Motorola Innovation Design Group
My Role  In-House, Lead UX Designer
Core Team  Lead UX, Jr. IxD, Visual Design Consultant
Output  UX Strategy, UI Design, Prototypes, Human Factors Testing, Development Quality Assurance 


The Problem

It's 5:30am on Black Friday. A major shipment of perishable food, expensive electronics and medications has arrived at your local shopping center. The store is a massive 60,000 square foot facility and its doors open to the public in 60 minutes. Managers and associates must scramble to ready the stores aisles for hoards of holiday shoppers.

In retail stores around the world , there are hundreds of tasks that must be completed everyday in order to deliver the best shopping experience possible. Orchestrating the execution of these tasks is a real challenge. Since tasks can come from so many different sources, supervisors become the hub of a manual task management system, responsible for aggregating tasks into a single list and walking around the store to locate workers to delegate and check on task status.

As managers and associates are inundated with disorganized tasks, details are missed and deadlines pass. Inevitably, customer service and the business’s bottom line suffers. Today, retail institutions lack a tool that provides a holistic management solution and a cooperative employee experience.

A team that cannot organize properly cannot serve the needs of our business and most importantly - the needs of our customers
— Tesco Executive

Motorola Solutions, a leader in retail technology, aimed to address two major causes of these types of problems – connectivity and communication. Aiming to understand exactly what it meant to experience these problems first hand, the Innovation Design group at Motorola Solutions launched a multi national research activity. The campaign aimed to identify holes in the existing hardware ecosystem and a design brief for the piece of hardware that would fill them. The program eventually came to a close and its findings would inform the industrial design of the Smart Badge 1, an eInk, wearable device.

Further research would show that retailers not only needed the SB1 in order to get “a little bit of technology in the hands of for everyone” but also a software solution that capitalized on the capabilities of all devices in the store. At that time, no one player in the market place had accomplished such an integrated system.

 

Capitalizing On A Product Opportunity

Organizing workforces so that they are in tight communication and working together had always been a top priority for retailers however, their methods for facilitating this team spirit often lay in dated paper based systems.

Tasks for the day, week and month were not tracked and as a result key trends and positive performance were left unnoticed and unrewarded. Additionally, manual assignment of tasks takes valuable time away from managers and leaves certain employees unfairly responsible for tasks that they may not be best qualified for. These issues eventually informed the design brief for the workforce management software solution.

Design Brief:

  • Respond to customer requests faster
  • Let the software pick the right person for the job, but allow for overrides when necessary
  • Quickly convey the overall "health" of the store but allow users to easily drill-down to the details.
  • The UX should not overwhelm the user. Let them focus on customers and the task at hand.
  • Connect every worker so that new opportunities arise for intelligent system-level solutions.
  • Retail institutions experience large amounts of employee turnover; get new users up and running on the system quickly with minimal training.
 

Teaming Up With A Lighthouse Customer

During the research phase, Motorola formed an invaluable partnership with Tesco, a major European retailer. Acting as a lighthouse customer, Tesco helped to guide future product decisions and features in a direction that was grounded in reality. As the research phase concluded, the UX team at Motorola dug into conceptualizing what would eventually become Mobile Workforce Management. 

 

The Solution

With the UX team at the helm, the team crafted a vision for a software solution that would aim to create, deploy and track tasks through sessions with key stakeholders within Motorola and Tesco. The first order of business was to identify key user types, user stories and sub tasks and the design and product team spent a large amount of time fleshing these out. With that wrapped up, the teams assembled a lengthy product requirements document covering every minute feature of the proposed solution.

While the detailed nature of the requirements document was perfect for scoping development time, it did little for establishing information hierarchy within the app. In response, the design team undertook an activity known as “Soul, Heart and Body” where each requirement was matched with a priority, soul being the highest and body being of lesser importance. Multiple versions of the app were also defined, with certain features being reserved for a “System Administrator” experience right on down to a “Task Worker” experience.

 

The UX team was then tasked with turning written requirements into wire frames. The user interface design brief emphasized intuitiveness, scalability across multiple display sizes and a UX that was applicable for each of the user types. Additionally, MWM would be powered by a web based front end so the designers were forced to operate within the constraints of current web app technology.

Parallel to the interaction design activity, the design team collaborated with the backend development team to conceptualize rules for automatic task distribution. The designers helped drive requirements for algorithms that would eventually ensure tasks were sent to the right person for the job. These algorithms took into careful consideration workers' availability, skill set, past history with similar tasks (fairness), role and even location.

 

Human Factors Testing And Visual Design

As the wireframes reached a certain level of fidelity, Motorola Human Factors Engineers administered usability tests. Through usability studies, we found test subjects with Manager backgrounds really wanted pre made task templates with just one or two editable parameters. Plus we noticed the tile based UI on the tablet device was a bit shaky during initial impressions but after some use participants preferred it over a more traditional folder/nested list UI . This feedback and plenty of other useful info was fed back into the design + development loop and changes were made to UI design. 

The Motorola team eventually paired up with outside consultants from New York based design firm, Aruliden. Once the interaction design was about 90% locked, as a group we created the highly polished look of the app . The visual design of MWM pushed clean, high contrast graphics across all devices - right down to the black and white 16 bit eInk SB1. The design leveraged SVG and CSS drawn graphics to keep load time down and simplify scalability across different display types. A few key javascript/CSS3 based animations sprinkled through out the system would help to convey a sense of place within the UI’s architecture. 

 

No Special Use Case Left Behind

During the interaction design phase, we were tasked with creating massive spec documents which served as the main tool for communicating design intent with overseas developers. All members of the program deferred to these Behavior Specifications for primary and special use cases. After the hand off to the developers, nothing UI related was left to chance. This key part of the process allowed the design team to exude absolute control on the UX. On the other hand, it put an enormous amount of pressure on the team to keep meticulous, up-to-date specs.

While this workflow did result in a tight alignment of the design and development teams, the Motorola UX team eventually collocated with developers in Bangalore, India to hammer out the final details of the product.

Side Note: After the project was over, we came together as a team to discuss how to optimize our workflow. Managing multiple specs became cumbersome and slowed our ability to respond quickly to user tests and customer feedback. We opted for chunked documentation releases which leveraged existing, working software as a backstop.

 
 

Results

In the end, launch was just the beginning. After plenty of hard work and late nights (early mornings for the India team) Mobile Workforce Management was ready for launch. Officially announced at a packed Motorola Retail Solutions salon in SoHo, the system was debuted running on several different smartphones, mobile computers and tablets.

While an off the shelf MWM system could quickly enable businesses to start working more productively, MWM would eventually serve as a hub for managing tasks from other store systems such as environmental sensors and customers’ smart phone apps. Luckily the app was designed in a way that was scalable and could integrate well with other Motorola and customer technologies.

As customers began using the application, Motorola worked with them to address new ideas for features and issues with the user experience. The solution has since grown with many happy customers into other verticals such as Healthcare, Manufacturing and Transportation & Logistics.