Challenge: top requested feature staying untouched

For more than a year, the most-requested idea from our customers – that they could sync their bookings to Google Calendar – was sitting on the ideas board, untouched.

There were a few main reasons:

  1. Building this feature required a deep knowledge of the Google Calendar API and potentially re-architecting Bookings, which as an older product that most of the team hadn’t built in the first place. We didn’t know what we didn’t know.
  2. From comments by customers around this request, we knew there were three potential needs: a store owner syncing their store calendar to their personal one (one to one), service providers syncing the relevant parts of the store calendar to their personal calendars (one to many) or a combination of both. We knew we didn’t have a rich-enough understanding of our customers to decide between these needs.
  3. Because of the complexity of the project, other ideas kept jumping the queue.

At the time, our process for tackling big features was to assign one or two developers to dig in and just start coding. That meant when they were pulled away, the project stopped, because no one else could jump in.

For this feature, we needed a different approach.

Solution: new processes, better information, more collaboration

Working with an engineering lead and two designers, we defined a new approach for this feature:

  • Developers started with technical research sprints, where each developer considered a different technical approach for the problem and created a proof-of-concept for that approach. When completed, they shared their findings with the team. That meant we had a better understanding of what we didn’t know, and that knowledge was shared across the team.
  • Designers started with a qualitative research sprint. With a basic foundation for our target customer based on the Customer Survey I ran, we recruited and spoke with 20+ customers and potential customers in one-hour interviews. From there, the designers built four detailed user profiles for Bookings customers.

Based on this research we made a few key decisions:

  1. We focused on the one-to-one need, because it was simpler and applied to one of the profiles.
  2. We decided we’d ship the feature after the holidays, because we didn’t have the time to finish development without bumping up to the busy holiday season. This allowed us to practice shipping quickly on another feature.
  3. Because we had rich qualitative data, we chose to simultaneously work on related features that would lead to a more complete release.
  4. We started working in weekly sprints, including weekly demos from the team on all issues completed that week. This allowed us to stay aligned on the scope of the feature as well as give feedback and iterate quickly.
New design for calendar management

Results: launch to many smiles

Google 2-Way Sync launched in WooCommerce Bookings in Feb. 2019, on time and to much customer delight.

Besides successfully launching the feature, the processes we implemented became a foundation for how the team worked together, and other product teams across the division began exploring them as well.

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