In this three part series, Road to the New Moisture, we're interviewing various Product, Design, and Dev team members to learn more about how they worked together to create our new game-changing Moisture tool. In this post, we sat down with Mike Kirkup, CTO, and Paul Greenwood, VP of Product Management, to learn how they started the discovery process and 'got the ball rolling' on the new tool.
Can you tell us a bit about the initial planning that went into it?
Mike: “About a year ago, we made the decision that we needed to update our moisture product for a couple of reasons. The first was that the previous iteration of the moisture product lacked the ability to tie together what we call ‘Drying Chambers’ and ‘Rooms’, and information was lost because of that. As we saw the standards evolving for the IICRC, we couldn’t match the standards without being able to tie the two together. The second was that we know there’s a massive percent of claims that are moisture-based and we weren’t seeing that same percentage of claims in the product, which led us to believe that it was something that we needed to improve in our product.”
What challenges did you want to solve?
Paul: “Ease of use and enabling the field person to do their job effectively and quickly.”
What were you hearing from customers? What did they want in a moisture tool?
Mike: “This is one of the hardest products I’ve ever worked on. The tool needed to be simple enough for a junior tech with little water experience, while robust enough to handle complex claims that a Certified Restorer with 15 plus years would be working on. Building a product that fits both types of user needs was extremely difficult. Our old moisture product was built for people with a lot of experience with water or moisture. But with this new tool, we had to make it easy for everybody to use it. So when we look at that goal of making it for different people, that’s what drove a lot of the decisions, trade-offs, and compromises as to how those different parts fit together.”
How did you learn about how a moisture tool should work?
Paul: “I went out to see different customers do their job: drop a dehu, take the meter readings, and go through the steps of what they needed to do. I found watching them do their job invaluable and I brought what I learned back here.”
Mike: “We had four key assets. We had data from the existing product: we knew what meters people were using, what materials they used them on, and how many readings they took. We had data we could mine to help us answer questions that would traditionally be tricky to answer. The second part was that we spent a lot of time in the field to make sure that we could see how people were using our existing product and where they were falling down. We also have a design team who understands how people think, how they react to technology, their behaviors, and the different personas we were building for. They spent a lot of time learning about how we build something that’s really easy to use. The last part is that we have an on-staff certified restorer and people who understand moisture really well. So bringing all those together, is what gave us the opportunity to build a product that we think is unrivalled. This is only possible because we had all of those pieces, if you took any one of those away, our product would have suffered because of it.”
What did you learn through this process?
Paul: (Laughs) “We didn’t know what we were getting into.”
Mike: “Mitigation does not equal Moisture.”
Paul: “We had our own ideas in the early 3-4 months. We had this plan and vision that we pressure tested against reality and it blew up in our face. So the continuous pressure testing, the iteration going around and around, that innovation loop is invaluable.”
Mike: “I would say internally, a lot of it was just us learning how to work together. When we started this project, we had a brand new product manager and design team, so how we all worked together was a big part of what we learned internally through this process.”
What would you say were the biggest challenges?
Mike: “Undoubtedly, the biggest challenge was balancing the different users. The majority of your losses are going to have a single atmosphere and a small number of rooms, with a relatively small number of moisture points and equipment. So we want to build for that, but the flip side is that the product has to have the ability to handle the complexity of a large commercial loss where you’re drying a gymnasium with multiple different atmospheres that are impacting one another.
One of the core tenets of Encircle when we first built it, was that we’re not forcing a workflow. We’re not making them do something at a certain point of time. We appreciate what it’s like to be in the field and watch everyone work and go ‘listen I’m not gonna hook the dehu back up to do a reading before I remove it from the place because the policyholder has done a really nice job of wrapping everything up and making it easy for me to take the stuff out.’ And so when you don’t enforce workflow, the trade-off is that people can do it in whatever order they want, and that can make the user experience tricky. We battled a lot internally over minimizing the number of hard lines in the sand. So there are only two or three of those in the entire moisture product and we’re really proud of that. It took a lot of time and effort to ensure that we were making the right trade off”
Paul: “Finding those parts where we had to break our tenet and force the user to do something, I think that was our biggest struggle.”
What is something you are really proud of?
Mike: “When you get in the product and you take a reading and the blue screen pops up and gives you the option to go back and take another reading or add a material. We call this 'The Looper' as it allows you to short circuit the process to go back and save a whole bunch of clicks to be like 'I’m still in this room, I’m still placing equipment, let me preset all these things and make it really easy’.”
Paul: “Of the things we’ve done, Pete and Gianni coming up with that Looper solved so many of our problems.”
Mike: “The separation between Create a Drying Plan, Take a Reading, and Place Equipment. That for me is the place where we separated between the two users, which I still found was the hardest thing that we had to do. Coming up with that model of making it easy for an advanced user to jump in and start drawing a sketch and pull up calculators, compared to other users who are taking readings and putting equipment in, making that a simple trade-off is probably my favorite part of the product.”
Is there anything that you would want the user to know about Moisture?
Mike: “How complex this product is. It could be its own company and product. We did a massive amount of work in a very short period of time.”
Paul: “I would go on site and people would ask ‘how is this all being built’ and I would say ‘well imagine this entire boardroom full of photos and designs’ and they couldn’t imagine it. I think that part would give them an idea of what it took to build this.”
Mike: “I think we’re up to 36 different looper screens now. And to the end-user they’re like ‘oh yeah that’s just the blue screen’ but there’s all these different variations of the blue screen to handle all the different scenarios.”
Mike: “We’re going to continue to evolve. We’re proud of what we have in the market right now but there’s lots of things we can do to continue to evolve it. We’re not done yet. People should stay tuned as we continue to improve the product.
You don’t spend the amount of time and effort that we have spent on Moisture to just stop. This is a very important area for Encircle and something that we’re investing in heavily to create a product that is unlike anything else in the market.”
Want to know more about our New Moisture tool? Click the button below to visit our Moisture page to learn about the exciting features.