At Booking.com, teams are always cooking up something innovative to experiment on. The best part of this is that, in the Netherlands, time spent on innovation is tax-deductible and can save companies money. While valuable, collecting and organizing this time was a famously painful process at Booking. The experience was manual, tedious, and unclear. Together with my team, I designed an application from scratch that allowed teams to collect, organize, collaborate, and submit monthly innovation reports in a much clearer way. These reports save Booking millions of Euros every year.
The Wet Bevordering Speuren Ontwikkelingswerk (WBSO) is a Dutch policy designed to incentivize and promote research and development. I spent the first couple weeks working with tax consultants, internal experts, and auditors to learn everything I could about the policy. In a nutshell, the policy enables a company to write-off time spent on innovation from their taxes at the end of the year, given that it meets specific criteria. This time needs to be collected methodically, and organized in a way that fits into specific innovation categories that are defined at the beginning of each year. For all time that is logged, reasoning needs to be provided defending its eligibility for a WBSO write-off.
Understanding Existing Processes
Before we could improve the WBSO experience for Booking employees, we first had to have a baseline understanding of how this was handled. I sat down with Booking employees from all ends of the management spectrum to understand their process, and identified some major pain points.
Employees would submit time on a weekly basis using a time-keeping system, which was then collected into a spreadsheet that managers would organize. Managers would then manually assess whether or not time should be considered innovative, group tasks into WBSO categories, and send those reports off to be reviewed by Booking's internal auditing team. Once approved, it would then be reviewed by an external auditor for a final check, and then the tax office for final approval and redemption.
As a team, we identified that managers presented the greatest opportunity for improvement, as they experienced the most pain points and manual entry of all of these user groups. I then mapped these pain points to design principles that guided my hand during the design process:
There was a frustration amongst managers and team members that the current WBSO process does not fit the way that they work. Especially for daily users and Trello users, WBSO should try to meet their workflow halfway.
The current spreadsheets did not organize actions in any intelligent manner. Managers and team members expressed frustration that they have to wade through content that does not apply to their use case to complete simple actions.
Both managers and team members lacked a clear understanding of where their data is going. This makes input confusing, since they don't know who to cater their entries towards. Both from the reporting side, and the input side, the WBSO process needs to be transparent to ensure that input and reporting is accurate and relevant.
There was a lot of manual entry into the tool, and an opportunity for automation. Both user groups were frustrated about the repetition involved with regular entry in the tool, as well as reporting.
I created a small test group of about 30 managers, and worked with them to create wireframes that suited their needs. After some interviews, surveys, and focus groups, I got a strong sense of the tools they used in their daily lives, how they organize things within their team, and how they work with their teammates. This defined the set of features and organizational patterns that they would expect in this new application:
Simpler Organization with "Epics"
Booking works in agile, so we were careful to select a standard term that users would recognize. For those unfamiliar, think of them as folders that users can leverage to organize tasks. Users can map tasks or groups of tasks into epics and apply the same WBSO criteria to a single group.
Some teams rely on their managers to fill in these reports, while others work collaboratively with their team members. The application supports both workflows elegantly, allowing both members and managers to interact with their report in real time.
Our users are confident with standard file navigators, as well as Google Drive. We leveraged the same interaction patterns — such as clicking/dragging, multiple selection and right-clicking — in use there within our application.
JIRA/Google Calendar Integration
Tasks are automatically pulled from popular sources at Booking. For JIRA tickets, commits are dynamically pulled and included in the report. For Google Calendar, events relevant to WBSO are pulled likewise.
Onboarding and Documentation
Context surrounding WBSO was sometimes unclear to managers and team members. Thanks to a transparent onboarding process, a detailed user guide, and a forum to ask questions, users received a more transparent picture of how their work translates to WBSO cost savings.
Using Booking's Design System, I was quickly able to spin up a prototype to get in front of users, test, and iterate upon it. We ended up going through 4 rounds of iteration, interviewing users at each step to ensure that we were hitting the mark. An example flow of the final UI can be found here.
The big question we wanted to answer was: Is this application improving the reporting experience for our users? To make sure, we employed monitoring tools to observe user behavior to measure a few key metrics. The first thing we did was measure the time specific users spent in the application, versus a standard spreadsheet. The second thing we checked was measuring how many teams submitted reposts on time before and after the launch of the application. The last thing we checked was how many reports were submitted without errors. We also paired this data with a qualitative survey to solicit feedback and gauge overall satisfaction with the product.
100% of Users Saved Time
In our survey, 100% of both team members and managers saved time by using this application instead of traditional spreadsheets.
53% Reduction in Time Spent
Our tracking revealed that on average, managers spent 53% less time filling out this report relative to previous methods.
45% More Reports on Time
Users could access their report in real-time, using up-to-date data. This enabled and incentivized proactivity when it came to creating reports.
81% of Reports Were Error Free
The application reduced the amount of back-and-forth between managers and the WBSO team due to increased control and clarity around a team's report.