Phocuswright Young Leaders

Brent Johnson, Selected As One Of Phocuswright’s Young Leaders

Phocuswright Young Leaders

 

Lead Product Manager of Left Travel, Brent Johnson, has been selected for the Phocuswright Young Leaders Summit in Florida this year 

Left Travel, an industry-leading metasearch travel company and subsidiary of BC-based Left Technologies Inc., is proud to announce that Brent Johnson, Lead Product Manager, was selected to join the Phocuswright Young Leaders Summit in Florida this fall. 

Since 2012, the Summit has brought together the travel industry's best and brightest under the age of 35 to take part in an elite group of Phocuswright Conference participants. Throughout the summit, Brent will receive executive development training from experienced guest speakers, workshops, and networking opportunities. These industry major players include Steve Hafner -  Co-Founder and CEO of Kayak; Steve Kaufer - CEO of TripAdvisor; Greg O’Hara - Executive Chairman at American Express GBT; and Carrie D.Fabris - Founder of CareerFrame. 

Brent is in good company with Left Travel’s Business Director, Ashley Joslin, and Performance Marketing Manager, Ryan Kirkbride, who have been a part of the 2019 European Young Leaders cohort this past spring. 

Attending the Phocuswright Conference? We’d love to connect. Please contact brent@left.io to schedule a meeting. 

About Brent

Brent is a SaaS general manager turned product leader who is passionate about how technology can enhance our daily lives. With over 10 years of product experience in the B2B and B2C Software Industry, he has assisted in building innovative software technologies by leading Product, UX, and UI teams. Along the way, Brent has helped product and development teams evolve from scrappy start-ups to thriving corporations, driving several M&A deals along the way. At Left, Brent is responsible for both the strategic direction and tactical execution for Left’s product portfolio in travel with the distributed teams in Canada and Bangladesh.

About Left Travel & Left

Established in 2012, Left Travel is an industry-leading metasearch travel company and subsidiary of BC-based Left Technologies. The company’s cloud-based data marketing engine, TravelMind, uses predictive analysis and AI to drive $300 million in gross travel booked annually. With access to over 14 million vacation properties in over 150,000 top travel destinations, the company uses data to convert high search intent traffic into quality bookings for travel sellers around the world. 

Left is a B-Corp certified, Canadian multinational media and technology company committed to using technology for positive social impact. One of Canada’s Top 100 Employers, Left has grown into a global team of over 120. Headquartered in the Vancouver-based suburb of Maple Ridge, BC, Left has offices, subsidiaries, and employees in Canada, Bangladesh, Switzerland, and the United States. Left is launching its newest brand, One Degree, at the Phocuswright Conference in November 2019. 

Stay in Touch


Left: Collaborative Team Awarded for Best Employer Branding

 

MAPLE RIDGE, BRITISH COLUMBIA, SEPTEMBER 13, 2019 — LEFT, the parent company of Left Travel and one of Canada’s Top Employers, was presented with the ‘Talent Egg Award for Best Employer Branding’ at the 6th annual Canadian HR Awards, held on September 12 at the Beanfield Centre in Toronto.

The Canadian HR Awards is the biggest awards event of its kind and brought together over 950 attendees for a packed evening celebrating excellence in the HR profession and recognizing the top employers, HR teams and professionals for their outstanding achievements and best practices.

The Talent Egg Award for Best Employer Branding recognizes the company that has developed, implemented, and participated in the most compelling Employer Branding initiative or campaign. Others nominated in the category included CGI CanadaKPMG CanadaLoblaw Companies LimitedMicrosoft CanadaCIRA and Uberflip.

Located in the suburbs of Vancouver, for years Left was one of the best kept ‘secrets’ as a top employer in the Lower Mainland — which created challenges for their recruitment efforts.

“In 2017, we experienced 108% growth while maintaining a 100% voluntary retention rate. Although these numbers were great, it became clear through discussions with our candidates that the most surprising piece of information they discovered about Left was that we simply existed,” said Tracy McDonald, the Director of Talent and Culture at Left. “To address this, in 2018 we increased collaboration between our Employee Experience and Marketing Departments. This award is a reflection of those efforts.”

Some of the campaigns that demonstrated excellence in delivering and communicating the Left employee value proposition include:

  • Inside Canada’s Top Employers: In 2018, Left was named one of Canada’s Top 100 Employers for their HR initiatives and development opportunities. Left was the smallest company recognized, showing that you don’t need expensive programs to create an exceptional place to work. To spread this sentiment, they launched an ‘Inside Canada’s Top Employers’ campaign, a video series showcasing their unique story and programs.
  • Make Your Mark: As a certified B Corporation, Left is committed to using business as a force for good. To measure their global impact, they selected eight United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that as an organization, they could advance. To help their team identify with the SDGs, they had each of them select and discuss the goals that meant the most to them. This turned into the 36-part video series that highlighted the caring and driven nature of the Left team.
  • #LeftyLife: To highlight the Left culture, at the start of 2018, the Marketing and Employee Experience Departments made the decision to change their targeted audience on their social feeds from potential partners to potential hires. All content changed to provide glimpses of #LeftyLife to highlight their unique employee value proposition.

