Fast-forward thinking: TUI speed up their site by breaking down silos

Lina Hansson / February 2019

Travel operator TUI in the Nordics undertake a large-scale overhaul of their internal organisation and processes in order to prioritise site speed improvement.

With consumers increasingly moving over to mobile, companies with an eye on the prize have begun to recognise the importance of site speed. But speed projects require structural support, and often a whole new attitude to development. TUI in the Nordics knew that to make the most of this opportunity for growth they needed a fresh approach.

During a speed hackathon with Google, the engineers Emil Wiklund and Daniel Cala from TUI got some great results that opened up a conversation about site speed – and stakeholders and management were ready to listen. “We were already thinking about how to make ourselves more customer-centric. So when the engineers started talking to us about site speed, we realised that adjusting prices would make no difference if visitors were still leaving the site because of slow speed,” says Martin Bystedt, TUI Nordic Head of User Experience and Digital.

It’s easy to assume that fixing site speed is solely the engineers’ responsibility. But for a speed project to get off the ground, the whole organisation needs to be on board, with dialogue between management, stakeholders and developers, silos broken down and agile processes put in place. Without this operational support, speed projects often end up stuck in backlogs - or get forgotten by the next campaign. “Fixing site speed is not only about code,” Bystedt explains. “To get it right you need the right organisational setup and mindset.”

TUI inline graph

Moving forward

To see real results from speed projects, both technology and work processes need to evolve. TUI found that adopting a few key premises was fundamental to their success:

  • Buy-in from management, all the way up to CEO Alex Huber.
  • Establishing cross-functional teams, allowing for dialogue between business representatives and developers.
  • Welcoming a test-and-learn mindset.

“We all needed to change our ways of working. For example, our UI designers started to include speed in the design process and innovate with the developers. At the same time, we kept on talking about the benefits of speed at every level of the organisation. By making it relevant to individual people’s focus areas - discussing bounce rate with SEO people or monetary upsides with the finance team - the vision became shared,” Bystedt reveals.

Selling across digital platforms requires business decision-makers to listen to digital experts, whether that’s taking onboard code expertise from engineers or design recommendations from the UX team. In TUI’s case the result of sharing knowledge cross-functionally was a decrease in bounce rate and load times – but perhaps more importantly, it built trust. Lukas Edenfelt, TUI Nordic’s Development Lead, explains, “Trust the developers: they’re the experts. Empowering them to approach challenges in the best way they know and give them the technological freedom to solve business problems.”

Working together; building for speed

For a speed project to really take off, the management mindset needs to be forward-thinking and adaptable, with engineers given as much autonomy and accountability as possible. Creating cross-functional teams allows for dynamic dialogue so that decisions can be made fast, with input from both business and developers. Various new development techniques can help to facilitate this agile approach:

  • Adopt a Kanban system (from the lean method, where the job gets segmented and laid out visually on a board so that all participants can view every stage of the process) allowing the team to focus on one thing at a time.
  • Set up mob programming where all developers work together on one task at one screen, alternating at the keyboard. This gives more business value than independent work, and the constant dialogue improves quality and makes onboarding easier while removing problems with offboarding.
  • Use metrics like time to market and defect rate to prove that the new way of working results in both quality and speed, increasing trust and support from the business.
  • Shift to a platform that allows frequent site changes, cutting release cycles and enabling a test-and-learn culture.

“The ability to deploy multiple changes every day has been critical. Production environments will always differ from test environments, especially when it comes to 3rd party data and scripts. Being able to tweak a change, deploy, measure the impact, tweak again and repeat this 10-20 times during a day enables the developers to reach the speed targets much faster,” says Lukas Edenfelt.

It’s also crucial to allocate dedicated time to speed optimisation. TUI in the Nordics has employed a systematic approach to time management. “We agreed with the business that we’d allow developers to spend a maximum of 80% of their time on business demands. This leaves them with 20% to devote to maintenance and speed optimisation,” says Edenfelt.

Get set… go

Since implementing these new processes and technologies, has seen a 31% decrease in bounce rates and a 78% reduction in load times. This is a significant improvement: not only because speed is an important ranking factor, but because many studies show a direct correlation between speed and conversions on both desktop and mobile. The TUI case demonstrates a particularly notable impact on mobile visitors, with an 11% increase in mobile conversion rate relative to desktop. As mobile gradually becomes the primary device, developing this area will become more and more central to growth.

The road to success is all about collaboration, Lukas Edenfelt believes. “Put engaged, skilled people with different disciplines together and awesome things just happen. Everyone has more fun; people are proud of what they do - and they want to go to work.”

Keen to find out more from the perspective of a developer who has gone through these steps in a live environment? Read this exclusive blog post from TUI Lead Frontend Developer, Emil Wiklund, where he outlines step-by-step how they decreased load times by 78%.

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