February 5, 2014

Overhauling how prioritisation and staffing is done at the org level

Bring customer focus to portfolio level staffing and decision making, through systems thinking and user research.

Expertise provided

User research facilitation

Systems thinking

Portfolio planning

Organisational process change

Leadership coaching




The challenge

The Infrastructure & Operations tribe (IO Tribe) at Spotify was structured around internal product categories that developers use to deliver customer facing features. The problem however, was that there was no customer feedback mechanism to determine how to appropriately staff and prioritise each of these areas from a portfolio perspective. The tribe had no idea if they were staffing and supporting each area relative to the needs of the customer.

  • Staffing and support was prioritised based on which product area could make the strongest argument
  • The entire value chain for developer productivity was not being considered
  • Developers in IO's infrastructure teams were making priority decisions because their customers were also developers, so why wouldn't they know what's best for them?
  • Tribe leadership was flying blind in terms of understanding overall impact to their customers.

The turnaround

After initially asking the questions that led to this discovery, Brendan teamed up with Spotify's head of User Research and IO's Tribe Leadership to conduct user research interviews across the IO Tribe's customers in Stockholm and New York. 

Through a systematic and careful approach, it was discovered that the IO Tribe's least funded product area happened to be the most in need of staffing and support, as it was having the greatest impact to engineer productivity.

The findings resulted in a huge shift in staffing priority for the tribe and Brendan's process for customer discovery lived on as a quarterly exercise to inform staffing strategy in the tribe, focused on meeting the needs of the customer (feature developers).

Project results

  • Improved customer satisfaction
  • Leadership mindset shift towards customer
  • Overhaul to staffing process
  • Improved time to market for feature delivery

“Customer centric prioritisation at the org level”

"Brendan not only helped us to improve how we make priority decisions in our tribe from our customer’s perspective, he helped us see the problem in the first place. This resulted in a big shift of priority towards our customers' greatest pain points when using our infrastructure, which in turn led Spotify as a whole to delivering more value to our customers."

Par Von Zweigbergk

Tribe Lead, Infrastructure & Operations
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