How We Set Goals in Tech at King

By Fabrizio Ferri

Every quarter, product owners from Barcelona, London, and Stockholm gather to prioritise the missions for the following quarter. Every quarter, the Shared Tech organisation steers the ship to adapt to an ever-changing environment to build the world’s best game publishing platform. That’s the goal: to take the technology that powers King’s game franchises and bring it to the next level.

For that purpose we use an Agile technique, Big Room Planning, a collaborative planning process where bureaucracy is banned (Agile is very much in King’s DNA). We’ve found BRP to be a simple, no-nonsense way to sync priorities and goals as well as discover any dependencies between our technology sites in a matter of hours. Preparations include drafting mission proposals and collecting business priorities from stakeholders.

The day starts at 8:30AM with a hearty breakfast. At 9AM, Åsa Bredin, our First Vice President of Technology, highlights the principle for the day by quoting Jason Fried,

“A kick-ass half is better than a half-assed whole”

The message is clear: no matter how many missions we manage to review, the goal is to leave with full alignment on the most important ones. Thomas Hartwig, CTO, follows with words of inspiration and strategy. Then Ali Parr, our Senior Director of Tech Platforms, explains the overarching product vision and principles. The main areas, with their progress and future challenges, are presented by product directors.

At 10:30AM, BRP starts. We keep it simple from start to end. Missions have been drafted in cards with the Who and Why, the expected impact, and how we are going to measure the outcome, plus an estimated calendar time. Each mission must relate with company priorities, which are posted on a wall in A3-sized cards. It’s what we call the “GPS” (Global Priorities Session) list, a series of requests from stakeholders. It’s a good reference for POs, a beacon for connecting tech’s work to their stakeholders, from game studios to marketing to player support.

Click here to download our BRP mission template!

Missions are presented in five-minute time-boxes, starting with the ones that have the highest priority. One after the other, product owners present a mission and put it on the wall, in the most appropriate stakeholder column, ordered by descending priority. All are encouraged to challenge purpose and scope. This discussion provide powerful insights to the team to detect dependencies and assess the priority. All of this happens in a relaxed yet focused environment, where off-topic discussions are quickly parked to stay on track.

Presentations are followed by a “dependency speed-dating” session, where product owners freely discuss dependencies of missions between themselves. They are marked with arrow-shaped sticky notes- outbound when a mission produces them, incoming if it’s affecting it. Dependencies are key to understanding what could go amiss during execution, and we put extra care in identifying them as soon as possible.

“I know that I’m working on the most important thing right now and I know it’s connected to King goals”

At 4PM, POs gather again to review and refine the resulting backlog. The tech site leaders go through the different business areas and chat with the POs to check again that the priority and scope of each mission is adequate. The BRP ends with a closing call to refine the mission statements together with the teams and recreate them in Carlinga, our project portfolio visualisation tool — which we’ll cover in another post.

At the end of the day, we were all very happy with the result, as we managed to go through all suggested missions, find and manage dependencies, as well as validate how we cover the priorities from our stakeholders.

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Originally published at techblog.king.com on July 11, 2018.