From the collaborative campaigns listed above and more, Left saw a 986% increase in job applicants, maintained a 96% employee engagement score, and were invited to speak at 43 events around the world. The marketing campaigns that led to this success predominantly focused on showcasing Left’s unique company culture.

“Our vibrant employer brand is a reflection of our amazing team that drives our culture,” said Marketing Manager, Amber McLennan. “The campaigns we implemented were a great opportunity to show our community what makes Left such a special place to work.”

The Canadian HR Awards is organized by Key Media, the global publisher of Human Resources Director (HRD) magazine, in partnership with Ultimate Software. Winners were selected by a judging panel of experts who independently reviewed the entries according to each category’s criteria.

HRD Managing Editor Emily Douglas said: “HR professionals are vital to the success of their organizations so it’s wonderful to see their hard work and innovative ideas rewarded on such a special night. I’d like to congratulate this year’s hugely diverse range of winners and nominees whose positive impact reflects the very high standard of HR and leadership right across Canada. It’s always a pleasure to cheer on the winners as they receive their career-defining awards.”

For the full list of winners and finalists and information, visit Canadian HR Awards.


About Left

Left is a B-Corp certified, Canadian multinational media and technology company committed to using technology for positive social impact. One of Canada’s Top 100 Employers, Left has grown into a global team of over 120. Left Travel, a brand of Left, has been using big data, A.I., and predictive analysis to convert high search intent traffic into quality bookings for hotels and short-term stays since 2010. With its mobile mesh networking project powered by blockchain and tokenization, RightMesh, Left is addressing the global challenge of connectivity — particularly in regions where the digital divide is greatest. Headquartered in the Vancouver-based suburb of Maple Ridge, BC, Left has offices, subsidiaries, and employees in Bangladesh, Switzerland, and the United States.

About Human Resources Director (HRD)

Human Resources Director (HRD) is Canada’s only magazine written exclusively for senior human resource professionals and top corporate decision-makers. HRD talks to leading HR practitioners from around the globe to produce an industry-standard magazine that supports both the business and best-practice functional requirements placed on HR leaders in their evolving roles. HRD is complemented by an award-winning website (www.hcamag.com) featuring daily breaking news, an industry forum and exclusive multimedia content, as well as sister publications in Asia, Australia and New Zealand.


Planning Poker

Product Prioritization: Planning Poker 🃏

Stop gambling on what to do next… by playing poker 🤷‍♂️

Planning Poker

Welcome to ‘Product Prioritization’ — our series of tools, tips, and best practices for the skilled Product Manager to determine priorities and get results. Each month, we will highlight one of the dozens of popular methodologies and explain how to use it.

For our fourth instalment, we take a look at ‘Planning Poker’ also known as ‘Scrum Poker’.

At Left Travel, we enjoy using ‘Planning Poker’ when it’s important that the team needs to come to a consensus. This technique is perfect for:

  • Aligning different stakeholders
  • Extracting siloed information from stakeholders
  • Keeping meetings interactive and fun

What is Planning Poker and how does it work?

At a high level, ‘Planning Poker’ is a prioritization technique where multiple stakeholders get together and establish the value of a project, feature, or idea. For the purpose of this blog post, we’ll discuss ideas.

The technique is gamified to estimate value. Stakeholders are presented with an idea and each one of them votes on how valuable they think the idea is by using a set range of cards or poker chips with varying values. Votes remain hidden until all members have voted to avoid influence from other members. Once everyone is decided, the votes are revealed at the same time.

After everyone has presented their votes, the stakeholders who voted with the highest and lowest values explain their reasoning. The voting process repeats until the team agrees on a value for the idea.

How to Play

Step 1: Deal Cards or Poker Chips
Each person is given a set of cards or poker chips. The value of the cards or poker chips should be set as 0, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 20, 40, 100. While ‘Planning Poker’ can be played with different values (like a Fibonacci sequence), what matters most is that the higher the bets get, the larger the gap is between the next lowest and next highest values.

Step 2: Rules & Establish Values
The moderator or scrum master explains the rules of the game to the group (explained in the following steps).

Next, the moderator establishes what the number value of each card or chip is worth. Since value is subjective, it is crucial to complete this step before starting the exercise. Take the time to go over a few past ideas that are complete and assign them a value. It is best to pick ideas that vary strongly in value to allow the stakeholders to be able to easily compare low, medium, and high-value past ideas to new ideas. Use the phrasing ‘X idea is a 40 because…’

Step 3: Present the Idea
Next, get the product manager or owner to present the ideas to the group and ensure that there is full clarity on every aspect of each of them. The moderator can also act as the product owner for some or all of the ideas that are being discussed. Allow time for Q&A from the stakeholders.

