La Presse has its own digital products development team, works on a large-scale agility method, and has an ongoing research programme to continuously enhance La Presse+, an innovative daily digital news tablet edition launched in 2013.
The digital team’s activities are well-organised and planned in accordance with its development cycles. To motivate employees, stimulate innovation, and hear new ideas from the very experts that created the award-winning La Presse+, the digital team created a Lab Day held quarterly.
On this occasion, employees are given different major themes for inspiration and are free to use the day to propose an idea, a concept, or a vision (back-end or front-end), for La Presse+, doable in the near future … or not.
Aside from generating fresh ideas, the Lab Day initiative gives employees a chance to break from routine, to change roles for a day, and reinforces teamwork and interpersonal relations.
The digital team is made up of about 100 employees. During Lab Day, they are not required to remain within their usual teams. They choose whom they want to work with, and they are free to decide on what project they will work.
Usually, 10 to 15 teams of two, five, 10 employees, or more, are created. Employees have total freedom on how they spend their time but are challenged to do as much as possible within the day. They can even change jobs for the day.
The work is done spontaneously, with passion and pride. Teams often present almost-finished “proofs of concept” at the end of the day. A meeting with the entire digital team is organised on another day so each group can present the work it has accomplished.
Since the projects presented are often almost completed, product owners see their value, and prioritise them in the next release or allocate more time to a specific team to pursue the most interesting initiative.
Most of the initiatives implemented as a result of the Lab Days are not visible to the public, but are very important for the organisation such as code optimisation of the La Presse+ app, automated tests, anomaly detection systems, improvements to the edition assembly tool, etc.
On the front end of the app, the La Presse+ crossword puzzles have been improved following a Lab Day project. For example, readers can now share their score on social networks, a very popular feature.
The Lab Days initiative has brought real direct and indirect business value with unique and brilliant projects. Furthermore, the initiative has had a positive impact on the digital team’s motivation and team spirit. Each edition brings more fun, more innovation, and more surprising projects than the one before.