July 17, 2024
Introducing a product supply tradition at Etsy

Etsy, a web based market for distinctive, handmade, and classic gadgets, has
seen excessive progress during the last 5 years. Then the pandemic dramatically
modified consumers’ habits, resulting in extra customers procuring on-line. As a
consequence, the Etsy market grew from 45.7 million consumers on the finish of
2019 to 90.1 million consumers (97%) on the finish of 2021 and from 2.5 to five.3
million (112%) sellers in the identical interval.

The expansion massively elevated demand on the technical platform, scaling
visitors virtually 3X in a single day. And Etsy had signifcantly extra clients for
whom it wanted to proceed delivering nice experiences. To maintain up with
that demand, they needed to scale up infrastructure, product supply, and
expertise drastically. Whereas the expansion challenged groups, the enterprise was by no means
bottlenecked. Etsy’s groups have been in a position to ship new and improved
performance, and {the marketplace} continued to offer a wonderful buyer
expertise. This text and the following type the story of Etsy’s scaling technique.

Etsy’s foundational scaling work had began lengthy earlier than the pandemic. In
2017, Mike Fisher joined as CTO. Josh Silverman had just lately joined as Etsy’s
CEO, and was establishing institutional self-discipline to usher in a interval of
progress. Mike has a background in scaling high-growth corporations, and alongside
with Martin Abbott wrote a number of books on the subject, together with The Art of Scalability
and Scalability Rules.

Etsy relied on bodily {hardware} in two information facilities, presenting a number of
scaling challenges. With their anticipated progress, it was obvious that the
prices would ramp up rapidly. It affected product groups’ agility as they’d
to plan far upfront for capability. As well as, the information facilities have been
primarily based in a single state, which represented an availability threat. It was clear
they wanted to maneuver onto the cloud rapidly. After an evaluation, Mike and
his crew selected the Google Cloud Platform (GCP) because the cloud accomplice and
began to plan a program to maneuver their
many methods onto the cloud.

Whereas the cloud migration was occurring, Etsy was rising its enterprise and
its crew. Mike recognized the product supply course of as being one other
potential scaling bottleneck. The autonomy afforded to product groups had
brought about a difficulty: every crew was delivering in numerous methods. Becoming a member of a crew
meant studying a brand new set of practices, which was problematic as Etsy was
hiring many new individuals. As well as, they’d observed a number of product
initiatives that didn’t repay as anticipated. These indicators led management
to re-evaluate the effectiveness of their product planning and supply

Choosing a accomplice

Etsy had by no means labored with a software program improvement consultancy. To give you the option
to scale product supply and herald some exterior experience, they began
searching for a vendor. After an in depth search, they chose Thoughtworks,
primarily as a result of they perceived a detailed cultural match and deep alignment
relating to trendy software program improvement.

Thoughtworks has the same strategy to Agile as Etsy – being Agile
moderately than doing Agile. Etsy’s crew was not seeking to undertake a
methodology that blindly follows strict rituals and practices, and needed
a accomplice that bases its strategy on agile rules and tradition.
Thoughtworks is thought for technical excellence and management in DevOps,
Steady Integration, and Steady Supply, all of which Etsy depends
on closely. As well as, the 2 corporations shared comparable rules
relating to worker care, variety, open-source, and expertise

The Thoughtworks crew began by embedding into product groups, working with
each purchaser and vendor groups, on varied vital initiatives akin to cost
mannequin modifications, Search Engine Optimization (search engine marketing), and a notification platform.
This enabled Thoughtworks to know how Etsy labored, created a right away
influence on supply, and improved improvement practices akin to automated

For Thoughtworks, Etsy was fairly completely different from the everyday shopper.
They’re a totally digital firm, and their technical course of and product
practises are very mature. In contrast to most shoppers who interact Thoughtworks,
Etsy had no massive transformation to undertake, and no ingrained habits
that wanted a significant shift. What they have been in search of was exterior perspective
and supplementive abilities, to assist them incrementally enhance and sort out
their urgent initiatives. The tradition and rules have been already very
aligned with Thoughtworks’ personal, so the partnership turned extra of an
change of concepts drawn from completely different experiences.

