"Just because Overstock.com is big," explains Jaime Wilson, "that doesn't mean we move slowly." Jaime is the Senior Director of User Experience Design & Product at the online retailer, and even though they've been in business for nearly 20 years and have thousands of employees, they still have the energy of a start-up.
"There’s a strong sense of innovation and experimentation within our company. We’re focused on our core business but also big initiatives that push the boundaries of what people think Overstock.com can do. Right now, teams are brainstorming how we can connect consumers to new brands and create new virtual shopping experiences while still offering quality products at the value they’ve come to expect from Overstock over the past two decades."
For Jaime, success hinges on communication. “In order to make a big team act like a small team, everyone needs to know what is going on across different parts of the business. Everyone here is really open to sharing what they’re working on, but just because we want to share our work with one another, doesn’t mean it was easy.”
Having teams work in different tools and communicate over multiple platforms, made it difficult to make sure that everyone had the information they needed. “Time that you spend keeping track of which team uses which software, or making sure you have access to every single system, and then figuring out how the tool works, isn’t time well spent.”
Jaime’s team tried JIRA and other work tracking tools, but found them “unnatural and cumbersome.” The time required to learn those tools delayed project timelines and didn’t help the team stay on the same page. “When we’re trying to take on these big projects, we don’t have time for people to get brought up to speed. They need to walk into a meeting having a really clear idea of what’s going on.”
The team also needed a way to easily loop in groups of people on a project and clearly showed each functional group what they needed to do with that information. “When we do strategic planning, we need something that every person involved can look at and say, 'OK, I get what we’re doing here. Now, here’s what we should do,' without needing help.”
For Overstock.com, it was important that the tools they use were adopted from the bottom up, rather than enforced from the top down. In order to innovate and move quickly, team members needed to be able to work in a way that felt natural for them. Asana is now the standard tool Overstock.com uses to track what they’re working on, but there was no one at the company who made that decision officially.
Instead, the use of Asana spread organically. “Initially, one team started using Asana for project planning. Then, our design team started looking in Asana to figure out what we needed to be working on.” Once more than one team was in Asana, it made sense to upgrade to Premium so everyone had access to features like advanced reporting and privacy controls. “From there, it just spread across all teams and departments and now every team has their work in Asana.”
Jaime ascribes Asana’s popularity at Overstock.com to its ease of use. “Anyone can look at an Asana project and immediately understand what’s going on. I can hire someone new, give them a login to Asana, and say ‘These are the teams you should join,’ and I don’t need to train them on how to use it. That’s powerful.”
When Jaime’s team launches a new product, each team that’s involved can weigh in about what needs to get done from day one. The launch plan is put together in one place and teams can assign the necessary tasks and due dates to the person responsible for that piece of work.
Plus, Jaime says, Asana helps make sure that the quality of the campaigns they’re running are up to par. “When you’re together as a group in Asana and you have to make a list of everything everyone needs to do for a product launch, it’s easy to spot any gaps or holes that need to be filled from the beginning, so we’re not scrambling at the end or delaying timelines because we forgot something.”
An example of how this has worked well is on Overstock.com’s search engine optimization team. “As someone on the product and design side, I’m not usually as involved in SEO. A few years ago, we wouldn’t even think of looping the SEO group into our product plans because we didn’t see them as a team that needed to be included. This left them in the dark and the results weren’t great.
Now that we’re all working out of the same project in Asana, the SEO team can see what my team is working on and I am reminded of how important it is to loop them in from the planning stage. It’s been great to see SEO improve for Overstock.com now that we’re managing this process in Asana.”
According to Jaime, one of the most surprising results she’s seen from Asana is the level of collaboration and fun that teams have working together. “We’re able to share prototype links of the new products and designs we’re working on and the team comments on them with their reactions. I have to tell you, some of the comments are laugh out loud hilarious.” That said, she’s also impressed with how much work is getting done in Asana. “It would take me a long time to list out everything that our company uses Asana for.” Here are some of the highlights:
Product roadmaps: The team at Overstock.com puts every new product in Asana from the ideation phase, so everyone knows what’s going on from the beginning.
Digital marketing: Overstock.com’s SEO, SEM, and paid advertising strategies are managed in Asana.
1:1s: Each manager is able to keep their 1:1s with their direct reports in Asana, with privacy controls that make sure that only the right people have access.
Team meetings: When she started managing her team meeting in Asana, Jaime saw a huge increase in meeting productivity. The meeting agenda is managed in its own project, so everyone knows exactly what’s going on.
Jaime’s most proud of the increase in the quality of work happening at Overstock.com. “As a team, we’re looking to create the absolute best experience for our customers, and when a project is completed in Asana, I can feel confident that we’re delivering on that goal.”