Role: Head of Product

Duration: ~1 Year

NOTE: All of the app screen shots included here came from Jeremy Wilt and Kris McDonald, two of the most amazing designers in the world!

My first priority when I joined Acosta was to develop a "Roadmap for Retail". We had ~9 different field tools supporting 11 different business models. The situation was mostly the result of acquistions through the years. Acosta is one of the leading companies in the US at ensuring that the shelves at your local grocery store, Walmart, etc., are stocked and merchandised correctly.

Unfortunately, getting everyone to buy into the idea of rataionlizing our tools was not that simple. For the people running those businesses, responsible for those customers (and revenue), change was the last thing they wanted.

People really needed to know that I cared about their part of the organization, and their customers, as much as they did. This required spending time with people, listening to them, going out in the field visiting stores, doing ride-alongs, etc..

During those engagements, everyone wanted to express how they were different, and what I needed to do was find the elemenents everyone had in common...

"We send a PERSON to a LOCATION to perform an ACTIVITY and we PAY them."

Fortunately, taking the time to develop those relationships really paid off. People were appreciative of how I approached them and the work.

There were some twists and turns along the way...

As I was out learning learning about the needs of the organization, I discovered a new request that emerged from one of the biggest teams. They wanted to buy everyone Zebra Handheld Barcode Scanners. These Zebra devices were incredibly great at high-speed scanning of shelf tags in stores, however, it was quickly evident that people had fallen in love with the solution (of high-speed scanning) and hadn't really considered why we needed them, and how they would fit into our overall business.

  1. The devices were incredibly expensive (our business worked on margins)

  2. The devices had limited functionality beyond scanning

  3. And, most importantly, scanning shelf tags for out of stock products was a miniscule part of the business... besides, I'm sure our customers would much prefer we spend our time and money preventing out of stocks, not finding faster ways to report them

The comparison the teams loved to give when showing off how great the scanning was with the Zebra devices was to compare against the current platform that our Retail Reps had, which was an Samsung Galaxy Tablet, that was several generations old.

As you can see, it's hard to scan a small barcode when you have a giant device obstructing your view!

What I had not shared with them yet was that I wanted to get rid of the Tablets and replace them with smaller devices... my hypothesis was that a smartphone with a good camera would be comparable to a dedicated hardware based scanner, like the Zebra device. I grabbed a Software Engineer and a modern Smartphone with a good camera and built a functioning barcode scanner app to test my hypothesis.

We then got the team leads who were asking for the Zebra scanning devices and took them out to the stores and gave them both devices, and sure enough, they were convinced that a modern device with an improved camera would be good enough, especially given how limited the shelf tag scanning needs were.

(screen shot from MVP of actual product)

A lot of work went in to picking the right device, defining the functionality for the MVP and picking the teams that would get the first release.

We wanted to set the proper ambition level, so instead of calling it an MVP, we called it an ELP, our Earliest Lovable Product. We wanted to be able to communicate why we were doing it, and how we would measure success.

As part of the work, we also wanted to have a more robust and detailed understanding of where we were headed, so we took the time to build out an future state entity-relationship model.

After a years worth of work, we had a strong foundation to build on and had started development on a platform that we knew woul differentiate us from our competitors.