Managed by Q &
a Product Transformation

Managed by Q is the first platform designed for workplace teams, to keep the office space running smoothly. It's used by many prominent companies like AngelList, Slack, and Netflix.

Between handling vendors, managing employee needs, and stocking snacks, Office Managers are critical to a productive workspace. But they're also among the most overlooked and underserved. Unlike designers (Figma) or Sales (Salesforce), Office Managers lack a tool specifically designed to help them work better. Instead they're unsupported technologically and hacking together their own inefficient solutions.

Solution

At Managed by Q, we created the first ever software platform for office management. Over 10 months, we transformed our software product from primarily an employee-ticketing tool to a broad platform addressing unique problems of Office Managers.

 

I led end-to-end design for all 5 new product areas. We started with just one.

I led design for all

5 new product areas

Click the arrows or thumbnails below for a sampling of the tools we built for Office Managers.

The team

Over the course of expanding into 5 new product areas, I partnered extensively with PM and Engineering leadership to identify, prioritize, and execute on the problem spaces & features, and worked with many PMs, engineers, PMMs, and Account Managers. 

 

For each product area above, I worked with a pod of 1 PM, Eng lead, and 4-5 Engineers. I also worked with our Systems designer and Mobile designer for visual and iOS guidance, respectively.

Timeline

~10 months

Process

1) Foundational Product Principles

Rapidly adding core features to a product risk it becoming quickly fragmented. To make sure that the product stayed cohesive and that we were building the right things for our customers, I partnered with PM and Engineering leadership to align on 2 product principles that would underpin all future product development.

Simple over Comprehensive

Focus on what actually matter to small-to-mid

size business, in a way that communicates

 emotion and understanding

Guide on the Side

Office Managers are often a team of one and lack support. Through guidance, let's help them gain confidence they can excel in their jobs. 

2) Case study: Designing Inventory Management

Let's take a look behind the design process for one of the product areas, and how revisiting these product principles helped us question our initial assumptions, simplify, and pivot towards a successful outcome.

Understanding the problem space

We quickly got a sense of the existing problems around managing office inventory - notably that current manual methods (like taking stock on Excel sheets, pen and paper) are inefficient, time-consuming, and quickly out-of-date.

Shadowing 5 Office Managers helped us better understand the physical environment we'd be designing for (a supply closet), and real-world interactions, like the handoff between the person who takes stock and does reordering

Our initial hypothesis

Initially, we assumed we'd add the most value by directly mapping each step of the workflow to mobile:

 

1. Taking stock

2. Reordering

3. Adding reordered items to the count.

 

A digital experience for each step would be more dynamic and collaborative, and streamline the process.

But something wasn't working...

As we showed customers many conceptual iterations, something didn't resonate. There were too many numbers to input and track - the amount in stock, the amount to reorder, the target - and Office Managers were confused.

 

This is where we paused and took a step back.

Guidance from our founding principles

I think a good design principle should be opinionated enough to provide explicit direction when the solution isn't clear.  So we decided to look at that flow chart again through the lens of one of our design principles:

Simple over Comprehensive

Focus on what actually matters to small-to-mid

size business, in a way that communicates

emotion and understanding

Re-evaluating our flow chart through this lens, we quickly realized we were essentially trying to do too much: bring all the robustness - and complexity - of traditional inventory management to an app for small businesses.

 

As we'll see, it turned out there’s only one thing that really matters for this size office: the reorder experience.

Focus only on the reorder experience

We learned that even though office managers count the "amount in stock" per item, they end up just eyeballing a few items they need to reorder that week. Reorder amounts vary a lot week-by-week based on employee demand. It's a lot less structured than an enterprise company.

 

The "amount in stock" didn't really matter - they'd just throw the paper away. We removed the concept entirely.

An office manager eyeballing a few items to reorder

Final designs

I spent the next few weeks iterating and refining the visual and interaction designs. The final solution was a connected experience across mobile and web.

Reorder lists are front and center. Office Managers can quickly eyeball and add the items they need, and track pricing and vendors

Office Managers can view price, vendors, and analytics to inform their purchasing decisions.

Web had a more robust way to add inventory items en masse, and view analytics

Outcome

Our transition to a broad software platform over the last 10 months was very positively received by customers. We saw Office Managers from companies like theSkimm, AngelList, and Slack switch their workflows to the new tools and use them frequently. There was no hesitation in leaving behind the outdated, manual methods they’d be using for years.

 

We set the foundation for each of these new verticals, but launching is just the start. We are continuing to learn how customers are using them and where we can add value. We do this through:

 

  • Biweekly rolling user research sessions - qualitative follow ups on overall satisfaction and needs

  • Daily "film studies" - a forum across 5 cross-functional disciplines for Customer Experience, Account Managers, and Sales to share customer insights, requests, and problems directly to Product and Design

  • Dashboard monitoring - metrics on usage, user-generated content type, retention

  • "Impersonating" clients - An internal, limited mode to preview client dashboards. This gave us signal on day-to-day habits and usage, and general qualitative themes or shortcomings

Before expanding into additional product areas, we are focused on ensuring we’ve solved the core problems for these  product areas completely.

© 2020 by Ashwini Purohit