At SPS Commerce, the operations team needed improved visibility into automated processes which extracts, transforms and loads customer data into our products. The tool needed to provide a high-level view which quickly gives a sense of the overall status of the load, but also provide in-depth detail and powerful troubleshooting tools to enable the team to more efficiently serve their customers.
Before beginning design work, I had much to learn in order to accurately represent the processes in the interface. This involved a lot of discussion with engineers to map out the loading processes. What I discovered was, although there were countless edge cases to cover the custom processes for certain retailers' data, it could be represented in a single standardized view.
Then I sat down with many members of our operations team to learn their current workflow, identify their most common pain points, and develop product requirements. Soon I put pen to paper, rapidly prototyping concepts and getting quick feedback from the team to validate these interface ideas.
The Analytics Monitor
Upon logging in, the operator is greeted by the Monitor where they can get a pretty good sense of what is going on with the current data load in a glance. For each retailer, it's easy to identify the overall status of the data, as well as how far along in the process the data currently is. The operator can then choose to dive deeper to investigate the status of each individual cycle.
A ton of data is packed into each line, but it's designed to be scannable with information placed in the proper context to reduce mental load.
The Nitty Gritty
The tabbed navigation not only helps easily navigate through the monitor while keeping data prioritized according to their workflow, but it serves as a heads up display providing a quick count of the data load status.
The data loaded can branch into multiple sets at any step of the process. This is visualized with a simple expand and collapse mechanism, giving visual priority to the most recently processed data.
Some retailers send their data as several packages in a large bundle. With this simple overview, an operator can see in a single line the status of all retailers in a bundle.
The detailed Data Collection view was built to address the most common pain point of our operators: dealing with junk data. This tool was designed to provide detailed visibility into every file that was transfered. It also allows the operator to perform advanced operations at the file level with without having to go directly into the database.
The Nitty Gritty
File Group Actions
A file group requires a range of files to be loaded correctly into the system. This interface provides quick access to individual file groups within a data set and allows the operator to view, add, or remove individual files in that group.
Individual File Visibility
Each file received has a visible status and detailed information. They also have individual actions and can be quickly downloaded for inspection of the raw data.
Bulk File Actions
Sometimes retailers send over a lot of junk files. To deal with this, there's a bulk action menu to take care of all selected files at once.
Manual Data Load
In the event that historical data is sent, the operator must load it manually. Now, it's as simple as checking off the files and hitting a button, instead of going directly to the database.
This MVP release of the Command Center dramatically reduced operator response time to service calls. It not only provided quick visibility into the system, but also allowed operators to provide many troubleshooting actions in a single application, rather than having to mess around with manual controls and database queries.
After becoming successful internally, SPS began to offer a read-only Monitor application as a customer product to provide transparency and further reduce service calls.
What I Learned
In a complex project, it's invaluable to begin with a complete understanding of the business logic to build an effective workflow tool. Sitting down and interviewing users and developers alike allowed me to effectively lay the proper foundation for the experience and better address user needs.