annina Koskinen presents a framework she’s developed to help her teams at Spotify reach their goals and ship with impact. It’s where we keep things like color, type styles, motion, spacing, plus guidelines for writing and accessibility. These are things everyone should use—it’s what makes Spotify look like Spotify. Using Encore Foundation is the minimum bar for every Spotify product. Most importantly, we wanted a system that would fit with Spotify’s culture of autonomy—one that could scale across multiple platforms and use cases.

Spotify Doesnt Use the Spotify Model And Neither Should You By Jeremiah Lee Sunday, April 19, 2020 * Listen * En

But as Joakim Sundén pointed out, it is far from an agile nirvana. There are lots of teams working on the main Spotify app, so there’s a big need for shared mobile components and patterns. These design elements live inside a local system that’s tailored to the platform and audience . The framework is new, but Encore actually reuses a lot of the great that went into our previous design systems. We’ve either straight-up rebranded them or extracted parts of them to create the new Encore systems.

how spotify builds products

Under safe circumstances, it’s a good idea to let your team try something, even if you think it’s going to fail. I’ve done this, and it’s scary, but more often than not, I’ve been proven wrong and the team has come up with a great solution.

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The top metrics that kept coming up in town hall meetings (a.k.a. all-hands meetings) was the amount of monthly active/paying users and the monthly new signups. The organization’s best interest may be for you to give up your best software engineer to help out another team, and it may not align with your own team’s best interest.

How Spotify Builds Products

– Get input from everyone working on this project about what features they think will create the most significant impact for your users. Everyone on your team is going to have different ideas about prioritization, which is why it’s essential to hear from multiple people. Ideally, a team can release the feature or their software when they’re ready.

Build your organization’s ability to constantly try new behaviors and learning from those experiments. However, if you’re considering implementing the ‘Spotify model’, please think again. Is your organization still trying figure out its business model? Is “move fast and break things” applicable to your product? Marina’s work focuses on the intersection of language, design systems, and user experience.

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The issue was the GLUE team had been disbanded by this point, and no one was actively pushing the GLUE design system forward. We use your LinkedIn profile and activity data to personalize ads and to show you more relevant ads. Consumers might notice if you create one great product. But if you never do it again, they’ll forget about you and move on to the next thing that comes along. – Targets aren’t goals or deadlines as they’re simply milestones to complete in the near term. They help keep your team on track and working toward your north star metric and your strategic goal.

Think It – During discovery, teams research ideas, validate problems, and experiment with concepts. This is a “high risk” stage meaning that if they released something without this vetting, the probability of unhappy customers could be high. Even though these squads are autonomous, they’re highly aligned. Each squad has a leader, whose goal is to align the squad behind one mission. Each mission focuses on one part of Spotify’s product.

And while these teams maintain the different systems, anyone who builds products at Spotify can contribute. In the early days of Spotify, there was no design system—we were building everything for the first time. When we launched the mobile app in 2009, there were few standards or shared patterns in place, and the Spotify experience started to get increasingly…inconsistent. I guess the main point of this principle is the focus on quality above anything else. The challenge for any product person and developer is to strike the right balance between releasing early and often AND launching quality products.