Utopia Music is a Venture Capital-Backed company based in Europe, with headquarters in Switzerland and offices in Denmark, Finland, Norway, and Sweden. The company's ecosystem uses artificial intelligence and data transparency to improve entertainment productions while tracking music metadata and attributing royalties. It was founded in 2016 solely for the music industry with the vision of ‘Fair Pay for Every Play.’
Utopia allows Music Creators, Publishers, Labels, and Collection Societies to enable growth for the entire industry by allowing them to focus on their strengths. By reducing operative overhead, X-raying growth opportunities, and helping Music become an asset class, the company finally allows the Industry to become its best self. It is creating an ecosystem where music & tech foster creativity & joy.
The company is divided into 11 Business Units (BUs), which act as mini-businesses within the larger company, each serving its own particular users or customers. Among these 11 BUs is the Platform BU which does not have its own external customers but rather builds data products and pipelines for the other BUs, thereby enabling them to consume the data and incorporate them into their customer-facing products.
Utopia’s Product Creation Operations team consists of four pillars: Product Operations, Technical Program + Project Management, Agile Coaching, and Community Enablement. As the VP of Product Creation Operations needed to build out his team quickly to support the growing number of squads (product development teams) in the various BUs, we were brought in as Interim Group Product Operations Manager for the Platform BU.
The Platform BU contained 9 squads, serving the other BUs in Utopia. Platform BU is in a unique position, where it does not have end-user customers but internal customers that are all other BUs using Platform products for development.
Our mission consisted of 3 main tasks:
One of the biggest ongoing initiatives we helped out with was to guide all of the squads through the company’s Quarterly OKR Planning process. This consisted of multiple steps, including liaising with the company’s Strategy Team (who owned the process), collaborating with the Platform BU’s Leadership Team, educating the Squads on best practices surrounding the formulation, and facilitating the OKR Reviews from the previous quarter. The OKR Planning for the upcoming quarter.
In addition to this, due to the interconnected nature of the squad-level work, we facilitated sessions that helped draw out the dependencies with Tangible Growth© inherent in the planning of each of the squads to ensure that all squads were aware of what the others were doing, and encouraged communication so that no squad was blocked from accomplishing their goals for the quarter.
A well-known pain point for the organization was the lack of transparency as to what exactly the Squads were doing weekly or bi-weekly. This was not just the case for the various Business Units outside the ones where the Squads sat (the equivalent might be the various divisions within a single company) but also within their very own Business Units.
The idea behind the “Drumbeat” updates we introduced was to clarify what was being worked on in each Squad to the rest of the organization. This happened on a weekly basis, with the updates being accompanied by one of several emojis, which allowed for a visual representation of whether the update was about “progress,” “launches,” “hitting a goal,” or several other achievements.
The updates went through several iterations based on the feedback we received from our audience, which enabled it to become clearer, more relevant, and, ultimately, more useful for the reader.
The Utopia Headliners initiative was part of a broader “Communications and Cadences” initiative that translated more concretely into spaces for each Squad on Coda© (a similar documentation tool to Confluence©). These team spaces contained critical information about each Squad, such as a registry about the team members and their positions, their ways of working, mission + vision, and important links to their roadmaps. This allowed anyone in the organization to have a quick place to go to where all of the essential information about a Squad was stored.
A further communication breakdown observed within the organization was the lack of information and miscommunication about what a particular Squad might be working on. Terms like “Proof of Concept,” “Beta Release,” and “Launch” might seem obvious. Still, with so many people from different backgrounds coming together, it was easy to fall into misunderstandings where a certain term was used by one party to convey “A,” but what was understood was “B.” These misunderstandings could lead to promises to third parties or communication with the wrong audience/user base.
To combat this, we spearheaded an initiative to understand the problematic terms and propose a universal definition for each that would be adopted throughout the organization. The goal was to get buy-in from the various parts of the organization so that there would be as much initial consensus as possible on the agreed terminology. Then we would slowly roll it out, starting with a handful of the most widely used tools while keeping track of (by use of a survey) how much smoother people thought the communication with the Product Creation team was becoming due to the use of common terms.
💡 Relevant and timely squad-level OKRs delivered and approved by the BU Leadership Team, providing visibility of the goals and helping the squads to be focused and aligned.
💡 Weekly “Drumbeat” Updates from Squads brought a new level of transparency in the organization around what was being worked on at a Squad level.
💡 Implemented “one-stop shop” documentation that conveyed all key information related to every Squad in the Business Unit for any reader to access and clearly understand them.