How Wrangler Enables Partnership, Rider Safety, and Operational Efficiency

How Wrangler Enables Partnership, Rider Safety, and Operational Efficiency

by Bob Mallon

Bob is VP of Product Development, managing the product and engineering teams at Zagster. He defines success as building well-designed and useful software tools that are essential for Zagster’s micro-mobility operations platform.

BobMallon.jpg

Bob Mallon

VP of Product Development

In my first post about Wrangler, I introduced you to the platform’s functionality and use. In this post, I’ll describe exactly how we purpose-build Wrangler to enable collaboration among our employees, shared mobility partners, and the communities we serve. The focus will be on Wrangler as an enabler of partnerships to drive operational excellence and provide a community-first approach.

Agility for Tracking a Moving Target

As you’ve likely noticed through the media in the last few years, the micro-mobility market is evolving at a dizzying pace. New companies and vehicles spring into being seemingly overnight, and new business models arrive along with them. One of the questions we had to ask ourselves while developing Wrangler was how we could avoid building a solution that addresses today’s problems (or more likely, yesterday’s) but isn’t adaptable to the new business models that might be coming down the road.

With Wrangler, we focused on common operational features of any micro-mobility solution (such as finding, fixing, charging, and moving) as part of our effort to get the right vehicle to the right place at the right time in the right condition. We didn’t embed processes that only work for a specific  vehicle type or for the unique attributes of an individual community, but instead created a menu of tasks that could be adapted for potential use in future mobility solutions and by a variety of partners. We’re hardware agnostic, assuming that the scooter of today might not look like the rentable hoverboard of tomorrow, but they are both going to need to unlock, tell us their location, and report how much battery they have remaining.

IMG_0085.PNG

We harnessed our years of experience in mobility solutions to understand the key drivers of value. At every design step, we paused and asked ourselves whether the solution would work 6, 12 or 24 months out, across a wide range of possible future scenarios. The end result, as embodied by Wrangler, gives Zagster the confidence to work today and tomorrow with any partner and community. No matter how the future of micro-mobility evolves, we can take care of the vehicles and enable riders to get around the cities they love!

Listening to our partners (and our people!)

Zagster has two critical sets of external partners: the brands that offer micro-mobility solutions and the communities (and campus hosts) who care about how micro-mobility solutions can provide better transportation options for people. Both of these groups have high expectations for their operations partner, and are looking for insight and transparency into how operations are going. The good news is that, via Wrangler, we can now generate key reports and feeds that satisfy both sets of partners. We also developed our micro-mobility data specification to ensure that we can exchange data with any partner via a few key APIs.

To design a good operations platform, you have to get your hands dirty. For engineers, that means getting out of the office, experiencing on-the-ground operations firsthand, and forging relationships with the users of our tools. Nothing makes you understand the life of a rebalancer more than actually meeting them at the warehouse at 4:45 AM and joining them on their shift. We listen to our market managers to understand the priorities of our city/campus partners, we talk to manufacturers to understand how their hardware and IoT communications work, and we have Operations Managers in our design sessions, literally from day one. These close collaborations inform how we build and what we build, and always will.

We have a ‘philosophy’ on Micro-mobility Ops

IMG_0080.PNG

At Zagster, we bring our field workers onboard as employees instead of treating our work tasks as just another side gig. We’re not looking to provide a tool that encourages fly-by-night opportunities that come and go. We knew right off the bat that we weren’t going to enable bounties or set up a race to the bottom within our tools (see the comic, "My Very Brief Career as an E-Scooter Charger"). At the same time, we were wary of being overly prescriptive. Our people are not robots and we are not running an Amazon warehouse, so trying to dictate a recipe for every step of their day also felt like a very bad approach.

What we’ve tried to do in building Wrangler is to find an optimal place that's philosophically in between these two extremes. So, yes, we dispatch tasks via Wrangler, and can highlight top priorities. But we also allow our workers to create their own tasks and make things right when they see a situation on the ground that’s unsafe or out of balance. One of the amazing things you learn as you travel around a community with a micro-mobility team is how well they know the layout of their home turf. We want our software to say to our people in the field, "this is your market: you ‘own’ it. We trust and empower you to do the right thing.”

What comes next

Now that we have released the first version of Wrangler, we've already identified a huge number of opportunities to automate tasks that are done manually or require human intervention today.  For instance, we're introducing machine learning to identify vehicles likely to go missing and to predict when a vehicle might need maintenance, both of which help us ensure there are enough vehicles for everyone who wants to take a ride.

Screen Shot 2019-04-08 at 12.16.40 PM.png

Operations isn’t only about making sure that vehicles get fixed, charged or picked up every day. We want to help our shared mobility partners drive more rides, and ultimately be successful and profitable. So if we can leverage Wrangler to put the vehicles where we know there's going to be rider demand, that has great effects on the success of that market. The end result of all this collaborative development? Happy partners and communities.

Have questions, or feedback on Wrangler? Or want to suggest a feature? Get in touch with me at bmallon@zagster.com.