Tip: Standardize the way the ideas are being presented to avoid a stakeholder over- or under-emphasizing specific ideas based off of their personal opinions. Set timing and structure requirements.

Step 4: Voting
Once everyone has had a chance to ask questions about the idea, it is time to vote. Each stakeholder selects a card or chip and places it face down on each idea. The higher the value of the card or chip the more important it is to the stakeholder. Once everyone has cast their vote, all of the votes are revealed at the same time. It is important to keep the votes secret until everyone is ready in order to make sure that the stakeholders involved aren’t influenced by others in the company — no matter what their role is.

Step 5: Discussion
Start the discussion by having the stakeholders that cast the highest and lowest votes explain why they gave the idea that value. Through this discussion new data can be discovered as the high and low-value voting members will often have additional information about the idea that others didn’t have prior to voting. For example, a stakeholder might know how an idea may possibly have a massive impact on another feature, or how the idea would be a big waste of time because it doesn’t impact any key KPIs.

The moderator will typically only need to call on those who had the highest or lowest value, unless a stakeholder who voted in the middle is very passionate about an idea. At some point in the game, most stakeholders will end up on the high or low end so they’ll get the opportunity to participate. If there is someone who constantly votes in the middle, call on them at some point to make them feel included in the discussions.

Step 6: Assigning Value/Voting Again

Assuming that not everyone assigned the same value to an idea, after hosting a discussion, have the group vote again. Repeat the process until the group comes to a value consensus (they all vote the same). Once agreed upon, assign the decided value to the idea and move on to the next idea.

Tip: If the stakeholders aren’t coming to a consensus and a revote has been cast, it is helpful to ask the stakeholders that are not aligned if they are comfortable adjusting their vote up (or down) to meet with the group. This usually works.

If it doesn’t work, note down what the scores from the group were and the members who wouldn’t adjust their vote. This is done not to single them out, but to make a reminder to approach them later so that you can dive deeper into their reasoning.

Step 7: Finishing Up
Once all of the ideas have a documented assigned value, sync up with the team that estimates the size (level of effort) of ideas.

Once the size has been determined, create a ratio of the idea/ feature/ project, to the level of effort. Give bonus points if the team can take the information and get it down to story points, sprints, days, etc. Once completed, there will be a list of prioritized ideas.

Tip: A simple 4-quadrant list with value and level of effort will help identify ideas that stand out.

The Benefits of Physical vs. Software

Last week, the Left Travel team did a ‘Planning Poker’ session to value some of our upcoming data projects. When prepping for it, I looked into the benefits of using physical cards/chips compared to using a software program.

I ended up deciding to use physical cards. I found that many of the paid or free ‘Planning Poker’ software options were either too cumbersome or tied to a roadmapping system. For our team, the effort to go through the onboarding process was too much of a pain. In saying that, if you’ll be using the ‘Poker Planning’ technique often, it might be a good idea to use software.

You can purchase ‘Poker Planning’ cards on Amazon or Mountain Goat Software.

Other Uses of Poker Planning: Backlog Grooming & Remote Teams

Outside of assigning collective value, the ‘Planning Poker’ technique can be used to groom your backlog and development estimations (sizing). It is recommended to use the Fibonacci sequence instead if you’re doing one of those.

‘Planning Poker’ also works really well with remote team members. The moderator will have some extra prep to ensure that the stakeholders have the card or chips before you start (software may be a better option for remote teams), but the voting and discussions work well if everyone is on a video call.

Looking for more product management tools and tips? Don’t miss our past posts on prioritizing:


About Brent

Brent is a SaaS general manager turned product leader, passionate about how technology can enhance our daily lives. With over 10 years of product experience in the B2B and B2C Software Industry, he has assisted in building innovative software technologies by leading Product, UX, and UI teams. Along the way, Brent has helped product and development teams evolve from scrappy start-ups to thriving corporations, driving several M&A deals along the way. At Left, Brent is responsible for both the strategic direction and tactical execution for Left Travel’s product portfolio with the distributed teams in Canada and Bangladesh.


Best for the world

Left recognized as a “Best For The World” B Corp for creating the most positive impact for their workforce

Best for the world

MAPLE RIDGE, BRITISH COLUMBIA, SEPTEMBER 4th, 2019 — LEFT, the parent company of Left Travel and a Certified B Corporation, has been named a Best For The World honoree in recognition of their relationship with their workforce and the significant positive impact they’ve created over the last year. Left ranks in the top 10% of all B Corps in the worker impact area on the B Impact Assessment, thanks to their corporate culture, work environment, worker health and safety practices, and other employee-centric policies and practices.

