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Creating an innovation engine

Lastminute.com is a division of online travel purveyor Travelocity focused on promoting the customer savings that can be achieved when booking at the last minute. Leveraging Travelocity’s worldwide flight and hotel booking and order processing services, lastminute.com is always searching for new ways to market unsold flight, hotel, car and holiday package inventory.

When John Crosby, V.P. of Product & Technology, brought product management and software development together within the organization, he did it with the goal of building a Lean and agile “Innovation Engine” that could take ideas for new features and products, optimise them with market-driven tests, and bring the best to market as rapidly as possible. 

He invited Thoughtworks to become lastminute.com’s expert partner to plan and implement the organizational, process and technology changes. In just twenty weeks the partnership transformed lastminute.com’s product discovery and development capability, as proven by the launch of the new Mobile First web platform that will eventually be used across the entire Travelocity Global organization.

It was a truly transformational engagement driving agility and leanness not only in technology but also product management and the wider organization
John Crosby
VP of Product & Technology

The new platform replaces the entire existing mobile journey, with significant new features to create a more mobile-friendly experience. It also will enable lastminute.com, Travelocity and Zuji.com to tap into the fast-growing mobile-web channel for travel search and purchase, expected to grow at a double-digit rate and likely become the dominant revenue channel for the industry within the next three years.

Mobile First design

Mobile is increasingly becoming the primary way of accessing the internet, so it makes sense that mobile use should increasingly weigh into UX design. Upon consultation from Thoughtworks, lastminute.com elected to build the new platform using Mobile First design. Mobile First is the idea that web sites should first be designed for mobile devices, with just the features that mobile website visitors use most. Then as screen real estate increases, functionality is progressively enhanced for optimisation on the device it is rendered on.

Informed by Lean principles, the process is democratic, and focused on delivering business value as fast as possible. Anyone in the business unit can contribute new product feature ideas; it’s as transparent a process as writing up the concept and sticking it on a wall in the product team room.

The best ideas are given to analytics to evaluate by looking at current traffic, customer behaviour, and other business data.

UX designers begin sketching, creating HTML prototypes, or working with developers using sketch-to-code prototyping. A prototype is very quickly available for user testing, guerrilla testing, and fast and frequent feedback.

On the delivery side, Continuous Delivery adds a level of testing, deployment automation and confidence that mitigates risk, and takes advantage of all the feedback from the discovery process.

Revving the Innovation Engine

One of the first new ideas submitted was a “Hotels near me tonight” feature for mobile users of lastminute.com. The idea was supported by analytics showing that a large segment of lastminute.com customers booked hotels “just in time” – for the very night they were performing their searches. The product team approved moving to prototyping and market testing. 

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