Instacart
extreme Events
command center
2023-2014
Let's begin, shall we?
What if we could predict threats to instacart's fulfillment and take action to mitigate disaster for stores, customers, as well as shoppers?
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CONCEPT EXPLORATION
DESIGN NOT FINAL
CONCEPT EXPLORATION
DESIGN NOT FINAL
CONCEPT EXPLORATION
DESIGN NOT FINAL
CONCEPT EXPLORATION
DESIGN NOT FINAL
CONCEPT EXPLORATION
NOT THE FINAL DESIGN.
ouR SOlution?

The eXTREME EVENTS COMMAD CENTER.
The Extreme Events Command Center is a robust, new dashboard that allows the Live Operations Team to fully control the shutdown of Instacart delivery for stores in the event of a catastrophe. This dashboard consolidates over 20 tools that the Live Operations team uses to research, plan, communicate, and manage disasters.

In case of fulfillment disruptions, the Live Operations team will have all their tools in one place, enabling easy communication of updates and quicker interventions to mitigate adverse outcomes.

Overview.

1.

Disciplines.

Product strategy

Human interface design

Research

2.

Challenges.

Ambiguous, complex problem

Design system constraints

Limited support & resources

3.

Problem.

Fulfillment is the most important aspect to Instacart’s business model, and it is the most susceptible to all types of disruptions such as major weather events, large community events, and, in the worst cases, a catastrophic event that threatens lives, this is where the Live Operations team comes in.

Underserved Team - The Live Operations Monitoring team has a critical role at Instacart, yet are one of the most underserved teams. 

Too Many Tools - This team uses over 20+ tools across different platforms, some from 3rd parties, as-well as out-of-date and buggy internal tools.

Complex Workflow - With so many tools, stakeholders, including internal teams, retailers, shoppers, and customers, the process of intervening on potential fulfillment disruptions becomes a very complex web of processes.

4.

Solution.

Custom Tool

We created a custom tool that is empathetically designed by getting a deep understanding of their process and feelings.

A Single Source of Truth

Bringing all the tool the team uses for research, intervention, and communication that the team use into one place within Instacart's internal platform.

Streamlined Workflow

We designed a new way for the Live Ops team to accomplish their goals in a way that saves time, money, and even lives.
5.

Process.

Evaluate - Getting to know the team, empathizing with their issues, and understanding the workflow.

Conceptualization - Forming hypotheses for potential solutions. Collaborating with our user on rough first drafts..

Iteration - Feedback sessions and testing.

Finalization - Presenting final solution and strategy.

6.

What We Built.

This project was huge. After the vision, we created a phased approach to achieve our longterm vision for the Live Ops team.

7.

Big Picture.

In the end, we managed to overcome many obstacles in the design process, from inadequate design systems to staffing issues, create a future thinking vision for Live Operations monitoring.

By studying the team closely, listening to their issues, and collaborating we were able to design a first-of-it's-kind tool that can monitor activity across the nation. Harnessing the power of AI, we created a tool that can predict fulfillment disruptions, intervene quickly, saving millions, and most importantly, lives.

Below, we dive even deeper.

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Product Vision.

The Extreme Events Command Center aims to address the current workflow issues. After presenting the initiative to the head of design, Tim Allen, it swiftly became a high priority on our product roadmap.
The Extreme Events Command Center, an internally developed tool, that integrates map, weather, and event data for Instacart's Live Operations team. The tool's potential extends to other internal teams, retail partners, and external entities. It could generate millions in profit by using AI to predict business disruptions, save revenue, and potentially save lives.

Unfortunately, before this product came to life, the current experience of monitoring and intervening on disruptions leaves a lot to be desired.

Current State.

The Live Operations team oversees all areas in the US and Canada to identify potential disruptions that could affect Instacart's commitments. If issues arise, they monitor the area, devise a strategy, and intervene as needed, which may involve alerting shoppers, reducing fulfillment, or closing stores.

This is obviously a very large job for a small team of about 13 people. They split the work into 3 major focus areas:

Weather

This team monitors weather events across the North America and Canada. These events can range from a snow storm in Ontario all the way to a major hurricane in Florida.

City Events

This team focuses on finding local events that could impact fulfillment, for example, a marathon or a parade.