Best For The World recognition is administered by B Lab, the global nonprofit that certifies and supports Certified B Corporations, which are for-profit companies dedicated to using business as a force for good. Today there are 3,000 Certified B Corporations across 64 countries and 150 industries, unified by one common goal: to redefine success in business.

B Corps meet the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance, public transparency, and legal accountability to balance profit and purpose. B Corp Certification doesn’t just evaluate a product or service, it assesses the overall positive impact of the company that stands behind it — like Left. Using the B Impact Assessment, B Lab evaluates how a company’s operations and business model impact its workers, community, environment, and customers. To achieve the B Corp Certification, a company must achieve a score of at least 80 points on the assessment. Left is proud to have scored 101.

“We’re incredibly proud of this year’s Best For The World honorees,” says Anthea Kelsick, Chief Marketing Officer of B Lab. “These inspiring companies represent the kinds of business models and impact-driven business strategies that are building a new economy — one that is inclusive, regenerative, and delivers value to all stakeholders, not just shareholders. To that end, B Corps like Left are redefining capitalism and showing that it actually can work for everyone.”

“We are honoured to be named a B Corp Best For The World honoree for our unique culture and initiatives that support our Lefties (employees).” Said Tracy McDonald, Director of Talent and Culture at Left. Our Lefties are the heart of our organization and this recognition highlights the culture that they’ve helped build over the last nine years. We recertify as a B Corp in early 2020, and we look forward to seeing the progress we have made as a team.”

1,000 B Corps from 44 countries were named to the 2019 Best For The World lists, including Patagonia, Beautycounter, Dr. Bronner’s, TOMS, Seventh Generation, and Greyston Bakery. The 2019 Best For The World honorees are determined based on the verified B Impact Assessments of Certified B Corporations. The full lists are available on https://bcorporation.net/.


About Left

Left is a B-Corp certified, Canadian multinational media and technology company committed to using technology for positive social impact. One of Canada’s Top 100 Employers, Left has grown into a global team of over 120. Left Travel, a brand of Left, has been using big data, A.I., and predictive analysis to convert high search intent traffic into quality bookings for hotels and short-term stays since 2010. With its mobile mesh networking project powered by blockchain and tokenization, RightMesh, Left is addressing the global challenge of connectivity — particularly in regions where the digital divide is greatest. Headquartered in the Vancouver-based suburb of Maple Ridge, BC, Left has offices, subsidiaries, and employees in Bangladesh, Switzerland, and the United States.

Contact: Amber McLennan, Marketing Manager; amber@left.io

About B Lab

B Lab is a nonprofit that serves a global movement of people using business as a force for good. B Lab’s initiatives include B Corp Certification, administration of the B Impact Management programs and software, and advocacy for governance structures like the benefit corporation. B Lab’s vision is of an inclusive and sustainable economy that creates a shared prosperity for all. To date, there are 3,000 Certified B Corps in over 150 industries and 64 countries, and over 50,000 companies use the B Impact Assessment. For more information, visit https://bcorporation.net/

B Lab Contact: Hannah Munger; Manager, PR & Communications; hmunger@bcorporation.net; +1 212–608–4150


Introducing TravelMind

A deeper look into what we’ve built at Left Travel

At LEFT TRAVEL, we believe that travel broadens the mind — or rather, travel bookings and intent do.

By this, we simply mean that when you take the input of millions of travel data points and the creativity and experience of our team, we can launch new marketing campaigns and influence the travel intent of millions of travelers annually. We call this the TravelMind platform.

What is TravelMind

TravelMind is a cloud-based platform that captures, stores, and processes millions of points of data about both travelers and accommodation options around the world. With this data, TravelMind influences travel decisions (either a successful booking or lack thereof) and trains our algorithms to improve our performance and our ability to attract future travelers.

In doing so, our platform emulates human decision-making, combining both sides of the brain.

On the left, analytical side, we collect data points from every potential traveler. This happens when a traveler expresses travel intent (e.g., via a search on one of our sites or through one of our search partners), when they reserve a room (or do not), or when they simply click, sort, filter, give feedback, or click off to a partner… all their actions are stored within TravelMind. Our platform uses our proprietary data combined with machine learning algorithms to optimize decision-making and influence travel decisions.

On the Right, creative side, our experienced digital marketing team uses our big data to optimize on trends to increase traffic. Once a trend is identified, the Left Travel team builds and deploys niche segments to better match traveler personas and make it easier for them to find the right accommodation and improve their travel experience. This includes launching websites in local languages, creating localized domains in new markets, or tapping into specific needs like business travel or pet friendly accommodations. Accompanied by the construction of targeted marketing campaigns, the team is always finding new ways to automate traveler acquisition, while also servicing our customers, and the travel sellers, from around the world.

