We want you to care: rethinking product development at WeTransfer

This talk is about how we transformed product development at WeTransfer from startup scale to an effective multi-team product organization. WeTransfer originated out of an advertising agency, and until 2017 it was mostly organized as one. This fitted the creative and fast-paced culture of the company, but as we grew it held us back in working towards our longer term goals and vision. We needed to become less reactive and regain control over product development.

End-to-end responsibility is a well-known devops principle. Having teams responsible for their product throughout its entire lifecycle, from inception to maintenance to decommission, makes people care more. And caring more means higher quality engineering. Generalizing this idea from engineering to product development as a whole, we can make teams responsible for their product also on a product management level. Give teams high-level objectives for their product with the freedom to work towards them the way they want, and they will feel ownership over the product. And with the feeling of ownership comes caring more.

To support this level of end-to-end responsibility at WeTransfer, we manage teams on outcome instead of output (we use OKRs). Teams are responsible for their own roadmap, which defines the ‘how’ for their high level objectives. This requires trust and key to building trust is being transparent. Transparent in objectives, roadmaps, and progress that’s being made.

In this talk I will show how we made this cultural change and share the learnings. How do you make people care more? How do you build trust? I’ll also touch upon things that didn’t go so well, and look ahead at next steps.



Martijn Vermaat

I’m an avid runner and boulderer with a background in theoretical computer science. I use none of that to run WeTransfer’s tech department and help them deliver a world-class product loved by creatives all over the world.