SYSTEM DESIGN

Mine Management System

A system designed

for the Responsible Sourcing Assurance Programme to manage ASM mines throughout their membership lifecycle. 

BRIEF

Design a digitalized client management system that is driven by rapidly growing registered members located throughout the pilot country, Sierra Leone. The collaborative mine management platform aims to ensure and monitor the implementation of the GemFair artisanal small-scale mined (ASM) standard programme and creates opportunities for businesses to leverage data, address user, business and sustainability goals. The platform is an integrated system that involves many entities including partners, operation teams and services.

MY ROLE

Lead Product Designer 

Project Manager

Team Lead

System Design is an advanced form of design practice where multidisciplinary teams apply human-centred design and work with the entire system's components, partners, processes, data and industry experts to deliver sustainable solutions. (Nur Karadeniz)

THE PROBLEM

The old paper and spreadsheet-based management system was unable to accommodate a rapidly growing business 

The number of mine sites is growing rapidly, from 14 to 100 plus sites in a year which exceeds what can be tracked manually (paper-based).


Lack of efficient methods causes insufficient communication between teams in Sierra Leone and London.


The system is incapable of capturing and tracking the data that the business requires.


Buyers and auditors have little insight into the status of a mine site when purchasing diamonds.

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How might we create a sustainable and scalable system while the training programme is not yet refined and allow users to adjust and iterate along the way?


How might we create an easy and adaptive step-by-step migration tool for users from cross-functional teams?


How might we build a customer relationship management system for an unstructured but emerging sector (ASM)?

CHALLENGES

Build a scalable and sustainable management system to monitor and track a newly-formed and consolidated training programme for over a hundred and continually growing mine sites in a developing country

MY ROLE

I led the design and project management for the client management system. I created new ways for the apps to work and implemented a sustainable and scalable practice that helps the team with collaboration and assists the business in implementing best practices.

I conducted user interviews to understand the pain points and uncover the gaps throughout the user journey. I also facilitated several brainstorming workshops. 

User insights & ideation
System design & coordination

I designed across and collaborated with three platforms' stakeholders and users to create a system that provides a connected and seamless user flow.

Cross-functional collaboration

I facilitated several workshops dedicated to bringing in cross-functional teams into the design process. Collaborating with different professions brought wider perspectives and new ideas.

I planned the project with the users' needs in mind while aiming to meet the business goals. Partnering with the Lead Engineer, we prioritised and negotiated features for launch and beyond.

Planning & Scope definition
Design Execution & Validation

I led user testing sessions along with the engineering team to evaluate the design decisions. I prioritised the tasks according to user feedback and negotiated features for launch and beyond.

Leadership & Strategy

I presented the design to illustrate the vision and the direction of the project to gain buy‐in from executives, stakeholders and the engineering team. I provided stable direction and guidance through a change in the team members.

 

DISCOVERY

KICK-OFF

Get everyone on board

Problem statement / Project scope / Vision / Business value

I started the project with a kick-off session to ensure the whole team was aligned with the problem that we are facing and aiming to solve. I then presented some preliminary design concepts to the team, to turn the abstract idea into a shared vision to illustrate the future direction we are heading together. Then, along with the team, we agreed on project scope and high-level product phases that will contribute to business value.

It was essential to include the whole team in this meeting to get people’s feedback from different functions. The meeting's goals were to make sure everyone’s voice was heard, ensured people were clear with their roles in the project and reach agreement on the roadmap.

VISION

High-level goals

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Ability to manage and track the full membership lifecycle.

Includes miner engagement in participating in the GemFair ASM programme.

Keeps relevant stakeholders informed with timely updates.

Digitalises data entry to manipulate data better and provide insights for business strategy, and to give decision-makers relevant analytics ideas.

EMPATHISE

Stakeholder interview

Started by interviewing all the stakeholders to understand their current workflows and pain points.

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PROGRAMME/OPS

The Programme Manager has primarily developed the GemFair membership programme, and the OPs team execute the agenda and reports back to the Programmer Manager. The two, therefore, are the primary users of this system.

 

The interview uncovered the most significant pain point is the lack of monitoring and communication tools to help the Programme Manager to oversee the implementation of the GemFair standard programme. Due to various events (outreach, onboarding, training and spot check) happening in different locations with different teams, there were no sufficient tools for the OPs team to manage, keep record or report.

Everything required manual input and heavily relied on memories and verbal communication. 

Information generally got lost and there was no centralized portal for recordkeeping.

VISUALISE THE PROBLEMS

From the interviews, insufficient communication and lack of visibility of the GemFair programme implementation were the most significant pain points. Hence space for a transparent and continual discussion was needed.

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BUSINESS DEV

From a business dev point of view, it is key to understand the traction of miners showing interests in joining GemFair (lead) in becoming GemFair members, then further downstream, in selling their products (diamonds) to GemFair. Through the AARRR traction metric, the business can understand how to improve the performance from the data we gather through the designed system.

The product thus needs to be able to capture all the representable data points to be able to help the business in developing strategic plans.