User Flow

  1. First, a traveler expresses consumer intent by searching for a vacation rental or hotel on a major search engine, such as Google or Bing.
  2. After clicking on one of our ads, the traveler passes through to one of our 17 segments or websites. Their experience is unique as the TravelMind platform personalizes it using psychographic, demographic, and behavioural data. This includes all historical visits from the past 5 years; as well as what we know about this particular user at this moment in time. We use this data to tailor their booking experience to help match them to the right property out of our 14M, at the right time.
  3. Once the traveler has made their accommodation choice, influenced by TravelMind, they’re then referred over to our customers (online travel sellers) where they complete their ‘travel decision’ by booking a hotel or vacation rental.
  4. Next, we use big data and machine learning to learn from the traveler’s buyer’s journey, and the data is fed back into TravelMind. Our experienced team then uses this data, alongside millions of other data points, to spot trends and manage campaigns at scale.
  5. Lastly, we automate the process to find more travelers with high travel intent, and the process repeats.

The elements of TravelMind

● Value Accrues with Every Visitor:
The travel accommodation marketplace is over saturated. With our platform we help users by aggregating the options by location, desired travel dates, number of guests, price range, and type of accommodation. We combine over 500 million unique data points, resulting from over 4 million room nights booked, to create a scalable segmentation strategy. For the traveler, our platform helps them navigate the over saturated travel accommodation marketplace by aggregating the options by location, desired dates, number of guests, price range, and accommodation type to make sure they find the right property at the right time.

● Machine Learning and AI:
Every decision a traveler makes provides TravelMind with more data and improves the accuracy of future matches. We use machine learning and predictive to help travel sellers maximize their yield.

● Customer focused:
TravelMind makes travelers happy because they quickly and easily find what they want. TravelMind makes travel sellers happy because we help them sell perishable inventory, increase long-term market share, and attract new travelers into their sales funnels.


About Left Travel

Based in the suburbs of Vancouver, Canada, Left Travel harnesses data-driven intent to match travelers to the right property at the right time. In addition to making travelers happy, we help online travel sellers maximize their yield, ensuring more properties are booked every single night.

Millions of travelers rely on Left Travel monthly to help find the perfect place to stay, easily comparing more than 14M vacation rentals, condos, hotels, and resorts across an ever-growing network of niche travel brands.


Product Prioritization: Buy-a-Feature

Using cash to identify key ideas

Welcome to ‘Product Prioritization’ — our series of tools, tips, and best practices for the skilled Product Manager to determine priorities and get results. Each month, we will highlight one of the dozens of popular methodologies and explain how to use it.

For our third instalment, we take a look at ‘Buy-a-Feature.’

At Left Travel, we enjoy using the ‘Buy-a-Feature’ technique when working with internal teams or external users who ‘want it all.’ It’s always challenging working with stakeholders who want all of the features, all at the same time — this prioritization technique helps enable them to describe the value they see in the features in a new way.

What is ‘Buy-a-Feature’?

‘Buy-a-feature’ is a product prioritization technique used when a product is under development to quantifiably estimate how valuable a feature or an idea is. To do so, a product team will work directly with customers and key stakeholders to solicit feedback and prioritize enhancements or features which the participants want or value most.

How to use ‘Buy-a-Feature.’

Our team loves this prioritization technique, and as such, we highly recommend it under the right circumstances, such as during an in-person focus group. To use it, we’ve developed a game that breaks it into 5 simple steps:

  • Step 1: Make a feature list.
    As a team, make a list of the features that need to be prioritized.
  • Step 1.5: *Optional* Assign each feature a price.
    Give each feature on the list a value or price. The value or price should be based on the relative size, LOE, and scope of the project to represent the effort required to build it.

    At Left Travel, we’ve run this technique with and without prices. While both options work well, we’ve found that by having prices it helps focus groups that are outside of software development understand the actual ‘cost’ of a project.

  • Step 2: Get customers and stakeholders together.
    Get your company’s stakeholders and/ or customers into a room (or on a video call) to start the game. Explain the features on your list to the group to ensure everyone has full clarity on their benefits.
  • Step 3: Give out the cash.
    Give everyone in the focus group the same amount of money to use during the game. If you’ve assigned prices to the features as in Step 1.5, give them between 50–60% of the total cost of all of the listed features. This is to make sure they are being selective in their buying decisions.
  • Step 4: Have them buy.
    Ask your stakeholders to “buy” the features they like. They can spend all their money on one or two, or spread it out evenly — it’s their “money,” they can spend it how they want to!

    Observe the buying process and have the stakeholders explain why they spent money on the features that they picked. This is the Product Manager’s opportunity to listen to your customers and/ or stakeholders and understand both their individual and group ‘buying’ decisions.

