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A mobile app redefined how drivers work with dispatchers

The brief

Optimizing operational efficiency through data-driven communication solutions

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. 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 and manage workflows such as pre- and post-trip paperwork. Motorcity already had a modern communication app called RELAY for the dispatch operation. RELAY™ unifies messages into one searchable database. Driver details like current location with a clickable map, HOS status, and contact information are featured on a card readily available with a simple hover throughout many of the screens in RELAY. But Motorcity wanted that data-driven experience accessible in 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.

The company began to search for a partner to accelerate the development and launch of the native mobile app for its platform. That’s when the team turned to TXI.

The challenge

How to apply the iterative design process to capture input faster

To get drivers to use an app, our integrated team of both TXI and Motorcity engineers 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 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 solve 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 capture data throughout the workday through high-quality scans of load documentation.

  • Had an intuitive, easy-to-use interface. Drivers need a simple way to access 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 databases needed to process their documentation effectively. For fleets, this could result in less driver turnover and more operational efficiency, improving the bottom line.

The Solution

A two-track product powered by data 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. Data 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 to store in their databases. The result for both parties: less rework and faster payment.

  3. Offline Support: The app automatically queues data when the driver lacks an internet connection.

  4. Safe and Intuitive Experiences: The app detects when the driver moves 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 decision 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 prioritized features that would allow actual drivers to use the app in addition to their existing tools and provide us with direct feedback.

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

Working differently also meant thinking differently. With design principles in mind, we pushed our integrated team to focus on creating user-centric experiences.

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 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

Listen to the story here

Thanks to our integrated team, we’ve delivered a powerful communication tool that helps drivers reach dispatchers, streamlines and digitizes paperwork into centralized databases, 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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