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ASM MINING EXPERTS (mining industry regulation etc.)

From a legal point of view, I consulted with industry experts for comprehensive due diligence to meet the strict set of core OECD requirements for Responsible Supply Chains of Minerals. This led to further understanding of required legal documents, standard training and health and safety guidelines, etc.

The product thus needs to be able to prove it follows industry guidelines and best practice procedures.

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SIERRA LEONEANS - MINERS & STAFF

To understand the local aspect of how Sierra Leonean culture affects the mining industry in Sierra Leone, a large part of my research involved conducting a user-centred research field trip to Sierra Leon, which helped us extensively. From the research, we understood that religion plays an essential part in their life and therefore the mining activity and personal life activity are both circled around their beliefs. And this is something I considered in the design process.

DEFINE

COLLABORATION

System map 🗺️

After the discovery phase, I was able to map out the journey of establishing a new client relationship (new mine). I created the system map which is a three-dimensional map that includes:

Horizontal (time): is the journey map that described the mine lifecycle (time)

Vertical (place): is everything we interact with the mine lifecycle and we make it into a system.

Depth (data collection): is where we make sure we will be able to measure the success metric through the AARRR (Acquisition, Activation, Retention, Referral and Revenue) framework.

Mapping out the relationship between the three helps to understand where the events occurred, what user needs are at a certain time, what the expected deliverables are to allow a miner to move forward to the next stage, and what kind of data needs to be collected when looking at the system from a holistic viewpoint.

 

The system map identifies the opportunities where digital products can help to link and connect the gaps between individual events and create value for the business.

 
PLANNING

Break it down ✂️

After I shared the insights from the discovery phase and presented the system map and the pain points from each stakeholder to the whole product team, we started brainstorming sessions to find opportunities that we can explore to solve the current problems.

 

At the end of the planning session, we created a roadmap which prioritized "Onboarding" and broke down the project into 2-week sprints. This was to help to define and build the infrastructure of the mine system.

BREAK IT DOWN

DEFINE

Define the framework 

1/1

The most important part before starting to build the product is to define the status of the mine ("mine state"). The mine management tool ultimately needed to manage a mine from the beginning of its journey until the mine disconnects with GemFair. However, the journey isn't necessarily linear.

The challenges here were with the limited understanding of the opaque ASM mining structure. Considering all the possible scenarios, I defined seven mine states and created the framework with flexibility to scale and change to meet conditions.

Finally, after giving definitions to all mine states, the key was to make sure everyone was aligned with them.

 

Concept design

CREATE

User flow

From the discovery phase, we understood the onboarding event happens between players in three different locations. The task for us, therefore, became how we might design suitable tools for each player and how the tools would seamlessly connect with each other.

I created the user flow to show the end-to-end onboarding journey with the leading player at each stage along with his/her key activities and tools for data collection. 

For the next step, the product team focused on two directions simultaneously. For design, I focused on designing individual products, and for software engineering, the developers worked on connecting the different platforms to ensure the feasibility of tech solution.

CREATE 

Low-fidelity prototype

I created the wireframe to show how stakeholders would interact with the app, how the data would flow from app to app (input), and when events would trigger notifications (output).

NOTIFICATIONS

SMS & Email

The connected system is a collaborative tool which holds all the inputs and data of multiple users. To make it work more efficiently, I designed automated notifications triggered by defined events, to alert users to time-sensitive actions, provide a high-level summary of mine statuses, etc.

EXAMPLES OF NOTIFICATIONS

MASTER SHEET FOR DEFINED EVENTS

CREATE

Roll-out plan

Due to the project being across two countries and also the challenges of internet connectivity in Sierra Leone, I divided the roll-out plan into two phases and worked with the team to implement the plan accordingly. This gave us the chance to learn and test out the product before the system was fully integrated from the back-end.

Phase I (2-3 sprints):

Launched an open-source offline data collection platform (KoboToolbox) along with paper-based onboarding that would feed into the web app. Users could test the feasibility of KoboToolbox's online/offline survey app feature and also experience the new digital implemented onboarding flow.

Test & Learn & Improve :

After Phase I, I gathered feedback from the users who participated in the onboarding process and made a few iterations before launching Phase II.

Phase II :

Link kobo KPI directly to the web app. In Phase II, we launched the connected onboarding flow from KoboToolbox to the GemFair web app and then to the mobile app with a minimum requirement from manual input. 

 

Launching in two phases increased the efficiency in product development and allowed us to learn and adapt quickly from user feedback. It also helped our small team deliver features in time and prioritise tasks. 

Detailed interaction and visual design

The previous design had a “flat” layout which only presented a list of data with insufficient labels, filters or parameters to allow the user to find the most useful and meaningful information. With new data and insights being collected and an opportunity to redesign the interface, I was able to rethink and improve the information architecture to provide a better experience for our users.

 

My focus areas for the interface redesign:

Differentiated information in a suitable layout

Reduced the time for the user to consume the information by providing a reasonable and prioritised layout for a visual aid to help the user navigate through the site

eg. through typography, colours, labels, shapes and forms.