  • Step 5: Collect observations for action.
    Arrange the list of features by order of how much was spent on each feature (top=most money; bottom=least money). Now you have a list of features ranked and a value assigned to them.

Once the game is completed, use the ranked list and collected observations to make informed decisions on future product development based off of your customers’ and stakeholders’ needs.

Tips when using Buy-a-Feature:

  • This technique carries more weight when done with end-users as it shows the value they see in the features they would use in the product.
  • This game can be run either individually with a stakeholder, or in a group of stakeholders.
  • If there are a few features that are bought with a similar amount of money, group them together. For example, a $5 difference between two features may be insignificant or subjective to the particular stakeholder, depending on how much money you gave the group.
  • Allow ideas to flow from your participants. If new features or ideas come up, use the structure of the game to ask what the estimated value of the feature would be and where it would fit within the ranked list.
  • For a fun twist, use real money. There’s something about handling real money that changes people’s buying behaviour.

About Brent

Brent is a SaaS general manager turned-product leader passionate about how interactions with technology can enhance our daily lives. With over 10 years of experience in the B2B and B2C Software Industry, he has assisted in building innovative software technologies by leading Product, UX, and UI teams. Along the way, Brent has helped product and development teams evolve from scrappy start-ups to thriving corporations, driving several M&A deals along the way. At Left Travel, Brent is responsible for both the strategic direction and tactical execution for Left Travel’s product portfolio with the distributed teams in Canada and Bangladesh.


Product Prioritization: Stacked Ranking

Using rankings to facilitate discussions

Welcome to ‘Product Prioritization’ — our series of tools, tips, and best practices for the skilled Product Manager to determine priorities and get results. Each month, we will highlight one of the dozens of popular methodologies and explain how to use it.

For our second instalment, we take a look at stacked ranking, first popularized by Jack Welch at GE in the 1980’s.

At Left Travel, we use stacked ranking when our team is looking for a quick and dirty list of priorities. Whether it’s a list of high-level sprint goals or which beer to buy for beer-o-clock, we’ve found this works best if the items in the list aren’t too complex.

What is stacked ranking?

A widely used prioritization technique, stacked ranking is used across multiple industries. At its most basic level, stacked ranking is the act of taking your list of items (ideas, stories, epics, etc.) that needs prioritization and ranking them from the most important (top of the stack) to the least important (bottom of the stack). That’s it — easy right?

The answer is yes and no. While the prioritization technique is simple in practice, it relies on qualitative data and opinions, which may not align with user value.

Tips and Tricks

1. Question the order: Whether you created the list, or you’re reviewing it, it is important to ask questions about the reasoning behind the order of items to avoid bias.

Questions to consider:

  • Why is the top idea the most important?
  • Why is the bottom idea the least important?
  • How much more/ less important is the idea in the middle than the top/bottom idea?

2. Rank individually, discuss together: To avoid opinions being swayed during your team’s initial stacked ranking process, have each team member rank the list on their own and then compare the results. When there are differences between the lists, encourage a discussion to discover why.

At Left Travel this has led to great collaboration and knowledge sharing, particularly when someone on our team specializes in a certain data set.

By using stacked ranking, team members feel empowered to give their opinions on the ordering. When the team comes together, it makes for an insightful conversation about why there are differences between everyone’s ranks.

3. Get feedback: Due to the opinion based nature of stacked ranking, it is important to solicit feedback from a wider group than your immediate team. Try circulating the list to other internal peers and stakeholders and ask if they feel differently about the ranking. Driving discussion is a quick way to get feedback and help mitigate opinion bias.

4. Individual use: Stack ranking is great for prioritizing individual daily tasks that feed up into your larger company objectives. Online product management tools like Trello and Asana are helpful platforms to share your individual task list with your team.


About Brent

Brent is a SaaS general manager turned-product leader passionate about how interactions with technology can enhance our daily lives. With over 10 years of experience in the B2B and B2C Software Industry, he has assisted in building innovative software technologies by leading Product, UX, and UI teams. Along the way, Brent has helped product and development teams evolve from scrappy start-ups to thriving corporations, driving several M&A deals along the way. At Left, Brent is responsible for both the strategic direction and the tactical execution for Left Travel’s product portfolio with the distributed teams in Canada and Bangladesh.


Left Travel Adds French and German Websites

Leading Travel Metasearch company taps into Europe’s largest travel markets — Germany and France

Left Travel is excited to announce the launch of its two newest websites, Meilleures Locations, and Ferienhauser & Ferienvermietungen, marking its expansion into France and Germany.

Following expansion success in the UK, Australia, Spain and Latin America, Left Travel continues strategic international growth into the continually growing European travel market. In 2019, France is expected to see revenue in the online booking sector of over USD$11B, according to Statistica, who also report that the German sector will realize USD$17 B revenue for the same time period.

The homepage of Meilleures Locations.

