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A new way of working for truck drivers and product teams: our project with Motorcity Systems

The brief

Solving inefficiencies due to communication challenges

Motorcity Systems is an innovative, Michigan-based software and integration solutions provider for trucking companies. Its goal: to help improve the operations of customers through modern, cloud-based software and digital solutions that make the lives of fleet dispatchers and drivers easier.

Why this goal? High driver turnover creates major operational challenges felt by large and small fleets alike. To demonstrate a commitment to drivers—the most important asset—and improve their overall work experience, fleets need to equip them with specialized tools to streamline and lighten their workload.

One major pain point for drivers is communication. The tools they have make it difficult to contact dispatchers, manage workflows such as pre- and post-trip paperwork. Motorcity already had a modern communication app call RELAY for the dispatch operation. RELAY provides a unified messaging service with text-like speed of communication between dispatch and driver. But Motorcity didn’t have a mobile app for the driver side. Motorcity’s idea: create a driver-centric mobile application that builds on its existing software platform and improves the driver experience, starting with communication.

Time was of the essence for Motorcity to get the new app developed. The company began to search for a partner to accelerate the development and launch of the native mobile app for its platform. That’s why the team turned to TXI.

The challenge

Using iterative design and closing knowledge gaps to get user input fast

To get drivers to use an app, our integrated team had to quickly design a minimum viable product (MVP) and get early user feedback. But first, we needed to do two things: identify the right starting point and establish an iterative design process.

Our first task was to ensure that Motorcity's engineers had all the right tools and knowledge to build a cross-platform mobile app, which can be quite different from building the web applications they already had.

We also had to figure out the best way to iteratively design, develop, and deliver. Three things we were grappling with:

  1. Task prioritization. The Motorcity team was eager to get started on app design and development. But before the mobile app work could begin, we first needed to help validate an API that Motorcity was building.

  2. The number of product releases. To quickly get an MVP into users’ hands, we had to decide whether to work toward a single release or do multiple releases focused on different product features.

  3. How to optimize for speed to value. We needed to treat velocity as a tool, not an outcome. As a team, the number one priority was to get working software into users' hands and solving real problems in production.

Throughout the engagement, it was important to center on users’ needs. Motorcity knew drivers wanted an app that…

  • Easily connected them to dispatchers. The dispatcher is the driver’s main point of contact. Seamless communication would help drivers feel supported throughout their workday.

  • Gave step-by-step instructions for actions. To save time, drivers need an easy way to provide high-quality scans of load documentation throughout the workday.

  • Had an intuitive, easy-to-use interface. Drivers need a simple way to view and navigate the essentials of their job while out of the cab at home, at a truck stop, or waiting to be loaded/unloaded.

With the right communication tool, drivers could work more efficiently and feel more connected to their company’s operations and back office. For fleets, this could result in less driver turnover and more operational efficiency, both of which would improve the bottom line.

The Solution

A two-track product powered by partnership and design thinking

What did the solution ultimately look like? The app, which Motorcity named ROLLER, has initially been designed with four main features:

  1. Messaging: In-app communication creates a real-time connection between drivers and the teams that support them – dispatchers, safety teams, HR, and others.

  2. Document Management: A timely, digital record of paperwork enables faster post-delivery invoicing. Drivers can also use a scanning feature to send high-quality images of paperwork to dispatchers. The result for both parties: less rework and faster payment.

  3. Offline Support: Queue data when the driver lacks an internet connection

  4. Safe and Intuitive Experiences: Detects when the driver is moving to provide a more limited experience above certain speeds

Before we began the design phase of the ROLLER project, we decided to push the program start date by two weeks so that Motorcity engineers had time to refine the API. This saved time and money—about two weeks and over 10 percent of the total product budget.

To user-test an MVP as early as possible, we opted to prioritize features that would allow actual drivers to use the app in addition to their existing tools to provide us with direct feedback.

We knew that certain features would be much harder to tackle. By prioritizing easier features in the first release, we could gather user feedback faster. Then, we could apply those insights to the design and development of some of the more complex features.

In a practical sense, this meant equipping Motorcity engineers with mobile development tools. Motorcity Systems had experience using Storybook to isolate and pre-test product components in their web apps, and we showed them how it could also be used for mobile components. Two more time-savers we highlighted: Microsoft App Center and Fastlane, which automate app testing, releases, and deployment.

Working differently also meant thinking differently. With design principles in mind, we pushed our integrated team to focus on creating user-centric experiences, even if that meant a longer delivery timeline.

To help us gauge our progress, we provided a safe space to reflect, align, and iterate by conducting retrospectives (or “retros”). Some of our approaches and techniques were new to the Motorcity team, and some even made their way into how Motorcity runs its own internal retros.

Each retro was tailored to Motorcity’s needs. Based on developer feedback, for example, we made room for people to ask for support and connect on the spot. We also framed each retro around fun themes, keeping things light and opening the space. Overall, our retros drove honest communication, which led to a great experience for both teams and, ultimately, a great software product.

The Outcome

A powerful communication tool

“With [TXI’s] help, we created the base version of a mobile app in ROLLER that solves real problems in transportation…. Since this work was completed, we have seen strong interest and we’re excited to have ROLLER in commercial production use.”

–– Jeff Yin, VP of Technology, Motorcity Systems

Thanks to our integrated team, we’ve delivered a powerful communication tool that helps drivers reach dispatchers, streamline paperwork, and provides great user experiences for drivers over the road. As the ROLLER app reaches more drivers, we’re confident that Motorcity’s clients will be able to boost retention and protect their bottom line.

But our impact goes further. Throughout our engagement, TXI built a genuine partnership with Motorcity. We were able to…

  • Upskill its engineering team.

  • Run an iterative, user-driven design process.

  • Foster open communication at every level of the project.

  • Steward its budget and investment.

The result: a faster time to MVP that enables Motorcity to iterate on ROLLER for years to come.

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