Reducing reliance on product owners to find data. 

This is the story of how I guided a strategic pivot resulting in $27M labor cost savings, a 175% reduction in onboarding time, and a 530 % reduction in Time To Insights.  


At Target, I founded, built, and managed the team responsible for building internal Data Science software products that were used by hundreds of thousands of Team Members and Vendors alike. There were 8 main products my team and I supported:
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One day my Product Director partner came to me with a problem he wanted to solve:

Rob Koste

Director of Product

"Greenfield's mission is to become THE data reporting platform at Target, but almost no one can create a dashboard widget without someone walking them through it.

We need to improve the usability of the widget creation process."
Looking at the numbers paired with contextual inquiry study results, I noticed:

1. Only 3% of users were 'builders'

Only 3% of users currently were building cards. Some of this was undoubtedly due to the unintuitive, frustrating experience it was to create a card, but there were hundreds of thousands of users who just wanted to consume the data. We said we wanted to become THE data reporting and visualization platform, but we weren't resolving the real pain of the highest % of our user base. 

In fact, the users who had the worst experience were also our biggest active & potential user base.

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2. We were wasting $52M each year in preventable wasted productivity  

Because Beginner and Basic / Mid-level users couldn't easily use Greenfield, they were relying on Analysts & Product Managers to help them find data sets, reports, & dashboards they should have been able to find on their own. This correlated to a wasted $52 Million each year that was totally preventable if we only made it easier for people to find the data they needed more easily. 

3. 85% of active users couldn't find already created dashboard data & reports they needed to make billion-dollar decisions.

In fact, when we ran a hackathon-like internal "contest" to see how many of 35 teams of "mid-level" analysts could answer a data-related business question posed to them, only 15% were successful in the 1 week time limit. If teams of analysts couldn't do it, average business people with even less technical acumen didn't have a prayer. This wasn't only costing the company money in wasted productivity for "not my job" tasks, it was wasting even more for the analysts regular work as well. 


Armed with this new knowledge, we decided on a definitive plan of action:

1. Prioritize improving the data discovery experience.

We decided to focus upstream on the data discovery as it better aligned with our mission & the needs of the majority of our users. It was also a pre-requisite to really solving the widget usability problem.

2. Rethink the traditional, siloed interaction pattern between our data catalog and reporting tools.

  • Add contextual actions in both Greenfield and Data Portal (our data catalog tool). 
  • Standardize navigation across products to make the transition feel seamless. 

3. Personalize the search experience

Helped cut through the noise of millions of data assets and thousands of widgets was key. To do this, we: 

  • Personalized the hierarchy of the dashboard, widget, and data asset search results based on what we knew about the user (individual preferences/history, their role type, domain they work on, etc). 
  • Surfaced frequently used data sets (of both the individual and their role type) to the top. 

4. Design for less-technical users

We stopped assuming people already knew the data set or widget they needed. We:

  • Added compare tools to make choosing between data sets or widgets easier. 
  • Bubbled up commonly used "certified" data sets. 
  • Created role-based dashboards as a jumping off point. 


The results were felt quickly:


  1. We saved the company $27M in reduced wasted productivity costs. Analysts & Data Product Managers' time spent helping users find data sets & widgets was reduced drastically almost immediately. 

  2. Greenfield onboarding time decreased by 175%.

  3. 530% reduction in "Time to insights" 

When billion-dollar decisions are depending upon a product, it’s not just about quick fixes, but about finding the right ones. User-focused, data-informed UX Leadership is key to making that happen.

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