Disney+ : Lessons in Agile

Disney+ : Lessons in Agile | DaveTavres.comHaving worked on hundreds of websites since the early 1990s, I’m confident in saying that I understand what works and what doesn’t. And, having worked in waterfall and agile software environments, and as a project manager / program manager, I know what the business teams wants vs. what the development teams can deliver (usually based on the timeline that the business owners want.) With the recent launch of Disney’s streaming video service, Disney+, it’s easy to see that Disney is trying to follow some agile methodologies.

One of the most important ideas in working agile as that nothing is ever “done.” Meaning, that there’s always ways to make a product or service better. However, launching the product or service is usually more important than making it “perfect.” Of course, that doesn’t work for medical devices, safety equipment, or life-altering items. Thankfully, most things in life don’t fall into those last categories. Luckily, entertainment and websites don’t require that they be perfect when they go out the door – as long as you’re committed to “kaizen” – continuous improvement. Making small changes frequently, with the hope (read: plan) that the product will get better.

Disney+ launched on November 12, 2019 to a HUGE audience. Primarily because the price was right – about $6 per month. And, while Disney worked on the streaming service for several years before launching it, they still missed some basic things:

  • Closed captioning doesn’t stay on when watching series. That is, if you turn on subtitles in one episode, when the next episode of the same show plays, the captioning is gone, and you have to manually turn it back on.
  • Information and player controls overlay stays on-screen for a loooong time after moving your mouse off the screen. More of an annoyance, but compared to every other streaming service, the dark overlay obscures the video at least twice as long as other streaming services.
  • There’s currently no way to hide, remove, or ‘down vote’ shows/movies you don’t like, or just don’t want to see as you scroll through the content offerings.
  • When watching series, at the end of an episodes, sometimes the screen just goes to black, and nothing happens. It doesn’t auto-play the next episode, and there’s no controls to do anything. You need to refresh the browser or escape the screen to do anything.
  • Keyboard shortcuts for the player (pause/play, skip forward/back) don’t always work. Mainly, when in full-screen mode, you need to click on the screen with the mouse before you can control the playback.
  • Full screen mode reverts to windowed mode after each episode (when ‘play next episode’ works.)

Agile | Tavres.comThis shortlist of defects and bad user experience are relatively minor – especially for a service that’s less than two weeks old – but they are great examples of how Disney (hopefully) is being agile. Presumably they have good program and project managers who are using the service and watching feedback from users. If they are, they’ll see these issues and make changes to make the experience better as time goes on.

Good agile development means fixing the small, “simple,” “easy” to fix items that customer notice. Of course, if there are back-end issues that have significant costs to the business, those do need to be remedied before the “small” things, but customers don’t always see those behind-the-scenes issues, and can feel like they are being ignored if the “simple” things aren’t fixed in a timely manner. Of course, it still comes down to money. Whether the issues are big or small, most companies choose not to fund the development teams well enough to make fixes – even if the team is agile. And Disney certainly has the money to fix any problem – if they choose to – which is often the bigger problem… whether they CHOOSE to fix the problem, or just say “too bad” to the customer. Let’s hope Disney does agile the right way, and keeps making the service better by fixing the small stuff, as well as adding more to the service.