Unplanned Disruptions

This team focuses on monitoring for events that we cannot predict, such as a mass shooting or a natural disaster.

The Live Ops team at Instacart uses over 20 tools costing $500k to monitor these complex variables, conduct research, and modify store operations. Their decisions can impact millions in revenue, wages, and potentially lives.

With so much riding on this team, it is important that they have a very broad perspective of the happenings across these country. All of these different tools meet some of their needs, but all them are lacking very key features. The overall experience is clunky, manual, and extremely inefficient, especially in the face of catastrophe.

There is a hurricane forming off the coast of Florida.

Lets take a look at the process the weather team takes to intervene in the event of a hurricane.

Meet Joey, the Live Operations Weather Team lead.

Lets take a look at the process the weather team takes in intervening on a hurricane that ravages Florida.

Monitor.

Joey, the weather lead, starts the monitoring process with a daily weather check. He checks the weather from multiple sources such to track a hurricane that is heading to Florida.

He sees the the potential path of the hurricane and decides that it is time to escalate this as an official disruption event.

He’s feeling the stress mounting, and now it’s time to communicate with the entire team, focus their attention, and get all hands on deck.

Research, Plan, & Communicate.

Joey's team is predicting hurricane paths and severity by comparing Instacart zones with potential hurricane routes. This complex process is time-consuming, but necessary for informed decision-making. After comparing affected zones with weather maps, they gain crucial insights.

Joey and his team manually compile data from various sources into a report, which is then distributed to internal partners via Slack.

The Extreme Events Command Center team maintains a comprehensive spreadsheet, recording regions in the US and Canada affected by hurricanes based on external weather maps, acting as the authoritative reference for weather conditions.

Intervene.

Now that the information has been communicated to stakeholders and partners, the weather team has to copy/paste that same information into the Instacart Intervention tool, where each individual setting for a particular zone has to be manipulated manually. At this point, hours have passed, frustration is high, and the process of shutting down stores is still not over.

This monitoring process continues until the storm hits, but if the direction of the hurricane changes, the entire process has to be adjusted to ensure the best course of action has been taken.

What if we deconstructed this workflow and rebuilt it from scratch ?

We need a solution that will unify the Live Ops team workflow, allowing them to act faster in the event of diaster.

Evaluate.

The design process started with a hypothesis about the potential experience. To validate this hypothesis, we first evaluated the Live Ops workflow, conceived an ideal product vision, made iterations, and finalized the design solution.
To understand their current workflow, as well as begin to form an idea of what a  solution could look like, Andrew and I conducted knowledge transfer sessions with the Live Ops team. These meetings were designed to discuss challenges that the team faces in their workflow, as well as develop a true understanding of their feelings and implications of their work.

In these meetings we faciliated ideation exercises to allow our users to have candid conversation on their initial solution expectations in their own words. We collaborated on sketches and ideas, creating themes which went on to serve as our design foundation.
The design team identified several key areas of focus, with the most important being a robust map tool that could overlay weather data, city event data, as well as being able to action on all fulfillment powered by Instacart. We were able to deliver a detailed designed vision and strategy that solved their major painpoints in one unique tool.

Competitive Analysis

I examined common themes of tools the team already uses, such as Tommorrow.io, as well as different products, such as Google Maps and Zillow, who have well designed map experiences as well as interaction patterns.
I took note of very specific interaction patterns that I felt would become essential to the foundation map experience. Map based tools are interesting because they have to present a lot of information, in different formats, at the same time. All of this information has to serve a purpose and be actionable.

In Instacart's use case, the amount of highly specific information that had to be shown on screen made the UI feel cluttered and jarring, which could overwhelm the users. One of the most persistent pieces of feedback from the Live Ops team was that they would like the tool to direct them to where to look for the most important information so they can act on it quickly.

Conceptualization.

Once I created a very rough idea of what the product looks like and how it may function, I decided to work backwards from that vision and focus on the building blocks of the experience. Through collaboration with the Live Ops team, I created an information architecture to serve as the scaffolding for the design.

This is the roadmap for users to begin their journey and complete their goals. They enter into the experience through a home dashboard that consists of 4 main components:

a search function, insights & analytics, alerts, and the map itself.

