With nature as the conductor of my design proces
With processes that were specific per season it was nature who dictated the order in which the functionalities needed to be delivered.
Key objectives & requirements
Go Live with two separate parts of the process at exact moments in the season to fix the broken parts in the current system.
Implement track & trace from beginning to end so any delivered mini tuber can easily be traced back to its original mother plant if need be.
User friendly and better fitting to the work process and HZPC way of working
Ready for future extensions and international roll out.
The problem we encountered
The current solution was outdated and the support had recently ended. There were also countless separate excel files floating around on local machines that contained essential information.
While preparing for the upcoming season the Greenhouse and Storage planner discovered that at least one part of the software tooling was not working properly anymore. And it had already effected the running season.
This needed to be fixed. Fast.
The solution we delivered
A tailor made desktop application supporting the planning and execution of the 5 departments involved in the production of mini tubers.
From order planning and production in the greenhouse all the way to the counting and storage in the warehouse and delivery to customers.
Timing was everything
The situation was urgent and critical. And nature does not wait for software releases.
We immediately had to dive in and start creating the new solution for step 4 in the overall process. Followed by step 2, and then step 5.
This was necessary to support the parts of the process, which spans over 2 calendar years, at the right moment in the season.
The switch to remote working
Through our previous projects together we had become a close and high performing team. So at first, the forced switch to working separately from home felt like a set back.
But it turned out that because of our history we were able to face and solve this challenge rather smoothly. But, to even exceed the expectations while being forced to suddenly work 80% remote and staying within time and budget nonetheless made us feel quite proud.
Simple proces maps
Early in the project I try to uncover the essence of the process and draw maps in several levels of detail.
They play an important role in the understanding between people from all layers of the organisation.
In this way these visualisations help streamline the conversations throughout the whole project a lot.
A little un-agile maybe?
As I said, Mother Nature forced our hand to make an unconventional planning for an Agile project in the form of a Gant Chart. There was little to none room for deviation from it, but all the more agility was needed from us team members to still make sure the solution was not going to suffer because of this.
But off course there was a trade-off. We couldn't iterate as much as we would like or was needed. It had to be as-right-as-possible-first-time. Which is the biggest challenge I faced thus far.
Field studies: Observe and converse
By far 2 my most favourite ways of user research:
observing people while they perform their work activities.
talking to the people who are going to use the solution I am designing
The outcomes and findings of these types of research reveal what is needed to support the work process in the most optimal way and show which bottlenecks are currently preventing it.
Depending on the phase of the design process, the amount of uncertainty, and the people involved I pick a format that suits the outcome I need to achieve to move forward.
This particular one was sticky notes on sheets of paper. Taking pictures of states that seem fruitful. And repeating the exercise a few times trying different approaches.
Multi disciplinary brainstorm sessions
Whenever a direction or design strategy is clear it is good to bring in the wisdom and point of views from all the disciplines involved to avoid unnecessary pitfalls.
I use this merge between wireframes and flowcharts a lot to figure out what the best fitting structure and layouts could be.
I always do this with pen and paper. It is just works the quickest for me. It allows me to play with the level of detail very easily.
And in my experience it does wonders in communicating my solution ideas with both users and development team members.
To maintain a coherent look and feel across the application as well as to ensure efficiency in development velocity a design system is a valuable asset when applied and used correctly.
To each its own colour
We ultimately offered each department their own section in the application. And set up a design system where the main colour of all components could switch along with the section colour.
Besides adding some joy to the application this was especially useful for the employees who needed to use more than one section. And most employees needed at least access to two of them.
The moment of truth
Every sprint of two weeks resulted in new working functionalities. Which obviously needed to be tested by end users. The two critical Go Live moments were very incredibly tense, but also very successful.
But nothing is 100% right the first time. So every test delivered valuable input for improvements.