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The Backdrop

It all started with the idea of providing CXOs with the information they want in the right format at the right time. The motive was to empower them to make business decisions with a few clicks and all the required reports at one place.

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Goals

  • Helping information-hungry and time-tied CXOs in their decision-making process by providing leading indicators in data.
  • Building a highly tailored mobile dashboard for CXOs of all verticals like Delivery, Operations, Sales, Marketing and Technology.

Approach

  • We started with creating Storyboards and Paper Prototypes to understand and test the solution.
  • We conducted Interviews with CXOs to understand what data points matter most and what they would want to see early for a pro-active business decision making.
  • We Identified the various data sources that needed integration with a centralised dashboard.

The Problem

CXOs at Net Solutions were struggling with the validation of data in the form of long presentations being presented in various review meetings, apart from missing the context before the presentations would start.

At the same time, it was also a mammoth task for our teams from different verticals to do the heavy lifting and prepare these data reports every time with the right data and accurate visualization.

The data was available but in disparate systems requiring a lot of effort to piece things together to draw any meaningful and actionable insights.

The Challenges

As we were designing for CXOs of different verticals a very interesting design challenge came in front of our UX designers, we had to make the app relevant for all of our CXOs coming from different backgrounds and responsible for handling activities of different departments.

Different forms of data and sometimes sensitive data from disparate sources had to be extracted and visualised.

Business Decision Making: Set Apace!

We designed a first of its kind mobile app for CXOs, unifying data coming from different systems like​ CRM (Salesforce and Hubspot) ​to track opportunities and lead conversions, SonarQube as our defects and quality tracking tool for source code quality, our internal billing and productivity system called ​INTRANET,​ and project management systems like​ Jira​and Taiga, our billing and invoicing from Zoho.

We designed three logical sections within the app, namely, The Projects and Delivery, The Sales and Marketing, Operations and Revenue.

Data Visualization: Context, Fitment, and Visual Impact

Ever since we started with this platform, we kept on learning about new types of graphs and charts that can be used for a particular type of report. We also learned how certain types of visualizations help in better understanding of the specific nature of data as compared to some other type of graphs/charts.

In the process of designing our Bug Report, Sprint Timeline and Milestones, Scope change chart, Release Burndown Chart, Release Velocity and Cost Burndown Report, we iterated multiple times over the selection of right type of visualization to represent the data.

In this process we challenged ourselves for the reasoning behind chosen visualizations and ensured right canvas for data analysis. Points we debated over were :

  • Did we need to compare values? If yes, where and in which all reports?
  • Did we need to show composition of something?
  • Did we need to understand the distribution of our data?
  • Where and in which all reports did we want to analyze trends in our data set?

We made sure that the graphs and charts used in different reports provided enough valuable business insights and carried the right visual impact to trigger insights in a CXO mind.

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ETL : Technology Behind the Magic

Our data engineering team behind this platform first created a strategy for ETL process highlighting the type of data we need to gather and then from where and how we can get that. This overall strategy helped us to identify the priorities and technical alternatives for few of the integrations we did.

1. Extraction

As a first step we identified the data sources. User details and their productivity information, data related to project plans, QC reported issues, CI/CD issues, security issues and all the data points related to lead generation and sales were our main data sources.

We found all the user data was largely coming from project management tools like JIRA and Taiga as well as our internal internal billing and productivity system called INTRANET

We created API connectors to extract data from JIRA and since we had the direct access to Taiga and INTRANET’s database, we created Database connectors with these two with the aim of data extraction.

Where we were able to move forward in a very similar fashion with Salesforce, Zoho and Hubspot for extraction of sales and lead generation data through API connectors, We also extracted data from systems like Jenkins, Sonarqube and Zap through XML File Parser, Logs Parsers and HTML Parsers respectively due to their structure and non availability of data extraction through regular means. Cron jobs were triggered after every two hours to extract data from these sources.

2. Transformation

We wrote our own Data Transformation Scripts in core Python for all the data manipulation activities like Data Modelling (Relationship Building), Data structuring & Cleaning, Calculate timelines and productivity.

3. Load

We loaded this transformed data into our own MySQL Database through Loading Scripts and with the help of Rest APIs visualised this data in CXO dashboard by using Google Graphs for web platforms and Swift Chart Library for our iOS application in the form of some popular reports like Overdue Sprints, Release Defects, Project Health, Invoice Aging, Top 5 Critical Projects etc.

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View Switcher: Portal for Dimensional Shift

We not only created a role-based system, but also made the navigation work in such a way that with one click our CXOs can shift the vertical and start seeing data that is relevant to them. Since it changes the entire information architecture and opens a new set of reports for a particular vertical as ordered by our CXOs, internally referred to this as a “Portal​ for Dimensional Shift”

Operational Revenue: Our Warrior Against Productivity Leaks

We created metrics for how to compare billability of two or more key accounts as well as a high level dashboard to check their billability percentage.

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By collecting data from accounts department we were also able to create metrics for invoice aging and organization wide billed versus outstanding/overdue invoices for all the key accounts.

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Since we integrated INTRANET,​ it also gave us an opportunity to analyze individual levels of productivity and billability for all the employees. We created metrics to compare their efforts burnt under different headers like total effort logged, total effort billed, bench period, leaves, and efforts burnt in non-billable internal activities.

Sales and Marketing Dashboard

Our UX designers struggled initially to establish right information architecture for such a huge data but ultimately we designed the most interesting, yet easy-to-use element of our app, the SAM Dashboard (Sales and Marketing Dashboard) to review the origin and progress of all leads coming from Salesforce, the associated key account managers, and the stage of an opportunity in order to take timely business decisions.

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The Delivery Dashboard

With snapshot reporting on our minds, interviews with CXOs revealed metrics and key flags that the CXOs wanted to view early in a project’s life-cycle, so that projects needing extra attention can be highlighted well in advance. This made our dashboard show the overall health of the organization and most importantly, shift the focus to areas that needed attention:

  • Projects that are not doing well
  • Sprint releases happening this week
  • Releases that are overdue
  • Upcoming and overdue milestones
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We used color indicators as status markers. Red,​Amber,​and Green,​showing Bad,​Average, and Good​health respectively. This lets you know the health of the project without having to go through all its details. (An algorithm was devised using multiple metrics and indicators to calculate the health of every project)

Impact: Changes That Brought Productivity Everywhere

Not only CXOs became more empowered and acted with precision, Now with meaningful data in their hands they were able to bring a lot of positive changes to processes and teams. On a larger scale where this dashboard supported better reporting & informed business decisioning it also acted as a foundation for better quality products that we were able to ship to our clients.

With CXO dashboard in action, Delivery team was able to track and monitor the health of projects and was able to initiate remedial actions as and when needed. We also created a feedback loop based on the data gathered that helped different teams to better organize their work and increase their productivity. Lastly with all the sales data reflecting health of various opportunities, CXOs were able to adapt better strategies to improve business pipelines.

The Result

A brand new, first of its kind mobile data monitoring platform for CXOs, providing them with a 360 degree view of the organization.

The Result