Retail Service Center

product strategy, information architecture, product design, user experience design, visual design

Currently, I am unable to show visuals for this project in public. However, I can show them in person or through a video call.
Management Science Associates Inc. - Information Management Sciences Division
Team Members
Tom Baldwin, Project Manager
Nicole Burlbaugh, Customer Support Representative Lead
John DeGore, User Experience Designer
Julius Ecker, Software Engineer
Chris Horn, Software Engineer
August 2015 to December 2016
Who is Management Science Associates?
Management Science Associates (MSA) develops analytical software and information-based systems specializing in business analysis, data management, and IT services. The Information Management Solutions (IMS) Division focuses on services and products for the Consumer Packaged Goods industry. IMS helps Retailers, Distributors, and Manufacturers automate their workflows and make decisions by forecasting outcomes.
Project Background
Until recently Manufacturers have been primarily using shipment data from Distributors to track their product sales. IMS has been managing and cleansing Distributor shipment data and providing analytics, reports, and insights from that data to Manufacturers for decades. For example, shipment data can be used to understand how well products are selling both nationally and regionally. Now Manufacturers are looking to replace or supplement shipment data with Point of Sales (POS) data.

IMS already had a structure in place for receiving and cleansing data and delivering insights and reports from that data. The current interface for clients to manage their data submission and view reports is called Data Services. The Data Services portal is weighed down by a variety of one-off interfaces that only suit a particular need of a single client. These projects are not large enough to stand on their own, so they got tucked into the Data Services portal. Having so many different tools that were unrelated to the Data Services workflow makes the portal tough to navigate. To alleviate the issues of Data Services it the decision was made to create a new portal.

An opportunity to start the transition to a new portal, called the Retail Service Center (RSC), came when a client committed to having IMS manage and cleanse POS data from Retailers participating in their Trade Programs. (A Trade Program is when a Manufacturer offers Retailers rebates on their main products if the Retailer carries their new products.) The portal would need to service three user types. Manufacturers would want to check the submission history of participating Retailers. Retailers, who needed to submit their POS data for weekly time periods and see if they were compliant with the required data sets. An MSA Service Rep, who would need to onboard Manufacturer and Retailer accounts and help Retailers troubleshoot submission and compliance issues. The project had a tight deadline. The team only had four months to release the first version of the portal.
Stakeholder & User Interviews
I started the project by reviewing the requirements of the new portal agreed upon by the client and IMS. The requirements didn’t clearly communicate the needs of the users, and I didn’t have direct access to Manufacturer or Retailer users. So, I interviewed the project Stakeholders to fill in the blanks and reached out to the Project Managers and the Product Manager to help identify the needs of the Manufacturer and Retailer users. If they couldn’t answer my questions they would reach out to the client, the Manufacturer user, and the program participants, the Retail User, for the answers. I did have access to MSA Service Reps. They were extremely helpful in developing their workflows, and also provided more insights into the workflow of the Manufacturer and Retailer users.

Interviewing gave me about 75% of what I needed to start designing. However, there were still some issues with the terminology used in the requirements. Each client has a unique set of terms they use for a variety of industry items. For example, a chain of stores like 711 can be referred to as a Chain, Retailer, or Store depending on the client. Even MSA's internal terms occasionally conflict with the client's terms. So, the use of client-specific terminology in requirements documentation was causing confusion. I facilitated collaborative whiteboarding sessions with Stakeholders and MSA Service Reps to create a common understanding between the team.

Iterative Design 
After Stakeholder and User interviews I started to create wireframes for the portal. I tackled the design one feature at a time using the styling and interaction patterns created for the MTP Mobile app as much as possible. (This was to contribute to creating a unified experience between IMS products.) I would design the workflow and create wireframes for a feature and each related user type. Then review them with stakeholders and the engineering team for feedback. I would incorporate their feedback and iterate on the design. This cycle repeated until everyone was comfortable with the design. There were some instances though where I facilitated collaborative working sessions to help develop the design of the interface.

In collaborative sessions, I would gather Stakeholders, MSA Service Reps, and the members of the engineering team into one place to brainstorm what a feature should be. I would ask what the goal of the feature was and the sketch out a workflow that would help meet that goal. I would modify the flow based on feedback from the group. Then I would sketch out wireframes that utilized that flow, and incorporate feedback from the group. Doing this filled in gaps in the documentation, cleared up miscommunications between the team, and enabled me to get to an approved design faster. 

After a feature design was approved, the engineers would start building the interface. I would check in occasionally and provide them with feedback.
After the release, we received positive feedback from all the user types. The client even has requested an expansion to the app. So, they could move more of their daily workflow into the portal. While I was unable to perform usability testing for the initial release, being able to work hand in hand with MSA Sales Reps proved to be invaluable. They have the most complicated tasks to perform in the portal and being able to get their feedback throughout the process greatly benefited the design. Also since they were involved in the design, they had less of a learning curve when they started using the product.

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