In an effort to modernize day-to-day activities in the stores, business gave them handheld and tablet devices. Handhelds had been going missing at an alarming rate. They looked like phones, which meant they were very attractive for thieves and had a small form factor, so were easily misplaced by well-meaning employees. Over the two years that the modernization project had been active, the company had lost several hundred thousand dollars worth of devices.
During previous research outings to the stores, we had heard many comments from the stores about their devices. In general, they didn't really see what was so special about the devices. The lack of training left stores unable to understand exactly everything that the devices were capable of; they saw the devices as smaller telxon (scanner) guns. They treated them the same as well. No one ever wanted to steal the old telxon guns, so store employees would leave the handheld devices out on carts or shelves during their tasks.
Compounding all these problems was a lack of accountability. These devices were communal and did not require a login to access. Store employees did not feel responsible for these devices and there was no way to make them responsible for the devices.
We introduced our architect, dev team, and UI designer to the project early on so that we could brainstorm and provide feedback on all of those concepts. Before we got attached to any one idea, we wanted to confirm that it was possible using the infrastructure and devices available to us.
Ultimately, we recommended the project in phases:
Many stores had already created their own version of the sign out sheet. We provided a version that would standardize the process across the chain.
This was the meat of what our business partners wanted. The app listed the devices in a single store and allowed a team member to tap a button that would make a specific device ring. The device would ring for five minutes or until the ringtone was deactivated from the now-found device.
To try and promote ownership of and responsibility for the devices, we wanted the team members to have a set of tools that would allow them to manage their devices. At a glance, they could see all of their devices in the store, just like in the MVP, but the full release added:
The first four features were utility based: They allowed team members to better manage the devices they had and also provided a paper trail. If your name was attached to the device and that device went missing, you would be the one in trouble for it. The final feature, adding a nickname to devices, also promoted ownership: It's much harder to get rid of something you've named.
We brought out a prototype to the stores to get feedback. Certain features were tightened up, others added to the backlog. Overall, the store employees seemed happy with the new tool.
After 4 months:
It was a lot of work to get the project to a state to present to business, but when we did, they were floored. We were able to address the problem and explain why we thought that our proposed design would be an even better solution. We had a story to tell and research to back up the story, as well as a timeline of when we could expect said story to be completed. After the success of this project, I used it as a template for all projects going forward.
Of all the projects I've ever done in my career, this project has come closest to my ideal process. We were able to use research to inform our opinions around a business request, create a solution that addressed the request and then some, design a progressively more complex tool through several phases, and confirm our designs through in-store research. If only all projects could be like this.