Virtual Dialogue Web Platform

Root Inc.

The Virtual Dialogue Web Platform allows teams to synchronously explore and discover content to support organizational change initiatives in an engaging, digital experience.

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MESSA and its design logo are marks owned by Michigan Education Special Services Association, registered in the U.S.
Root Inc. helps organizations with strategic organizational change. They create solutions for Global 2000 organizations to connect their employees to their strategies and culture, build skills, and keep people engaged.

How do you get 5, 900, or 10,000 people to collaborate remotely during COVID?

Historically, Root facilitated in-person workshops using hands-on solutions like a Root Learning Map® experience to help their clients manage strategic change initiatives. As time went on, Root recognized that many companies were migrating to remote or hybrid work environments and created a digital experience to liberate them from unengaging video meetings.

With the onset of COVID-19 in early 2020 and their clients moving to a work-from-home model, Root needed a more robust platform.

While virtual meeting platforms exist, Root aimed to provide users with an opportunity for two-way conversation, to engage with multiple perspectives, and to deep dive into their organization’s strategy, financials, or processes.They wanted to create something similar to a whiteboard, where everyone’s voice could be heard in a fun, engaging, and meaningful way.

Goals

  • Transition from a static to a dynamic virtual experience that matches the energy of the Root Learning Map® experience
  • Create opportunity for organizations to have a stellar virtual experience for employees/stakeholders in these important discussions
There were a lot of opportunities for this to be an “execute what we tell you” situation. But Atomic’s approach was deliberate. We not only got what we were asking for, but we got a team of people who wanted to understand Root and elevate and improve on our ideas.

Nate Butki, Vice President

Coordinating Stakeholders

In addition to team members Grand Rapids and Atomic Object, this project brought together lots of different groups. Having this many cooks in the kitchen required a lot of coordination and a complex project schedule that balanced several timelines and sets of constraints.
Recycling data from the GR Public Services Department
Dozens of vendors with rewards of various sizes, types, and durations — recruited and coordinated by Local First
The myGRcitypoints information website, created by The Image Shoppe

Process

Atomic started the engagement with a remote kickoff. This included journey mapping, goal setting, and feature prioritization with Root stakeholders. By creating this web app, Root was building a critical digital footprint. This would enable them to augment organizational change capabilities and deliver increased value to clients who operate in a virtual, remote, or hybrid set-up.

The design and development happened simultaneously, with the delivery lead driving the product-thinking approach. As the design team delivered a new feature, the development team would consider the best way to implement it, informing the designs if needed.

This bootstrapping approach allowed the Atomic team to be agile and focus on the long-term product, setting up the Root team to find success once the project was over.

Technical Specs

Atomic designed the system architecture and wrote software and firmware for:

Custom Protocol
Reduces required bandwidth and handle collisions, allowing reliable transfer of a high volume of information through RF and cellular communications back to the data collection service.
Gateway Devices
Each is a Technologic TS 7800 single-board computer with a custom RF receiver. They run a combination of C and Ruby on an embedded Linux system.
Web App
A JRuby on Rails application using an Oracle database that deploys to IBM Websphere.

The delivery lead asked questions around the long-term life of the application:

  • What is the right thing to build now?
  • How do we decide the best thing to build?

Building a client lifecycle mindset ensures that an application is valuable, usable, feasible, and viable. This is crucial to ensure that the solutions implemented by the development and design teams work in the real world.

The design team focused on user experience and feature build-out, asking questions like:

  • How will a user interact with this tool?
  • Will they understand this workflow?
  • What are the sticking points?

These questions helped the Atomic team and Root prioritize the set of activities that would be offered to the users to get a holistic idea of how users would interact with the platform.

The development team focused on building out the digital map such that multiple users could interact with the tool at the same time.

This involved creating features like:

  • Cursor tracking: users can see other participants cursor movements as they navigate the activities
  • Live questions: users can type in answers and see the answers of their teammates in real-time
  • Drag & drop sorting: users can interact with blocks and see other users interacting

We like to think about the product instead of the project. A product lives on after a project is completed. We wanted to help Root develop that product mindset. A product isn’t a succulent that you can water once a week, it’s an orchid that needs special care in order to thrive.

Bella Olszewski, Atomic Consultant & Designer

Results

Participants have complete control of the experience without needing trained facilitators

Demos of the capabilities to clients have been successful, with every client wanting to learn more

The first release of the application was on December 9th, 2020 to 900 people.

Under the Hood

Atomic customized an off-the-shelf CMS solution. This allowed Root to create content for the Root Virtual Dialogue Application, enabling the team to focus effort on the real-time synchronization engine.

The web app offers a virtual Root Learning Map® experience that users can navigate on their own. Using the open-source framework SocketIO as a foundation, Atomic built a synchronization engine to let users work together, with all interactions and cursor movements reflected on participants' screens in real-time.

Long-term, it provides significant flexibility, enabling Root to offer a variety of dialogue-driven capabilities to clients, in addition to the virtual Root Learning Map ® experiences.

This application allows people to dialog, engage in discovery-based learning, and create shared meaning using intelligence that exists within an organization. It is a part of our past, present, and future.

Nate Butki, Vice President

The Atomic Team

Here are some of our current Atoms who worked on this project. Click their photo to read their bios!

Project domain(s)

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Services provided

Software Product Design
User Research
System Architecture
Information Architecture
Interaction Design
Visual Design
Software Development
Exploratory Testing
Deployment

Tools used

Contentful
Laravel
Leaflet
Node.js
React
Redis
Socket.IO
Typescript