IBM has identified a trend where regional managers are playing larger roles in decision-making at the store level. The reason being regional managers are more in tune with the community surrounding the store and can better address local needs than higher-up administration. I worked with a team to expand the concept as well as create the user interface and prototype of Turmeric, a business analytics tool aimed to empower regional store managers in determining and executing decisions.
In order to fully understand the problem scope, my team and I conducted a field study by visiting a Sears Home Appliance store in Austin, Texas and engaging in an interview with the store manager. We gained a better understanding of a regional manager’s role which included:
We created a user persona based on the data collected. This step was very crucial for me personally. I needed to empathize with a business user since the field is so separated from my own background. Persona creation helped in bringing the user to a human level. For me, it’s easier to design something for “a person who works in the business sector” as opposed to a “a business user.” One major insight we highlighted from the persona creation is that informed confidence when making decisions should be a main goal in our app. Any person, whether in the business sector or not, deals with major decision-making. Consequently, the user should have access to an abundance of meaningful facts in order solidify his choices. We built off the PESTLE business analytics model in order to organize information that would sway a regional manager’s decisions.
We did a competitive analysis by looking at other analytics tools. IBM already has an analytics tool Cognos. When I asked our manager why we needed to make another app, our goal became even more clear: we differentiated from Cognos in our target audience. The regional manager demographic is growing younger and younger. For that reason, we wanted to make the application cater to a late-twenties, early-thirties user.
Currently regional managers analyze inventory by looking at Excel spreadsheets. We were asked to compress pages of tables into easily digestible information visualization. In order to fulfill this requirement, my team and I perused several sample Excel sheets hundreds of lines long in order to pinpoint the types of data regional managers parse through.
We created a list of goals that needed to be addressed:
From our research and our manager’s framework, we concluded the application needed to be divided up into three sections:
Initial User Interface Concept
We compiled our ideas into mid-report video to share our ideas with our managers. (Credit to Dannielle for narrating and Chloe for animating). Much of our ideation process went into paper prototyping in order to share ideas with each other.
Information Visualization Concept
We created samples of information visualization that reinvent traditional analytics tools and their bar graphs. From the store manager interview, we discovered regional managers tend to compare their stores together to promote internal competition. Additionally, one of our goals was to make information easily digestible. I came up with an info graphic design, later dubbed PESTLE-mint, that would let users easily see the health of the store at a glance. Each spoke within the circle represents a criteria the store needs to meet (e.g. credit card sales, store profits). If the spoke extends beyond the circle, the goal is met. Regional managers can easily compare stores in the overview.
We, as a team, brainstormed various useful features and UI elements/layouts. I created the final UI sketches, integrating our ideas into one cohesive narrative. I analyzed each feature carefully to see if they were really a useful part of the interaction process and selected the ones that fitted with our goals.
We allowed users to save business news articles that would be relevant to them in a menu called a “Binventory.” During the storyboard phase, I realized all of that information needed to accumulate to something. I tied the story together by creating the idea of “Decision Decks” where users aggregate articles and other information in order to support their business decision.
We created a prototype in Keynote that combines with our user story in order to pitch our idea to our manager who was beyond pleased.
|1. Bubba is sitting in a hotel. He turns on Turmeric and reviews his daily tasks.|
|2. Bubba then moves to PESTLE News to read up on some daily updates. Here, he reads several news articles.|
|3. He sees “Lawrenceville Golf Course Coming Soon.” He thinks the topic might affect his business, so he picks up the News Card….|
|4. … and he drags it into his Binventory!|
|5. Bubba continues his routine. He goes to the Library Section. He wants to review the quantity of golf equipment products sold in the past two quarters.|
|5. In the Library Section, Bubba inspects the sales of golf putters. He sees that the Blue Steel Putter 110110 putters have been selling really well and recalls the article about the local golf course that he binned earlier. He opens the Binventory for quick reference.|
|6. Bubba thinks that Blue Steel Putters will continue to be popular in Lawrenceville. He concludes that the stock of Blue Steel Putter 110110 should be raised.
Bubba wants to share his decision. In the Binventory, he creates a Decision Deck.
|7. In the Decision Deck, Bubba attaches relevant Cards: the golf tournament News Card and the Blue Steel Putter Inventory Card. He writes some notes about his decision, puts in the email address of Store Manager Larry, and adds a follow-up date for 3 months later.|
|8. 3 months later, on the home page, Turmeric asks Bubba to follow up with Larry on his Decision Deck.
Bubba has been watching on Turmeric and knows that the Blue Steel putters have been a huge success! Bubba calls Larry. They get to have a great conversation about their success… due to awesome Turmeric!
I’ve developed a theme over my works to empower and inform. This application does just that. It gives necessary information to its target audience, and as a result regional managers will be able to make more impactful and smarter decisions than ever before.
Our manager provided some feature ideas for the application, one of which is a social network structure so regional managers could remember names and important events of their employees. I, personally, had a struggle with this idea because the nature of such interaction felt insincere. That was when I needed to create the persona with my team. Additionally, I informally went on Reddit and read stories of regional managers interacting with employees. I felt at peace when I realized regional managers are people too. We all want human interaction in some way. Why not have a social feature that promotes this universal human attribute? It’s, in fact, our responsibility as designers to make this aspect neither insincere nor burdensome.
I learned a lot about working with a team during this process. My teammates are all excellent designers. We built off each other’s ideas.
One strength I pride myself on is how think critically through every single process. I am against feature creep and bloatware, and because of that I consider every possibility and choose the most advantageous one whenever I create an individual project. I’ve learned to encourage ideas during the divergent phase and ponder ideas during convergent phases. During this project, I learned that I needed to communicate my critiques in productive ways rather than inhibitive ones. For instance, when someone proposes an idea I disagree with, I’ve learned to voice my critiques, but also ask questions to see if the speaker has more rationale behind their ideas. It may turn out that they’ve persuaded me, or maybe even their rationale has merit, and we as a team need to brainstorm other possibilities to address it.