VP of Product Development
Wrangler, Zagster’s technical platform for supporting our fleet management business, was purpose built for micro-mobility. Today’s post discusses the three cornerstones of our approach to matching our engineering capabilities with the ever-evolving needs of the industry.
An internal customer is still a customer!
Often, software organizations build their products for sale to other companies or for the consumer market. A critical aspect of many successful product development teams is their relentless focus on the needs of their customers. Keeping the customer centered in the engineering process requires the cultivation of constant feedback loops and mechanisms for gauging achievement against customer objectives.
At Zagster our technology team is 100% focused on enabling our internal operations teams to deliver superior service for our micro-mobility partners and the cities in which they operate. Everything we do is aligned with expanding our service capabilities, making our teams on the ground more efficient, and allowing us to adapt to the unique attributes of the markets and vehicles that we manage. Our “customers” live much closer to home than in many organizations, but feedback and input are just as centered in our development process.
Our product managers and engineers meet weekly with operations leadership to flesh out new concepts before we build them, to understand the current state of affairs on the ground, and to uncover the most significant gaps in standard procedures. We send messages daily to our operations supervisors in the field to ask for ideas and advice, and to gain input on what new information they need to run their operations within SLAs and budget constraints. Finally, we monitor feedback channels from our many field users, who not only find bugs, but often surface some of the most interesting ideas to improve our tools.
Cadence as a strategic weapon
Wrangler, our micro-mobility operations platform, was conceived in November of 2018, first released on desktop and iOS in March of 2019, and is now in widespread use in markets across the US. New features and capabilities have been released every two weeks since its debut in lockstep with the discovery of critical metrics and KPIs. In that time, we have added Android support, stood up a reporting platform, layered on user profiles, and adopted new app distribution methods. We created tools for warehouse operations, invented machine-learning based vehicle alerts, dispatched a multitude of new tasks types, and launched a repair tracking system.
Zagster’s operations team launches new markets in a matter of weeks and have cemented a process to hire and train a quality team on the ground in an extremely short period of time. In the same manner, our technology team has learned the importance of quick turnaround, rapid experimentation, and constant iteration to the success of that launch team. We strive to put new tools in their hands almost as quickly as they conceive of information gaps and the tactical needs of their associates.
One of our proudest moments came when our field team self-assembled across a number of geographies to brainstorm an efficiency solution to bridge certain staging activities between our late-evening and early-morning shift workers. They presented their requirements back to the technology team as a united front and demonstrated how much time they believed they could save every day. Needless to say, we not only prioritized this work in that very sprint, but we had it back in their hands within a few weeks from its conception.
A platform approach as an antidote to relentless change
It’s no secret that providing technological tools to a rapidly changing market is a challenge. The ecosystem of shared vehicles such as scooters, e-bikes, traditional pedal bikes and other emerging transportation options has been changing so rapidly that hardly a day goes by without a new company, transportation mode, or geographic market coming online.
Three years ago, Zagster was a bikeshare operator and our software tools were built to support a fairly simple rental process for bikes at fixed stations. As the market rapidly evolved, first via the dockless bike share boom, and later through the advent of electric scooters and the full flowering of the micro-mobility revolution, our team gained valuable experience in how to quickly react to a changing market. We had to rewrite apps to track free-floating assets, to directly market to consumers, to adopt new pricing schemes and promotions, to support the needs of geofenced cities, and to embrace the changing landscape of IoT devices and their connectivity standards.
As rewarding as that journey was, it was easy to feel whipsawed by the constant change.
When Zagster launched its fleet management business, we knew we needed a new Operations platform built from the ground up that would be able to adapt to our changing market without constant re-writes and ever-growing mounds of technical debt. We built Wrangler’s architecture to scale with any vehicle, with multiple partners, and across numerous geographies with a flexible task structure that could be easily adapted even when we couldn’t foresee the infinite requirements of a blooming market.
Why is this important? Technology and operations when developed in lockstep form the foundation of our growing business and provide a pathway to the future evolution of our industry.