2020 Unwrapped: The people behind the numbers

March 1, 2021 Published by Javier Moscardó (Mosca)

2020 Wrapped is a story of gratitude and resilience. And we’re grateful for the people and teams behind the curtain who built this product experience (👏🏽Give them a hand!). 

The effort behind Wrapped spans the entire company and is founded on communication and collaboration. With the shift to working from home, we needed to create a structure that enabled us to collaborate and communicate remotely, and prioritized asynchronous communication over synchronous communication when possible. We were able to adapt to unprecedented challenges and join forces to deliver a personalized product experience for our listeners. Now, let’s take a look at the numbers behind the 2020 Wrapped experience.

Distributed execution

2020 Wrapped, like the Wrapped campaigns before it, was a company-wide project that involved collaboration among hundreds of Spotifiers. Over a span of 4 months, two key groups dedicated themselves to building the product experience — Personalization (PZN), the minds behind the data magic, and Edison, drivers of the rich end-user experience. Around twenty engineers from 4 different squads within Edison and 6 engineers from other squads joined as embeds, all working as a virtual team covering 4 different time zones. 

We adapted our ways of working to allow team members to contribute, communicate and collaborate regardless of their location. The team asynchronously worked on 10 technical specification documents, 8 RFC documents, 4 project planners, and more than 15 slide decks to facilitate information sharing.

With a distributed-first mindset, Slack became our place to build traceability and transparency, allowing us to easily retrace our steps and find documentation that led to business decisions and actions. By the end of the project,  we had created 11 Slack channels each dedicated to brief messages that required quick answers or a brief team discussion around specific topics. One particular channel existed solely for the purpose of sharing memes — 8,116 and counting. 😬

Ultimately, we kept the team connected and created team spirit by holding brainstorm meetings and building on ideas we generated as a group. It was especially helpful when complex problems arose and we needed to get people on the same page.

Collaboration

The core mobile experience was built by a few teams, but to deliver the product experience, it took the effort of 8 additional squads working simultaneously. We defaulted to open communication and, in most cases, preferred to overshare than undershare. Given the number of teams, oversharing ensured a successful flow of information. 

We focused a great deal on expanding the mobile experience for our listeners in 2019, and we were able to reuse some of the components and apply some of the lessons from 2019 Wrapped to the 2020 experience. Compared to 2019, we were able to reduce our engineering effort by 50% for Android development, reduce our timeline for iOS development by 30%, and repeat with 60 engineering weeks for Backend. For Web, we increased our scope with an ambitious vision and made a significant investment in our engineering effort compared to 2019.

On the day of launch, individuals from multiple functions — Marketing, Brand + Creative, R&D, Customer Support, Local Marketing, Public Relations, and Localization — gathered in a war room (aka a virtual meeting) testing, troubleshooting, and tackling live issues with tight coordination across 8 hours.

Wrapped around the world

With 12 new markets and 4 new languages, 2020 Wrapped was the most global iteration of the project to date 🌎🌍🌏. We served 26 total languages, 8 different fonts, and 87,343 words total — approximately 4,000 words per language in both left-to-right and right-to-left text orientations. Though a challenging task, it was absolutely critical that we embed localization into our process to improve the listening experience for our users across the globe. 

Shareable cards, like the ones above, hold a number of different corner cases to test, and quality remains top of mind. Because we weren’t physically in the office to pair and review pieces, it became imperative that we find creative solutions to allow for effective and efficient collaboration. For Localization testing and the Design Review process, we created a dedicated tool to reduce the feedback loop and enable the team to use it asynchronously. Using this tool, we were able to increase productivity in our distributed work environment, while respecting flexible work schedules and work/life boundaries.

Closing words from the Wrapped fellowship

In the shift to working from home on a project that spanned the company, we needed to (quickly) set up a structure to keep productivity high and collaboration and communication flowing, while ensuring we were taking care of ourselves, our family and friends, and our team members. 

We hope you enjoyed reading about the people behind the numbers, and hope that Wrapped made the end of your 2020 just a little bit better.

Thank you to everyone who made another year of Wrapped.