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UpKeep News

A Mobile-First Approach to Deliver Customer Value: A Product Story by Henry Pray, Sr. Product Manager

Ryan Chan

We live in a mobile world. We book our travel, order our food, shop for clothes, and administer our finances, all with a few swipes from our phones. In fact, there are over two million mobile applications that people use everyday.

In the past decade, B2C, or Business-to-Consumer, multi-billion dollar companies such as AirBnbAmazonFacebook, and Intuit have doubled down on their consumer software investments, and in turn, created user experiences that have defined a new standard for app development.

B2B, or Business-to-Business, companies, like Slack, Asana, and Salesforce quickly followed suit, creating mobile versions of their services that closely mirrored the user experience that consumers have come to expect with applications. Yet in the last 10 years, enterprise asset management––a traditional blue-collar industry that expects to be worth $8.2 billion by 2024, has been left behind.

Companies that deal with farming, manufacturing, and fleet management, employ workers who are out on the field, actively operating machinery, and in a state of constant movement. These are the people that ensure your water is being filtered properly, that your food is being stored correctly, and that help deliver energy to your house and car. They are working on offshore oil rigs, in huge manufacturing plants, or deep underground. These people are not doing their jobs at a desk––they are the deskless workforce.

In these jobs, safety and efficiency are top priority to keep multi-million dollar machinery running smoothly. Previously, maintenance and reliability checks were done manually via pen-and-paper logs, leaving room for error with potential catastrophic consequences and machinery downtime. With mobile technology, these are easily prevented.

This is where UpKeep comes in. We are first to market in building a technician-focused mobile solution that revolutionizes how maintenance is done.

We have no shortage of ideas on how to create a mobile experience akin to the Amazons and Airbnbs of the world. In order to deliver quality products quickly, we need to be laser-focused by employing something I like to call, “ruthless prioritization.”

Being a mobile-first platform presents some challenges within product development. For one, many users expect to have feature parity between a web application and mobile apps, yet don’t realize they complete two different workflows.

For example, our users spend over 80% of their time on mobile within two areas of our application (Work Orders and Work Requests). On web, they account for 15% less of a user’s total time.

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Matching the qualitative information we have about how our apps are used with these statistics from Google Analytics, we can start to paint a very clear picture. People on mobile are out on the field, finding areas for maintenance (work requests) and working on fixing the machinery when it’s down (work orders). Web users are much more focused on admin-level work such as assigning work orders out, sending out purchase orders, and day-to-day managerial tasks. Naturally, the two applications, mobile and web, need to work in a complementary way, best used as a package deal.

This is a big reason why we focus so much of our mobile efforts between those work orders and work requests.

With such an engaged user base, we get amazing feedback daily. The tricky part is figuring out which new items to implement, which existing features to improve, and which features to sunset. So, how do we narrow down exactly what it is we work on for our mobile-first solution?

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At the end of last year, we began our roadmapping for 2020. With the direction that our true-north was improving the lives and efficiency of technicians, we were able to outline three priorities for the year:

  • Compliance
  • Quality
  • New Capabilities

Our First Release of 2020

Murphy’s law is an adage that typically goes, “Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.” With mobile connectivity, that is most certainly the case. Anyone with a mobile device knows the feeling: you need to make an important call, open up your plane’s boarding pass, or play your favorite game just to pass the time, but you are hit with this:

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Connectivity issues happen to everyone, everywhere. Now, imagine that you are responsible for keeping a multi-million dollar piece of equipment up and running, and need to run through a maintenance routine, yet the machine is underground, and you have no way of accessing the necessary information because: no service.

This exact use case was hitting our users time and time again. Before Offline Mode, when a user had no service, UpKeep was useless. Not only did the product quality diminish, but this was a capability that many larger enterprise companies looked at as absolutely necessary in order to move forward with our product. So, we built it.

Taking Offline Mode from a high-level idea to a shippable product took a great deal of planning, iteration, and teamwork from all sides of our organization.

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There were a few objectives and goals that we knew we wanted to hit:

  1. We wanted to deliver value quickly
  2. Deliver a solution that was viable enough to get the job done
  3. And we wanted it to “just work” so we weren’t introducing unnecessary friction to our users

With those three things in mind, we started researching other products that supported some type of Offline Mode (Spotify, Google Docs, Netflix), planning out how it would work structurally (thank you, engineering team), and putting together a basic product spec.

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Deliver Value Quickly 

A common pitfall when launching products is trying to fit everything in before a launch. While planning Offline Mode, we knew we wanted to get value into our users hands as quickly as possible and to start gathering feedback so we could iterate and improve or, pivot if need be. This is why we split the release into two phases.

Phase one allowed our users to view the work orders offline. Users could now look up information and follow the necessary procedures to get their job done. This solved 80% of the use cases in just two months and gave us time to start gathering feedback while we were working on phase two.

Get the job done

Phase two allowed users to add information, comment and interact with the app so they can jot down necessary information pertaining to the work order. This completed the work order cycle and our second goal.

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Reduce Friction

We were worried that launching a feature like Offline Mode could introduce a lot of friction and change our user’s day-to-day workflow. For this reason, we committed to our “it just works” goal. We would not launch Offline Mode unless it delivered EXACTLY what a user was expecting with no synching errors, download buttons, or data conflicts. This is why we made our “bookmark” feature a necessary component of offline mode.

All a user needs to do is bookmark a work order to view it in offline mode. That’s it. End of story. No setup, no synching, no sweat. Offline mode turns on automatically, resulting in a painless experience that mirrors that of high-quality B2C apps.

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Even after a successful product launch, the journey is far from over. At UpKeep, we use data to support all of our decisions and ongoing iterations.

The main metrics that we look at for Offline Mode are:

  • How many work orders per user are being bookmarked?
  • How many sessions enter Offline Mode?
  • How many work orders are viewed while in Offline Mode?
  • How does usage differ between Android an iOS users?

We hypothesized that users would start bookmarking more work orders once offline mode was released, and as it gained traction and adoption, the percentage of work orders viewed and overall sessions in Offline mode would increase. The uptake has been positive thus far, and in collaboration with our other mobile releases, our daily active mobile users has grown 15% this quarter, compared to a 5% increase from the previous quarter.

What’s next?

As we continue developing our mobile experience, we can start looking to unlock more capabilities that also improve our product quality similar to Offline Mode. With that being said, we absolutely need to avoid being greedy with new features and keep our focus on unlocking capabilities for our field workers, the technicians.

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In the coming months we are making an additional investment on the user experience and rethinking how our mobile apps work when users first sign on. One of the biggest questions we are trying to answer is how can we enable technicians to be as efficient as possible and use UpKeep to augment their day-to-day operations without forcing them to invest their valuable time into the app?

We’ll also be rolling out a technician focused report that is fed straight through the mobile app so technicians not only are more streamlined in what they do, but will allow them to see the positive impact that they are having on the organization as a whole.

Are you using the UpKeep mobile app? What capabilities would you like to see unlocked?

Just browsing? Download the app from Google Play or the App Store, I would love to hear your feedback!

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