Plans is a brand new module to PowerHub as of July 2018. Thus far, PowerHub has provided a platform for project management for renewable energy companies with interactions that are mostly form based. With Plans, PowerHub expands to include direct manipulations of graphic ui elements.
The primary element of Plans is the task pill. Each pill contains a unique id, task name, and status colour. It’s position along the timeline chronicles its end date and on click of the pill, it expands to show start date, duration, as well as the group name/colour, if applicable. If there are a number of tasks that are related or associated in any way, users can also group them together and select a border-left colour for the pill to see this information in the module.
One of the most important aspects of creating this module was that our users would have access to different ways of viewing this information. While we wanted to introduce a visual way of creating and managing tasks, we also wanted to give users the option to take that information and digest it however ways it makes sense for their day-to-day business. Currently, we have the Planner and List Views available. Upcoming is the Gantt Chart View for poster printing and presentations.
Plans maintains the same form based input fields for a consistent backend information architecture but the interface for this new module is highly visual. Task pills have 4 status colour states (New/Open, Completed, Closed, Overdue) and up to 20 colours users can select and assign to Groups. Key dates along the timeline have a circle icon with a dashed line that extends across the screen and a grey line in the background displays interconnected dependancies between tasks.
In this project, our goal was to provide users with a visual and customizable view of their tasks. The “Tasks” module is one of our most used features on the platform and we wanted to improve upon it by giving our users another way to create and manage their tasks. Instead of filling out a long page of form fields, users can now look at a timeline, click on where they want to create a marker, and input new task details. With Plans, users can view, share, and interpret tasks belonging to different projects visually, in order to make better business decisions.
Out of 19 clients with 10 GW of assets managed on our platform, 0 currently use our Plans module. Zero! After almost 6 months of collaboration between myself, BAs, front and back end developers, it was such a disheartening realization that the release did not meet user needs.
The project initially arose from the management team’s mention that a more visual view of information would be a nice to have on the platform. If we were able to invest time into the initial discovery phase and redefine the project outline, I would heavily focus on client surveys to determine if the idea was worth the investment.
PowerHub has transitioned in the last five years from a consulting agency to a product company. It was born out of the realization that there was a disconnect between the renewable energy industry and the tools needed to manage their assets. As such, client facing roles have been limited to Customer Success Specialists, Sales, and management teams, because they already have that relationship with clients in the industry while our product and design teams did not.
This release provided an empirical learning for every team in the company that design needs open dialogue and collaboration with clients in order to make sound decisions. Better research could have been conducted and time could have been saved. We could have learned from one survey if such a visual task management tool was even something our users were interested in having. We may have found better and more impactful ways of improving our Tasks module such as quick filters, in-depth queries, or updating notifications on changed tasks.