Scaling Product Supply and Discovery

Thoughtworks and Etsy fashioned a cross-functional Product Supply
Tradition (PDC) crew to investigate the present product supply and discovery
course of. They analyzed the whole software program improvement worth stream,
wanting intently on the complaints of managers and crew members. Chosen
occasions have been replayed to achieve a deep understanding of “how” it occurred
rather than who?. The Thoughtworks
crew, as a result of they hadn’t lived by means of the issues, have been in a position to carry
an goal outsider perspective.

There have been quite a lot of issues Etsy was doing very well:

  • Cross-functional groups: They structured their groups round “4 desk legs”:
    Product, Design, Engineering, and Analytics. All planning and supply practices
    occur with collaboration among the many teams.
  • Incremental supply of worth to customers: Steady supply is the core
    apply of their strategy. A code change sitting in a repository and never
    deployed to customers is just not invaluable, and successfully prices the corporate cash. Etsy
    deploys tons of of instances a day, with a 30-minute decide to manufacturing lead
  • Options are prioritized utilizing information: Product managers and information analysts
    collaborate to find out an anticipated worth, measured by KPI modifications. If the
    characteristic doesn’t ship sufficient worth versus its price, as evidenced by an A/B
    take a look at, it isn’t rolled out, and the code is eliminated.

The crew additionally uncovered alternatives for enchancment:

  • Every crew was doing supply in numerous methods, having disparate processes
    and rituals, making onboarding new workers and altering groups troublesome. Some
    groups have been utilizing a course of like Scrum, whereas others didn’t use any formal
    course of.
  • There have been quite a lot of initiatives that had not created worth as
    they anticipated. For instance, Etsy tried a present wrap characteristic that had
    decrease than anticipated adoption charges by sellers and consumers.
  • Previous to 2018, Etsy had been by means of a transitional interval, with
    pivots in product technique and management modifications main some product
    managers to expres a need for larger possession over their product

Time to studying

The crew created an enchancment program, primarily based on lean pondering and the
concepts of Marty Cagan, who had just lately offered at Etsy. The management crew was
studying his ebook Impressed.

I promise you that a minimum of half the concepts
in your roadmap should not going to ship what you hope. (By the way in which, the
actually good groups assume that a minimum of three quarters of the concepts received’t
carry out like they hope.)

Marty Cagan, Inspired (p19)

After some preliminary analysis the crew got here up with a metric they known as Time
to Studying – the time it took for a product crew to validate an concept with a
buyer and achieve a greater understanding of its worth. They’d a baseline of
50 days that they needed to scale back.

They have been additionally different metrics.

  • Bettering the time to market
  • Bettering the effectiveness of merchandise (e.g. income, buyer
  • Worker happiness

To influence the KPIs, they got here up with quite a lot of answer hypotheses:

Lightweight prototypes that incorporate extra direct person analysis

Etsy has sturdy experimentation infrastructure and analytics capabilities.
They run many concurrent A/B checks on {the marketplace}. The issue the PDC
crew noticed is that the suggestions cycle might be fairly gradual. For an concept to be
prepared for an A/B take a look at it needed to be close to production-level high quality. It additionally had
to have sufficient information to indicate statistical relevance. A/B checks would run for
months in lesser-used elements of {the marketplace}.

To set your expectations, sturdy groups usually
take a look at many product concepts every week—on the order of 10 to twenty or extra per week. I
wish to emphasize that these are experiments, sometimes run utilizing prototypes.
A prototype is just not one thing that’s prepared for prime time and definitely not
one thing your organization would attempt to promote and stand behind. However they’re
immensely helpful, as they’re all about studying quick and low-cost.

Marty Cagan, Inspired (p27)

To cut back the Time to Studying metric, the PDC crew utilized a lean UX
strategy. First, they began by rapidly creating lo-fi prototypes and
instantly displaying them to customers. Second, the crew elevated person suggestions
periods to each two weeks and decreased the extent of ceremony. Third, they
created a dual-track system, with a design and analysis crew regularly
working forward of a supply crew. The thought was to effectively achieve confidence
in an concept earlier than it qualifies for an A/B take a look at. By lowering the price of
experimentation, they may enhance the variability and amount of experiments,
discovering concepts that confirmed extra worth.

