When Mike Myers joined Gopuff, the grocery delivery platform was growing at a breakneck pace. They had recently raised a $1.2 billion Series G round and acquired California-based alcohol delivery start-up BevMo! New fulfillment centers were popping up across the country and new employees were pouring into the company.
“It was controlled chaos,” Myers recalls. “We were growing at such a rapid rate and we were trying to get our heads wrapped around it.”
While hypergrowth was a significant challenge for Gopuff’s mature business units like marketing, sales, and operations, it was doubly tough for IT, which was just a few months old.
For most of Gopuff’s seven-year life, IT was a shared responsibility. If an employee had a technical query or hardware problem, they asked for support via Slack. Someone from engineering or product would eventually see the message and do their best to help.
For the most part, the ad hoc process did work. While a couple of requests fell through the cracks, most were picked up and resolved. There was a “brothers and sisters in arms” mentality, according to Myers. People pulled together and looked out for one another.
But as Gopuff’s growth picked up pace, its old informal process began to falter.
With IT requests spiking and more engineering resources being diverted to help, the company’s leadership realized things had to change. They brought onboard proven technology leader Jenna Gradel as IT director in June 2020 and recruited two support managers, of which Myers was one, in the spring of 2021. Despite its small size, Gopuff’s fledgling IT team has driven outsized impact at the company.
A HANGOVER FROM THE IT CROWD
Throughout his career, Myers has experienced IT as an island. His departments have sat apart from the core business, always absent from strategic conversations. As a peripheral business unit, IT has been beholden to no one and everyone. Myers recalls one role where he reported to a half-dozen different managers because no one really knew where he belonged.
How a valuable and business-critical department acquired this reputation is a complicated question—but Myers has his theories.
“I'm not going to blame it on the TV show, The IT Crowd but it definitely played a part,” he laughs. “It’s only just leveraged when somebody needs something immediately.”
But at Gopuff, under the auspices of Jenna Gradel, the IT department emerged as something entirely different. Gradel integrated IT into the engineering team and petitioned to have support employees classified alongside developers, data scientists, and engineers. Her efforts were successful and Myers joined a respected and trusted IT team.
At Gopuff, IT is treated as an asset, not an island. They’ve been able to leverage their new position to acquire a strategic voice.
FROM TRANSACTIONAL WORK TO STRATEGIC INFLUENCE
One of the first projects for the new IT team was overhauling Gopuff’s ad hoc, Slack-driven support process. The transformation was driven by Gradel and completed before Myers arrived—but he says the scale of the initiative was enormous. Gradel corralled several different departments, designed new processes, and rolled out Freshservice as a dedicated help desk, all the while dealing with the exacting demands of growth.
While an accomplishment in and of itself, the roll out of Freshservice isn’t where the story ends. As a new strategic-thinking business unit, Myers and his colleagues began thinking about how else they could harness a powerful tool like Freshservice across the organization. One of the most recent applications they discovered was merchandising.
To understand how Freshservice supports merchandising, you need to know how the whole business operates. Gopuff buys all of its products: ice cream, soda, candy, whiskey, shampoo, popcorn, the list goes on and on. They store everything in 300 fulfillment centers scattered across the country. When someone places an order, it’s packed, shipped, and delivered in 30 minutes or less.
Confusingly, the merchandising team behind such a grand operation isn’t large. In fact, it’s just two people. As Gopuff grew, they spent steadily more of their working day fighting through a barrage of Slack messages from colleagues. Eventually, it became untenable.
Myers and his team approached merchandising and offered to help. On the face of it, it appeared to make little sense. How could merchandise leverage an IT service management desk? But Myers saw things differently. Just as his team fielded IT support requests, the merchandising team dealt with product questions, queries, and issues. Although it was designed for a radically different vertical, Freshservice was perfect for the job.
“We rallied the merchandising folks and said, ‘Let me show your new best friend, Freshservice,’ he recalls.”
The system design was tricky, but the real challenge was implementation. Gopuff’s employees were accustomed to using Slack. They had been using it for seven years by this point. When something went wrong with a shipment of hair conditioner, they automatically went to Slack, not Freshservice.
To break their muscle memory, Myers called on a colleague, an IT project manager named Matt Muscella. The “technical wizard” realized the transformation required real-time behavior correction. It wasn’t enough to send out a weekly memo asking people to use Freshservice. They needed to remind people when they were actually asking for help.
Muscella designed a Slack bot to monitor their channels and search for keywords. Whenever it discovers someone asking for help, it triggers an automated message saying, “Your best bet is to submit a Freshservice ticket.”
The bot had an instant impact. Live prompts drove people away from Slack and onto Freshservice. In a few weeks, Slack usage for merchandise support requests fell from 95% to just 5%.
ONE TOOL. SIX DEPARTMENTS
Merchandising is one of the most interesting applications of Freshservice within Gopuff, but it’s hardly the only one. According to Myers, his team supports a gamut of functions via the IT service management platform.