The Left Travel network was already seeing over 200,000 users per month in these two regions and was looking to provide French and German users with localized booking experiences. Launching multi-language sites with native domains provides these users access to Left Travel’s AI-driven metasearch experience. This includes providing regional inventory with industry-leading partners including Booking.com, Airbnb, Fe-wo Direkt in Germany, and Abritel and Homelidays in France.

Left Travel’s unique performance marketing techniques, in combination with their robust partnerships with the best known accommodation providers in the regions, contribute to a localized path to purchase for the travel researcher. Whether they are at the start of their travel booking journey or they are searching for a specific property, Meilleures Locations, and Ferienhauser & Ferienvermietungen provide powerful search results from over 14 million properties.

Backed by proven search excellence, an inventory of millions of properties, and predictive data analysis, Left Travel continues to expand its reach in Europe to give localized user value to French and German markets.

Interactive map of Berlin on Ferienhauser & Ferienvermietungen

About Left Travel

Established in 2012, Left Travel is an industry leading metasearch travel company. Our big data marketing engine uses predictive analysis AI to drive $650 million in gross travel booked annually. With access to over 14 million vacation properties in over 150 top travel destinations, we focus on the right data to convert high search intent traffic into quality bookings. Left Travel presently has 16 brands, most recently Meilleures Locations, and Ferienhauser & Ferienvermietungen.

Left Travel is a subsidiary of Left, an award-winning BC Tech Company located in Maple Ridge.

About Left

Left is a B-Corp Certified, Canadian multinational media and technology company committed to using technology for positive social impact. Officially one of Canada’s Top 100 Employers, Left has grown to a global team of over 140. Left Travel, a brand of Left, has been using big data, A.I., and predictive analysis to convert high search intent traffic into quality bookings for hotels and short-term stays since 2010. With its project, RightMesh, Left is addressing the global challenge of connectivity — particularly in regions where the digital divide is greatest through their mobile mesh networking platform.

Headquartered in the Vancouver-based suburb of Maple Ridge, BC, Left has offices and employees in Bangladesh, Singapore and the United States. RightMesh AG, a Swiss registered company, contracts the research and development of the RightMesh project to Left.



Product Prioritization: Feature Buckets

Using buckets to plan for future work

Welcome to ‘Product Prioritization’ — our series of tools, tips, and best practices for the skilled Product Manager to determine priorities and get results. Each month, we will highlight one of the dozens of popular methodologies and explain how to use it.

For our first installment, we take a look at Feature Buckets, originally proposed by Adam Nash.

At Left Travel, we use Feature Buckets to ensure our roadmap is balanced between:

  • generating revenue
  • ensuring our users are delighted
  • fitting in longer-term strategic projects.

What are Feature Buckets?

Feature buckets are the classification framework of creating different groups, or ‘buckets’, that product features or ideas fit into. It is beneficial as in the way of roadmapping, and by having several buckets, it allows for a well-rounded and balanced product which satisfies more stakeholders.

The four categories of feature buckets

There are four commonly used categories used to provide balanced software. They are:

  1. Metric Movers
  2. Customer Requests
  3. Customer Delight
  4. Strategic

Metrics Movers

This bucket includes the features needed to move the needle on key metrics that matter to your business around growth, engagement and revenue. This can be anything from ARRChurnARPUMAULTVATV, etc.). For example, at Left Travel, we use metrics that focus on the traffic we send over to our partners and the quality of that traffic. For this, we use Qualified Referral Rate (QRR), Revenue Per Qualified Referral (RPQR), and our partner’s Conversion Rate.

If there is alignment on what the key metrics are that your business follows, it helps narrow the scope of this feature bucket.

Customer Requests

The Customer Requests bucket is filled with requests your organization receives from users and is important to carve out your roadmap. While having this bucket doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll address all, or even a large portion, of the requests that come in it, it does help ground the company to identify current pain points that users are having and decide when, how, or even if, you will address them.

Customer Delight

Remember the time you showed a user something, and they LOVED it? Features in this bucket may not be coming from users directly, but they spark joy in the customer when they see it. Here’s the best recipe to craft these features into delicious user treats:

  1. Listen to users and understand their pain points.
  2. Leverage technology to test and try.
  3. Innovate on UX to deliver and delight.

Strategic

Data projects and new markets or opportunities are types of projects that can be hard to fit into the three previous buckets but are still important. That is why there is the ‘Strategic’ bucket for features that help keep the software looking forward and past some minutiae. Use this bucket to think big and be aligned with the business’s values and goals.


Balancing Buckets

Having not enough buckets

Having too few, or too many, buckets can cause problems.

