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Spotify Design's Program Tracker

September 2020

Article

Kamdyn Moore

Spotify exists to give opportunities — to a million creative artists building sustainable livelihoods from their art and to billions of fans enjoying, and taking inspiration from that art. To do that successfully, Spotify program managers coordinate initiatives that move the product and our users forward, both on company- and org-wide levels.

Within Spotify Design, every program is supported by a series of workstreams, milestones, and tasks that are owned by individual members of the Design organization.

When all these separate parts were in motion, we found we were tracking the layers of cross-functional work inconsistently, across various tools. And we wanted to cut through the noise. Our Design Ops team recognized a need for a single source of truth—a scalable solution transparent and intuitive enough to meet the needs of program managers and any stakeholders seeking information.

The Problem: Death by a Thousand Copy-Pastes

When I joined the team, we used an existing program tracker. And it worked for a while.

But with each new quarter or phase of the program, we were forced to rebuild the entire tracker, copying and pasting content from one doc to the next. Because tables weren’t linked, any updates to data needed to be made across every table in every track. Efforts to adapt and evolve a program were difficult—as was convincing others to actually use the tracker.

The Solution: Spotify Design’s Program Tracker

We wanted a hub for new team members to learn about tools and values, for squads to review each other’s progress, and for management to view the program at macro- and micro-levels. A doc that fit into existing rituals and connected people to their work.

So we created a new program tracker — the templated above — with three specific goals:

  • Improving asynchronous updates

  • Reinforcing cross-functional transparency

  • Increasing adoptability

Eliminating Duplicate Data

Our new tracker was created from the ground-up. We began by identifying the information that we wanted to connect within the doc and building an admin section to house the connections. With content successfully mapped, tables within the doc communicated with one another, saving us time spent on manual updates.

While content mapping seems like a simple concept, this foundational step was revolutionary for us — and something we’ve carried into every doc since. 

Creating Room to Work

While the Main Tables (Admin) provide a holistic view of progress within the doc, we also carved out smaller, more focused spaces. With Workstreams / Tasks, we created space to capture, document, and house work away from the noise of other workstreams or updates. This allowed team members to add content to their own individual workstream pages, while any updates automatically bubble up to other pages in the doc, like Weekly Status Updates and Milestones.

Simplifying Adoption — and Adaptation

Our new tracker was great, but it wouldn’t be a complete success without buy-in from others. The doc’s structure needed to be intuitive enough for people with context (like the doc builder) and those without (like high-level stakeholders).

So, we templatized our doc to take the stress out of spinning up a new tracker. And with the use of Coda’s Packs, we brought our trackers into the other tools our team uses every day — like a Slack reminder to add an update to a doc.

Apply Our Learnings to Your Own Doc

Our new program tracker has become the source of truth for program managers across Design. With each tracker, we’re committed to creating a hub of information for that program and team — a place where anyone can get a snapshot of progress at any point in time. Perhaps more importantly, the tracker has provided us with a consistent language and structure for tracking and discussing programs with stakeholders.

And we’ve already started experimenting with the boundaries of our trackers. We’re adopting the workstream page framework as space for individual tasks. We’re mapping our workstreams to OKRs to gain an even broader perspective of our programs. Even teams outside of design are introducing the template into their own projects.

Ready to Adapt Our Program Tracker for Your Team’s Needs?

Here’s what you can expect to find in this template:

  • The [Program] Overview provides a high-level summary of our team, Rhythms & Rituals, and more. This page serves a variety of audiences at Spotify:

    • New hires - Onboarding instructions and general information about the team ensures the new hire has all the knowledge they need to contribute to the team

    • Other teams - For non-design teams at Spotify, the various pages in the overview gives them an idea of what our team is all about

    • Senior management - Management can get a snapshot of what our team is working on, and they can dig deep into a specific program, workstream, or task if they want to

  • Program Tracking goes one step below the surface, providing workstream-related Weekly Status Updates and team-related updates on Quarterly OKRs.

  • Individuals will spend most of their time within the Workstreams / Tasks subpages. Here you’ll find a blank template and an example of an existing workstream. Keep the template to copy as your workstreams scale.

  • We’ve carved out dedicated space for all Meeting Notes relevant to the particular program you’re tracking. Again, you’ll find a blank template and example notes. Make sure to keep the template to copy for each meeting.

  • Your Main Tables (Admin) drive the doc and are the base for your customization.

To start using Spotify Design's Program Tracker with your team, click through to the template linked above.

Credits

Kamdyn Moore

Lead Program Manager

Kamdyn is the Lead Program Manager for the Design Ops team. It’s her job to create the space for teams to do their best work within any given constraint.

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