Determine 1: Experiment validation course of

Blueprint for product supply

The PDC, together with product crew leaders, got here up with a set of
product supply rules and associated supply apply modifications. The
practices included: smaller extra centered tales, redesigning story partitions to
higher match the crew course of, utilizing spikes to scale back technical uncertainty, and
higher methods of managing tech debt. They didn’t wish to take away the autonomy of
groups. Steady enchancment is a giant a part of Etsy tradition. These practices
are supposed to be handled as wise defaults that may be tailored and improved
for every crew’s particular context.

The PDC crew first examined the apply modifications on pilot product groups to
set up their effectiveness after which iterated. As soon as the apply
demonstrated an enchancment, the crew added to a information base and supplied
mild teaching to introduce the brand new practices to all product groups throughout

Lean Portfolio administration

Some massive initiatives have been nonetheless being carried out, regardless that there was
not clear proof of the initiative creating worth. That is the everyday sunk
price drawback. To unravel this, the PDC crew
urged taking a lean strategy to portfolio administration.

Our runway needs to be an inventory of hypotheses to check, not an inventory of
necessities to construct. Once we reward our groups for his or her skill to ship
necessities, it’s simple to quickly bloat our merchandise with pointless
options—resulting in elevated complexity, increased upkeep prices, and
restricted skill to alter. Options delivered should not a measure of success,
enterprise outcomes are. Our runway is a collection of questions that we have to
take a look at to scale back uncertainty and enhance our understanding of progress

Humble et al, Lean Enterprise (p96)

As a substitute of making prolonged mission specs and plans, the PDC crew
coached product groups to develop end result statements for every initiative. With
end result statements, beginning with a buyer or enterprise end result permits the
crew to experiment with many alternative concepts to attain the result by tying
them to measurable KPIs. The much less exact an end result is, together with its KPIs,
the tougher it’s to specify. When making ready for doable initiatives, every
product crew created a two-page temporary summarizing the result, the measurable
influence, and the preliminary funding required.

The manager crew prioritized the result statements, and every assertion
was seen as a “wager” amongst a portfolio. Impressed by the Lean Worth Tree
idea, the manager crew would apply an everyday cadence to find out if a
wager was paying off, giving them the chance to pivot early.

Determine 2: An instance initiative assertion

Stronger product & engineering collaboration

One other enchancment was to incorporate engineers early within the product ideation
course of and to have them be a part of person suggestions periods. The crew examined
engineers becoming a member of the speculation technology and validation periods and
working intently with designers throughout design sprints. The outcomes of the take a look at
confirmed a number of advantages. Engineers improved their understanding of the
buyer, constructing empathy for his or her wants. They may present on-the-spot
suggestions on the feasibility of an strategy and rapidly create prototypes to
show concepts to customers. Cross-functional engagement allowed engineers to
contribute quite a lot of nice concepts that made it to the product.

After the preliminary PDC initiative Etsy continued to strengthen the
collaboration between teams. At each degree of the group, product and
engineering are companions, which implies they’re in a position to have wholesome trade-off
discussions. The platform group expanded the usage of product managers for
infrastructure and developer tooling groups – encouraging groups to consider
technical capabilities as merchandise and end-users being Etsy engineers. The
technical product managers do analysis and prioritization actions, simply as
they’d for a buyer product.

What was the influence of product supply tradition?

Testing with pilot groups indicated that the Time to Studying went from 50
days to five days. Throughout the pilot, one product supervisor mentioned, “What I really like about
the [direct user research sessions] pilot is that it lets us take a look at our concepts
sooner, it was very nice to not spend as a lot time diving deep into
one thing that we didn’t even know we have been going to make use of.” An initiative on
stock high quality that was predicted to ship a seven million greenback income
enhance as an alternative delivered eleven million {dollars} in incremental worth utilizing
the PDC urged enhancements. Following this pilot success, the crew coached
the whole product improvement group on the product supply strategy.

In keeping with Mike Fisher, “It is rather onerous to isolate the advantages of a
course of change on a corporation of a number of hundred engineers since we don’t
run A/B experiments of this sort. Nonetheless, we did have a look at excessive degree
productiveness metrics after having PDC applied for over 2 years, and all of
our metrics have been very constructive. We had improved our velocity by doing this
work, and we have been in a position to produce finally extra advantages for the consumers and
sellers – extra options, higher search, higher processes; the entire
market turned higher for consumers and sellers and that was the purpose.”