Thinking about annual planning in the Wikimedia Foundation’s Product and Technology departments

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My name is Selena Deckelmann, and I’m the new Chief Product and Technology officer at the Wikimedia Foundation. I’ll be explaining how the Wikimedia Foundation’s Product and Technology departments are preparing for the 2023-24 Annual Plan.
The information is also available in greater detail on Metawiki.

I’m glad to have the opportunity to share with you all some thoughts on how we can improve the way we work together. I know you have ideas you want to share with us, too, and I’m looking forward to hearing them. Here, I will explain the way we play to structure the annual plan this year and describe the draft work portfolios (nominally called “buckets”). On Meta you can also read details of the potential objectives for those buckets.

This isn’t meant to be a list of things we’re definitely going to do — there’s plenty of room for your questions and suggestions. The purpose of this list is to highlight the most necessary and important categories of technical work across the movement. We want to share this as early as possible, but because these are works-in-progress please be aware they may change. You are invited to leave comments or questions on the talk page, especially throughout February 2023.
Later in the annual planning process we will also be asking for your feedback on the specifics of the whole annual plan.

This is just a start.

Another year – another year’s plan!
Drawing of an Aztec sun calendar (1792) by Antonio de Leon y Gama

The work we do at Wikimedia Foundation has many purposes, and has been described as a socio-technical ecosystem. Within that ecosystem, the Product and Technology departments provide critical services, design and launch new products, and innovate in areas of machine learning, and internet-based collaboration. As we think about both multi-year strategic planning, as well as this year’s annual plan, we are trying to identify core areas of work that extend from Wikimedia’s historic success, relate directly to advancing the Movement Strategy recommendations, and provide clear, visible roadmaps to stakeholders internally and externally.

Ways of Working
In order to focus the work of the Product and Tech departments going forward, we’re assigning wranglers to “buckets” for planning purposes. These groups of wranglers are going to identify objectives and key results at our highest levels through our planning process. We want to bring folks together who depend on one another to accomplish our most important goals.

An important aspect of the “three key” buckets is that we are declaring that work within a bucket will not block work in another bucket. This means that we still consult and inform one another, and collaborate to enable work where appropriate, but teams can make a decision to move forward with plans without someone from another bucket blocking their work.

Budget Planning
We don’t yet have a committed budget allocation between the different buckets – this will come later. Across both Product and Tech departments, we estimate that Wiki Experiences will be about 50%, Signals and Services will be about 30%, Future Audiences will be about 5%, and Infrastructure and Product and Engineering Services will be the remaining. These estimates are based on the work we’re doing today. We won’t know the FY23-24 budget allocations until after we prioritize objectives sometime in March.

#1: Wiki Experiences

graphic representing a sunflower

The purpose of this bucket is to efficiently deliver, improve and innovate on wiki experiences that enable the distribution of free knowledge world-wide. This bucket aligns with movement strategy recommendations to Improve User Experience (#2) and Provide for Safety and Inclusion (#3). Our audiences include all collaborators on our websites, as well as the readers and other consumers of free knowledge. We support a top-10 global website, and many other important free culture resources. These systems have performance and uptime requirements on-par with the biggest tech companies in the world. We provide user interfaces to wikis, translation, developer APIs (and more!) and supporting applications and infrastructure that all form a robust platform for volunteers to collaborate to produce free knowledge world-wide. Our objectives for this bucket should enable us to improve our core technology and capabilities, ensure we continuously improve the experience of volunteer editors and moderators of our projects, improve the experience of all technical contributors working to improve or enhance the wiki experiences, and ensure a great experience for readers and consumers of free knowledge worldwide. We will do this through product and technology work, as well as through research and marketing. We expect to have at most five objectives for this bucket.

Proposed objectives for the “Wiki Experiences” area of work are described on Meta.

#2: Signals & Data Services

In order to meet the Movement Strategy Recommendations for Ensuring Equity in Decision Making (#4), Improving User Experience (#2), and Evaluating, Iterating and Adapting (#10), decision makers from across the Wikimedia Movement must have access to reliable, relevant, and timely data, models, insights, and tools that can help them assess the impact (both realized and potential) of their work and the work of their communities, enabling them to make better strategic decisions.

In the Signals & Data Services bucket, we have identified four primary audiences: Wikimedia Foundation staff, Wikimedia affiliates and user groups, developers who reuse our content, and Wikimedia researchers, and we prioritize and address the data and insights needs of these audiences. Our work will span a range of activities: defining gaps, developing metrics, building pipelines for computing metrics, and developing data and signals exploration experiences and pathways that help decision makers interact more effectively and joyfully with the data and insights.

Proposed objectives for the “Signals and Data Services” area of work are described on Meta.

#3: Future Audiences

The purpose of this bucket is to explore strategies for expanding beyond our existing audiences of consumers and contributors, in an effort to truly reach everyone in the world as the essential infrastructure of the ecosystem of free knowledge. This bucket aligns with  Movement Strategy Recommendation to Innovate in Free Knowledge (#9). More and more, people are consuming information in experiences and forms that diverge from our traditional offering of a website with articles – people are using voice assistants, spending time with video, engaging with AI, and more. In this bucket, we will propose and test hypotheses around potential long-term futures for the free knowledge ecosystem and how we will be its essential infrastructure. We will do this through product and technology work, as well as through research, partnerships, and marketing. As we identify promising future states, learnings from this bucket will influence and be expanded through Buckets #1 and #2 in successive annual plans, nudging our product and technology offerings toward where they need to be to serve knowledge-seekers of the future. Our objectives for this bucket should drive us to experiment and explore as we bring a vision for the future of free knowledge into focus.

Proposed objectives for the “Future Audiences” area of work are described on Meta.

#4: We also have two other “sub-buckets” which consist of areas of critical functions, which must exist at the Foundation to support our basic operations, and some of which we have in common with any software organization. These “sub-buckets” won’t have top level objectives of their own, but will have input on and will support the top level objectives of the other groups. They are:

  1. Infrastructure Foundations. This bucket covers the teams which sustain and evolve our data centers, our compute and storage platforms, the services to operate them, the tools and processes that enable the operation of our public facing sites and services.
  2. Product and Engineering Services. This bucket includes teams which operate “at scale” providing services to other teams that improve the productivity and operations of other teams.

Always remember to bring your buckets…
A milkmaid (1876), Otto Bache

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