Originally published 5/31/2018
Coda was still a fledgling startup when Yuhki and Yixin began building their tracker for Uber’s new driver app (codenamed “Carbon”)—a doc that launched one of the largest redesigns in Uber’s history.
It began when Yuhki Yamashita, having led the redesign of the rider app, was tasked with doing the same for the driver app. As a friend of Coda, Yuhki had received a demo of the product early on. He didn’t have a project for us at the time. But now, staring at the magnitude of what he was asked to undertake — a year-long journey of intricate timelines and myriad goals and coordination — he knew they’d need to shift gears. The old process–40 different teams tracking stuff in different docs, spreadsheets, work boardsーwouldn’t work. They needed a single source of truth. So he sent us an email. And we sent him a link to Coda.
The following weekend, Yuhki built the skeleton of the Carbon tracker. A couple weeks later, he brought in Yixin Zhu as his right-hand man. Together they created a tracker to end all trackers, a doc that, by the end, guided hundreds of stakeholders through hundreds of features to launch.
The doc structure
Uber does not have a tops-down view on how employees should use tools — instead, the company aims to hire the best, give them a goal, and let them spin up their preferred tools and processes to make it happen.The benefits are myriad — namely, excellent talent and fast execution. The tricky part is how to make these strong, nimble, and independent units coordinate with each other.
Yuhki knew the doc needed to create a shared language among Uber’s many teams. So he came up with two core concepts that would drive consistency, making a table for each. The first wasMilestones.This table defined all the milestones and acted as the plan of record for deadlines. If a deadline slipped, he’d update this table, and everyone’s views would update, accordingly. The second was Features. Because realistically, a team of hundreds is unlikely to speak the same language across their daily to-do lists, but they can have a clear consistent perspective on the features they ship. The challenge wasn’t getting teams to use the same terminology — it was about creating the right restrictions for their autonomous genealogy. For that, Yuhki set up different Views.
Each team had their own views of the features and milestones tables, which they could filter, summarize, and sort however they wanted ー all without stepping on the toes of their peers. Every little change flowed through to all impacted Sections in the document, in real time. There was no such thing as “data re-entry” or “stale status”.
Then Yuhki started driving consensus on the structure. He went to each team lead and pitched them on Coda, translating their old trackers into these two new standards. Following that, he set up weekly meetings, where everyone would look at the doc together, and see how team updates connected and laddered up to the overall program milestones. Before they were pasting screenshots into slide decks. With Coda, they could negotiate timelines and see the implications live.
By routinely reinforcing this standard — and the value of a single, centralized hub — people began to fully embrace the new language.
Lesson: Making a product of process
True Product guys that they are, Yuhki and Yixin approached this doc like they were creating an app. In designing the doc, they thought through the users and personalities who might use it (PMs and TPMs like one visualization, stakeholders like another). As the doc evolved, they continued to iterate on user flows, interfaces, and dashboards. In addition to being easy to use, it also had to be easy to find. So Yixin created a special URL — t/carbon tracker — that the whole company could reference.
They made the app that launched the app.
ABOUT THE MAKERS
A patron saint of Coda, Yuhki is the original architect of the tracker to end all trackers, which launched Uber’s ambitious Project Carbon. His trust in Coda pushed our product to higher performance, and gave us the momentum and confidence to launch out of beta.
Yixin, co-creator of Uber’s impressive Project Carbon tracker, is a renaissance Product man, and the fastest study of our formula language we’ve ever seen. Every time we see a pie chart formula in Coda, we say a little prayer for Yixin.