The visual anatomy also began to take shape as we explored what information needs to be presented and how. I knew that visually the UI should be light, and have a true focus on the task at hand. Andrew and I were able to simplify the visual architecture to 3 parts. The map control bar, the side panel, and the interactive map.

Map Control Bar

The map control bar is where the team can search, adjust settings, and control parameters that will affect the other elements.

Interactive Map

The interactive map allows users to easily navigate all Instacart locations, quickly switch between zones, and get a bird's eye view of what is happening in the area so they can take action.

Information & Action Panel

This panel serves as the main acton for the experience. The information from the map view is reflected on the information panel allowing users to never lose context and take action immediately.

Iteration.

As the experience continued to evolve, the visual direction as well as the overall user flow became clearer. The feedback from the associated teams became less in depth and at that point the UX team felt that we have roughed out a viable solution.
As the experience continued to evolve, the visual direction as well as the overall user flow became clearer. The feedback from the associated teams became less in depth and at that point the UX team felt that we have roughed out a viable solution.

After three months of research, iterations, and reviews the Extreme Events Management Command Center vision begins to materialize.

From sticky notes and sketches to an entirely reimagined workflow and an intuitive new tool.

Finalization.

Monitor.

A birds eye view of all weather events and potential local disruptions across the U.S. and Canada. Both real time and future data is displayed on the map, with the most important events being highlighted, all with the help of A.I.

Research.

A birds eye view of all weather events and potential local disruptions across the U.S. and Canada. Both real time and future data is displayed on the map, with the most important events being highlighted, all with the help of A.I.

Plan.

Make confident decisions on issues that can have monumental impact on business and lives.

Communicate.

In a few seconds, send status updates about active events to stakeholders,  internal teams, and even retailers alerting them of potential fulfillment disruptions.

Intervene.

Create temporary or permanent changes to stores in an instant, being able to save time, money, and even divert disaster.
From this point, the Live Ops team can now create a sharable version of the map to send to stakeholders and retailers. This version of the map would be read-only, only showing important information that is not editable. This process will take the place of countless channels such as slack, back-and-forth e-mail communication, and even Jira tickets.

Wrap Up

In the end, we were able to preset this vision to Instacart's Global Head of Design where we explained the vision and it's potential business impacts in the future. This vision quickly spread and became one of our leading initiatives company wide. Through our research and testing phas, we realized that not only could we cut $500k from our operation monitoring costs, this new tool has the potential to garner over $1M in revenue if we took our internal operation tool public. This tool could revolutionize operation monitoring and intervention across all industres.

Why?

This team has been underserved for a very long time, The Live Ops team is responsible for monitoring the health of all Instacart assets and ensuring that, in the case of incident, we can create solutions to advert catastrophe. With such a crucial role, the team needed a tool that would match the importance and severity of their work.

In short, the Live Ops team needed attention. As I got to know the team I realized they were making the best of what they had, but I knew they deserved better.

What?

I set out to create revolutionary tool that cut down on the total number of tools that the team uses. This vision was never meant to be a quick patch, but instead an end-to-end rework or how the Live Ops teams complete their goals. Instead of multiple tools in different places, I wanted to create a home for all live-ops work, as well as research and communication within our internal Instacart platform

With the help of A.I. we created a new way of work forth team that can predict disruptions to Instacart's fulfillment, intervene on them, and advert disaster. We took inspiration from the tools they currently used then found ways to make them better and more tailored for our team. We listened to every pain-point they had, empathized with them, and built a solution that addressed all their concerns. This first-of-its-kind tool would speed their process up by at least 50%, while saving Instacart, as well as retailers millions in lost revenue.  Most importantly, being able to be notified as well as action on event even quicker will save the lives of millions of our shoppers.

Next?

As the map tool was sent up the chain of design at Instacart to assess how many resources it would need to build this tool, I did not want to leave the team without solutions to their current problems. While the team changed, I remained on the project to ensure it was built with our main purpose in mind. I worked backwards to build the foundation of the Extreme Event Management Tool as well as create solutions that served a need in the present.

In the first phase of designing a present version of the EEMC, we desicded to focus on key internal areas that we could ship very quickly, while creating the structure that will one day house the full map experience. Check out the work I did on the first phase of implementation here:

I Design Stuff.