If you have too few buckets, you may be putting all your eggs in one or two baskets. For example, if you only worked on features that fit into the Metric Movers and Customer Requests buckets, it is easy for your roadmap to lose sight of the bigger picture. If this happens, your software may become bloated with customer requests. This often leads to making segments of your customers happy for the short term while making the software more complex for the rest of your users. If you don’t have work filling up each of the four buckets, you’re missing important feedback opportunities from either internal or external stakeholders; or simply put, there’s a blind spot in your software.

How to find your Feature Bucket blind spots

  1. Brainstorm what features fit into the empty bucket(s).
  2. Imagine a competitor. How would their product stack up against yours? Focus on that.
  3. Take the list of features you’re not building and run them by your stakeholders (users, developers, dev ops, support, executives, sales, marketing, etc.,). What is their reaction?

Having Too Many Buckets

Simplicity is important when you need to be constantly communicating the roadmap to stakeholders. With too many buckets, it can get confusing. If you have lots of feature buckets, it’s time to think long and hard about why the extra buckets exist. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Was it created to get a stakeholder’s work on the roadmap?
  • Could the buckets be rolled up into fewer ones?
  • Are the buckets too granular?

An important part of a roadmap is to be able to effectively communicate what’s happening now and what will be happening soon. If you have 8 buckets, it’s hard to have your team understand and support all of them. Best practices show that people can hold between 3 to 5 buckets effectively.

Ok… where does prioritization come in?

The feature bucket technique is aimed at exposing and categorizing ideas or product features into groupings. When I started at Left Travel, I found that the customer request and customer delight categories were underserviced. By ensuring that we keep our focus on those areas, we’ve been able to further close the gap between our competition’s user experience. Using feature buckets, it should help to:

  1. expose which buckets have too many or too few projects — helps to identify blind spots
  2. identify which features or ideas don’t fit into your roadmap and can be removed
  3. enable a meaningful conversation about the capacity assignment for each bucket and your team.

NOTE: This technique is not helpful to determine which feature is more valuable to do first.

Roadmap Example

Below is an example roadmap which visually resembles buckets (rows) and their status (columns). This can be easily changed to show dates in the rows if that’s the type of roadmap your team prefers.


Thanks to Folding Burritos for creating the Periodic Table of Product Prioritization Techniques and to Feature Buckets12 technique by Adam Nash.


About Brent

Brent is a SaaS general manager turned-product leader passionate about how interactions with technology can enhance our daily lives. With over 10 years of experience in the B2B and B2C Software Industry, he has assisted in building innovative software technologies by leading Product, UX, and UI teams. Along the way, Brent has helped product and development teams evolve from scrappy start-ups to thriving corporations, driving several M&A deals along the way. At Left, Brent is responsible for both the strategic direction and the tactical execution for Left Travel’s product portfolio with the distributed teams in Canada and Bangladesh.


Introducing Our New Data Scientist, Shariful Islam

Left Travel welcomes new data and machine learning scientist to global team

With recent global growth, including the launch of our four new international brands, Left Travel is growing our Data team to power our predictive analytics. Left Travel uses Machine Learning models to match the right traveler to the right destination, at the right property, at the right time.

We’re thrilled to announce the newest addition to our data team, Shariful Islam, as our Data Scientist. Although he only joined the team a short while ago, he has already started to make his mark on our organization.

About Shariful

Shariful holds a Master’s degree in Computing Science from Simon Fraser University (SFU), a Masters of Applied Science in Electrical, Electronics and Communications Engineering from the University of British Columbia (UBC), and a Bachelor of Science from the Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology. In addition to his degrees, Shariful has eight technical certifications, ranging from deep learning to sequence models. Over the past ten years he has worked at AIUB, UBC, North South University, the Art Institutes, and SFU, sharing his passion for data as both a lecturer and researcher.

A chat with Shariful Islam

Amber: Shariful, what made you look to transition from the education to private sector?

Shariful: After being in the education sector for nearly ten years, I was looking for a change. I took on technical contract roles in 2016 and 2018 which ignited my desire to work in a fast paced environment. I began looking for a role that would both challenge me and allow me create value within the industry.

Amber: Was there a particular reason that you pursued a career in the travel industry?

Shariful: It was a bit of a surprise actually. I was looking for a career in the tech industry, but it was the job description that was most important to me. I wanted a data science role that used machine learning and had growth opportunities. When I first saw the job posting from Left Travel, it immediately seemed like a good match for my career ambitions. As I learned more about the company, I saw that it was also a good culture fit. I really lucked out!

Amber: What made you want to work at Left Travel?

Shariful: In addition to the role itself, the team was a determining factor. They’re an incredibly driven group that is constantly innovating… I wanted to be a part of it.

Amber: What excites you the most about the year ahead?

Shariful: Left Travel has experienced consistent growth since its founding, and we’re on the path to have a record-breaking year. There is huge potential for me to use my skills as a data scientist to help increase that growth. Seeing the results of what we will do as a team is what really excites me.