Inside Unravel Carbon
September 7, 2023

How We Built Our Improved Reporting Feature

Valeria Gonzalez, our product manager who led the effort, gave us an inside look at the feature’s development, and the journey from ideation to launch.

Amer Taleb
How We Built Our Improved Reporting Feature

In a series of meetings earlier this year, the team at Unravel Carbon was dealing with a difficult question.

As good as it was, there was a sense that the company’s reporting feature—which provides carbon emissions data—could be reimagined, revamped and made even better.

Specifically, that there was a way to take a feature that customers were using to export charts as PDFs, and evolve it into a robust tool capable of generating comprehensive analysis, dynamic commentary and unearthing valuable insights.

Also, it was suggested that to help organizations share these findings and their progress toward decarbonization more easily, there’d have to be a central focus on elegant data presentation, customizable reports, and being able to export in different formats.

The thought on everyone’s mind: which of these things would have to be compromised on, and eventually, left on the cutting-room floor?

The answer, as it turned out, was none.

While not every idea that was proposed during brainstorming made it into the final version of the tool, when it launched last month, the team had found a way to incorporate all of the functionalities listed above, which they’d prioritized from the outset, and quite a bit more as well. 

To get a better understanding of what it took to bring this project to fruition, we spoke with Valeria Gonzalez—our product manager who led the process of turning the feature from scribbles on a whiteboard into a powerful asset that companies can now leverage to communicate their environmental performance, and inform future strategies as well. 

Leading the project

Teamwork, more than anything else, is what brought the improved reporting feature to life, Valeria said.

In particular and from the outset, there were really two areas related to collaboration that she wanted to underscore. 

First, was that there’d be a strong emphasis on communication, and that each department—from engineering to design and sustainability—would feel that their expertise was truly being valued, and that their input was reflected within each iteration of the tool.

Second was that, by working closely with different teams, the product could be outstanding from a technical point of view, while also ensuring that the feature was designed in a way to maximize its utility for sustainability professionals.

To help achieve these goals, Valeria was able to draw upon a broad set of experiences from both her academic and professional background.

A graduate from Yale-NUS College with a degree in environmental studies, she’d also worked for e-commerce giant Shopee as a product manager.

"Environmental studies and product management have that interdisciplinarity in common,” Valeria said. “There's no way to solve a complex problem by approaching it from one angle. You need a varied set of tools and perspectives, and an ability to link them together, in order to arrive at a solution successfully."

From idea to finished product

To kickstart the project, the very first step was touching base with our in-house experts, and gaining a detailed understanding of what sustainability professionals would find most valuable within an emissions-related report. 

Testing the feature with the sustainability team and our graphic designer, Gabriella

Then, with our designers building mockups that incorporated these insights, the team was able to gain a clear sense of what the feature’s core capabilities would consist of, as well as how the presented data would be visualized.  

Once that was completed, the next phase was determining how Unravel Carbon’s platform would take a client’s results, and then manage the ensuing conversion into a shareable format. In particular, when it came to PowerPoint, the fact that PPTX consists of many moveable, editable components introduced a pretty high degree of complexity.

Here, our designers and backend engineers focused on pinpointing anything that could disrupt the integrity of a report's structure and presentation. Then, they’d develop solutions to enhance the feature, and make sure that it was both agile and sturdy enough to work properly within PowerPoint.

In the following stage, Valeria played a pivotal role in defining the logic behind the insights presented in each report, which meant ensuring that when “scenario X” occurred within the feature, “outcome Y” would always be shown in response.

Though in principle this may sound straightforward, in practice, the task was actually quite tricky since there was such a broad set of options and potential outcomes that had to be accounted for. Specifically, it was critical that the feature be able to adapt its commentary based on each customer’s individual profile and datasets.

After that, there was a constant stream of check-ins with the team, tweaking the design, and having everything reviewed by our in-house sustainability experts, including our Co-Founder and Chief Sustainability Officer, Marc Allen. Marc would evaluate different iterations of the feature, and then craft suggestions for modifying the tool and making it even more effective for chief sustainability officers.

We also opted for a pretty extensive level of testing—which included using data sets that varied greatly in size—to affirm that the tool was both durable and flexible enough to accommodate a wide range of customer needs.

Once the rounds of quality assurance had concluded, the feature was ready to launch, and since then, the response from clients has been incredibly positive.

The feature can generate emissions reports in just a few clicks

“After putting everything we had into this project, we just felt really happy, grateful and proud to see the reception from our customers,” Valeria said. “Knowing we were able to build something that’s truly making a difference has been deeply fulfilling for all of us."

The ups and downs

Though the project was completed successfully, the road to get there often felt like it was alternating between remarkable milestones and difficult setbacks.

In terms of challenges, while the team was able to incorporate what they felt were the most important functions into the feature, there were still other items that they wanted to add, but ultimately, decided to leave out in favor of something else. 

“The task was to deliver a product that fulfilled its original purpose—giving companies a reporting asset that could generate actionable insights—while keeping our timelines and resource constraints in mind,” Valeria said. “It’s worth mentioning that even if an idea wasn’t integrated this time around, there’s still a pretty good chance that we’ll be able to leverage and introduce it down the line.”

Another significant hurdle that had to be overcome was managing the intricacies of designing both within and for PowerPoint.

Though the PPTX format could be fairly stubborn to work with when it came to processing large data sets, the team felt that it was crucial to solve this puzzle, and have a customer’s insights be presented in a way that would be easy to use, edit and share.

Regarding the highlights, there were two that really stood out for Valeria: moments throughout the journey where she and the team could tell that they were making progress and inching closer to launching, and also, the very first time that she came across a prototype of the feature.

“It was awesome to see this beautiful, tailored report that could be edited so easily,” Valeria said. “Our engineers, and the entire team, did a really amazing job.”

Chen, our Director of Technology, and Valeria, our Product Manager.

Long-term impact

Ultimately, Valeria said, her hope for the feature is that it leads to companies ramping up the pace of their sustainability efforts.

Though the tool has many facets, she feels that there’s one in particular which may prove to be the most impactful: the fact that the data within each report is presented in a way that’s highly actionable.

Knowing that you can take this information and realistically turn it into concrete steps, she said, is incredibly empowering for any business that’s seeking to lessen its carbon footprint.  

“As a company, everything we do is guided by our mission of accelerating the world’s progress toward decarbonization,” Valeria said. “Determining where you stand and identifying points within your operations that need attention is the first step toward net zero.”

Interested in learning more about our improved reporting feature? Read the full announcement here or request a demo here.

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