Added micro-animations

Add micro-animation for status changes and notifications to give the user confidence that the changes have been made and the system is processing.

Added and refined validation and error messages

Added validation for onboarding form on KoboToolbox for better integration with the GemFair app. Added validation to avoid false data being saved and to prevent the user from progressing into the next step with errors.

Improved typography and aligned input & output format

Reviewed the font size & weight for accessibility. Changed symbol colours to highlight the mandatory fields.

Added the flexibility to input in upper or lower case but aligned the output format to be consistent.

Refined terminology

We discovered terminologies that didn’t align between the London & Sierra Leone teams, so we aligned all the terminology and highlighted the changes when launching the deployment.

UI

Landing page

I designed three different views for the landing page to meet the diverse needs of the users.

List view:

Provides the overview of high-level mine information and high-lights events which provides the user with timely information.

Map view:

Shows the location of each mine, which lets users plan visits and provides insights for business strategy.

Schedule view:

Displays the past/current/future events happen in each mine to monitor the engagement and performance of each mine.

UI

Onboarding

The progress bar gives users a clear view of where they are and when they can submit the form. The padlock separates the responsibilities between different users -> Admin v.s. Reviewer.

INTERACTION DESIGN

Onboarding - Increase user confidence

Products should be designed in a way that they gain trust from the user and have a smooth and seamless user experience incorporated by the designer. 

See how it works here:

UI

Mine state

Where users can view a mine's history and update its state.

TEST

FEEDBACK

User testing

Before we launched the onboarding system, I organised four user testing sessions. Each session included one user, one developer and me as the host(Lead Designer). The main purposes for each user testing sessions were not only to learn from our users, but I also wanted to encourage developers who normally sit behind their computers (with headphones 🎧 on) to hear what users were saying directly. 

Image: one of the user testing sessions.

Through the user testing sessions (two in-person and two through Zoom), I received mostly positive feedback from the users and they all expressed that they couldn't wait to start to use it. Also, the feedback from developers was very positive as well. They found the sessions were informative and worthy of their participation and to learn about user behaviour.

The full user testing report is available upon request.

Here are some tips for effective user testing:

Ask user to user their own device

We’ve found unexpected user behaviour from observing how they used their devices. Since everyone has their own settings, eg default browser, screen size or use a mouse or touchpad or keyboard. Observing them interacted with the product with their own device taught us so much and gave us many valuable insights.

Invite non-direct users 

Some people may not be the direct use of your product however they can offer extensive suggestions that help the product to be more thoughtful and useful for the current users and create opportunities for increasing the user base.

Include developers and other disciplines

It is important to involve other workstreams to participate in the user testing session. Often they will find the user testing is very insightful and inspiring for them to get to know their user/consumer and product better for a different perspective in their own work.

Next

DELIVERY

Design

THE IMPACT

OUTCOME

Positive results

Having fully integrated the digital onboarding process since October 2019, we continue adding other mine management features to the system. So far we have received positive feedback from the users and the significant improvements allow for better allocation of human resources.

Here are some highlights:

Reassure and enhance GemFair brand equity 

The incorporated GemFair ASM standard programme in mine management system alongside with GemFair buying process reassures GemFair's promise of sourcing ethical diamonds and providing provenance and transparency of each diamond from the ASM sector.

Increased capacity to onboarding mine site 

Massively reduced the time for onboarding mine sites. Increased capacity to onboard mine sites from 25 a year to 25 or more a quarter.

Increased data accuracy and completeness

The mandatory fields and error messages significantly help to improve the quality of data recorded to the system.

Reusable and adaptable digital solutions significantly reduce development time for other business needs 

The connected system from different devices has built in a scalability way for other business requirements that allows quick implementation and much less time in development.

Provide accessible data to monitor performance through data-driven design

A data-driven design mindset from the start of the project helped to ensure to capture the data that will provide meaningful information for the business.

ITERATION

Refine onboarding process

Although the digital onboarding process significantly reduced the time to recruit a new member to the GemFair programme, the way for Admins and Reviewers to communicate had some difficulties. A comment field was not sufficient enough for users to exchange information.

 

Therefore, I added a categorizable conversation log feature which allows Admins and Reviewers to communicate through the onboarding process portal instead of diverting to email or other means of less efficient communication methods.

As soon as this feature deployed, I received positive feedback from the users mentioning this feature helps in clarifying their and decreasing the frustration from insufficient instruction.  

NEXT

MORE TO DO

Future efforts include adding other mine engagements into the system and gradually the more data we collect through the mine lifecycle the better we will be able to manage the mines.

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Incorporate other miner engagements including various training courses, record mine productivities and other regular checks into the mine management system.

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Add additional parameters to capture more relevant data and provide more comprehensive information. 

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Create a dashboard as a visualization tool to allow all users to understand the analytics that matter to their workstream and projects. 

 
 
 

© 2020 by Wei-Ting Fu