Providanz

A web-based video analyzer for operations analysts

PROBLEM ADDRESSED

Industrial engineers, operations consultants, business system analysts, process data collectors tend to spend days or even months visiting factories,  service touchpoints, business centers,etc., to visually monitor the process and collect quantitative or qualitative data. This currently common ordeal consumes resources, time, money and sometimes, in the case of developing countries like India, puts the professional under substantial risk to their personal safety.

More than 60% of the cost of an operations study

project is consumed in  travel, data collection etc.

Any value engineer who is worth his salt will identify that the majority of activities involved in an operations study/design project is rich with non-value adding and avoidable value-enabling tasks.

INSPIRATION

The idea for a web-based video analyzer may have its roots from the seemingly boring repetitive work study experiments in the Ergonomics lab from my Industrial Engineering days in 2004, in IIT Kharagpur. But the impulse to act on it arose within few minutes of watching the video of a coal loading operation at a private port whose operations we were asked to study and improve.

Coal loading ops in India - An unsafe place for a field-deployed operations analyst

Despite having previously worked in Naxalite infested regions, highly polluted process plants, steel factories that have no sense of safety neither on road nor under roofs etc., I did not have the nerve to take up this project without some software that would make me stay away from these unsafe grounds.

CONCEPT SKETCH

The concept had the following features.

  • Video player to play captured videos of business operations
  • Controls similar to a media player
  • Timestamps for video progress and length
  • Progress bar similar to YouTube
  • 'Stopwatch' button as primary CTA control
  • Task Counter to indicate number of tasks recorded using 'stopwatch'
  • Station navigation to navigation from one workstation to other

Note: At this point I had no idea how amazing value proposition out software would provide. According to me, it was just a structured timestamp recorder for operations videos.

PRODUCT STRATEGY

From the beginning I did not want it to be a desktop application, which was then, and even now a standard way of delivering software for professionals. I knew that with the then quality of technology talent (read: me), it will not take even a day to crack my software for full access. Also, the same time I had gone to a TiE (The Indus Entrepreneurs) meeting where I came across this word 'SaaS' (Software-as-a-Service) and was smitten by the concept, and how I have been using a few (GMail, Office 365) all along without knowing what they are. The concept of making web-based, difficult to pirate, quick to deploy changes, and portable software was too enticing.

And it was decided to be named Providanz (an acronym for PROcess VIDeo ANalyZer, which is what it was exactly going to be). And then, the million dollar question arose, how exactly are we going to do it? Enter the SWOT (yeah, we consultants loved to SWOT!).

Providanz SWOT for product development strategy

USER RESEARCH & PERSONA

The target users were an odd mixture for this project. Because the target group of industrial engineers, operations analysis, improvement consultants, data collection operators would be so diverse within themselves that I didn't want to create a point statistic like persona. Instead, I created a range for better imagination and empathy creation.

Generic User Persona Range

Gender - Mostly male

Age - 30 to 45 years

Education - Bachelors in Engineering (Mechanical, Industrial, Production, Electrical, Control etc.,) and may have a Masters in Engineering or Management

Country - India, US, UK

Languages Known - English etc.

Sociological Status - Mostly married and has kids

Employer - Medium to Large sized manufacturing company or a small consulting form (of not more than 20+ people)

Position - Senior Engineer/ Dy. Manager (Quality, Industrial Engineering, R&D department)

Technology Familiarity - Familiar with business applications on computer, not so versatile or comfortable using a smartphone for carrying professional tasks

Traits - Average guy, proud, boring on the surface, not much into active social media, may have interest in automobiles etc.

UX STRATEGY

From the beginning, it appeared that our product thinking was being constantly aligned towards an inevitable future of ‘feature-creep’ and ending up bloated and unusable. So, in order to set boundaries and prioritization to the features, a Kano's model for the UX of the application was drawn up, with our target user in the mind.

Kano's Model for Providanz UX

Also, in order to create a high quality overall experience for the customer, a simplified customer journey map was crafted to compartmentalize various stages of the user's journey, its requirements against various touchpoints etc.

A simple customer journey map

UX SCOPE

Following the requirements in the customer journey map and considering resource and time constraints, a crude scope for the list of features was drawn up.

  • Product Website
  • Social Media (Facebook, Google+, Twitter, Instagram)
  • Product Application Website with the following features
    • Sign Up/ Login page with password recovery functionality
    • Account Section with following features
      • Profile Management
      • Security Management
      • Plans, Payment, Invoice Management
    • Projects Creation +  Management
      • Project creation and processing with following features
        • Project description settings
        • Station count, description settings
        • Video analyzer with following features
          • Playlist with add/remove features
          • Video player with common play controls
          • Stopwatch like control to timestamp task beginning and end points
          • Task navigation and entry of task details
        • Data view
          • Tabular view and data visualization
          • Download data files
        • Redesigner
    • Sub-user Management & Project allocation

INFORMATION ARCHITECTURE

Based on the features set by the scope of the application, a hierarchical model was crafted. Instead of trying out standard UX techniques like card sorting, for determining the structure of the application, a simple straightforward clustering based tree structure was decided to dictate the application's information architecture.

Providanz App Information Architecture Diagram

NAVIGATION MODEL

Keeping the focus that is required when carrying out a professional work analysis project, the navigation model was designed for the user to follow the process without being distracted or facilitated by the option to jump to another project or any step of it.

Providanz Projects - Navigation Model

WORKFLOW

Inspired from practical work design projects, a straightforward step based workflow was adopted for the project workflow. Consistent inter-stage navigation, combined with a varied but familiar intra-stage navigations could facilitate a simple step-based project workflow.

Providanz App - Project Workflow

VIDEO ANALYZER

The core value proposition of the product was undoubtedly the video analyzer. Almost 80-90% of the usage time would be spent at the analyzer phase. Hence the changeover in the experience between industry practices for work study and using the product had to be made as seamless as possible. The conceptual model of the interaction is based on work study carried out using a video player for captured footages.

The Providanz Video Analyzer

VISUAL DESIGN

A partially flat style of visual design was incorporated in designing the application so as to keep up with the evolving design trend away from gradient and physicality rich component design.

DEVELOPMENT

The development of the application was carried out using the following technologies.

  • ZURB Foundation (front-end framework)
  • D3.js (data visualization and interactive line design)
  • Django (Python-based web framework)
  • Piwik (web analytics)

LEARNINGS

The experience of making a product that changes century old professional practices was very profound and life altering. A few key learnings from making Providanz were

  • The core value proposition behind the concept of device based video analyzer is very real and practical and could be implemented for diverse business and personal contexts.
  • Working on a web analyzer on videos of substantial lengths and iterations is very taxing to the professional using it, in terms of fatigue. Hence, usability should be given utmost importance and methods of input that require lesser energy and focus could be explored.

THANKS

Note: PROVIDANZ was discontinued on July 2014 due to business circumstances. Design and development of a more professional and modular version is under works. Design of a RESTful API and development of diverse products based on it are planned for the next two years.

What do you want to do next?

BACK TO TOP

SITEMAP

FOLLOW ME

RESUME

All content of this website is protected under Creative Commons Attribution + Noncommercial + NoDerivatives License.