XCM Solutions

Long term design partnership of over 7 years to streamline UX efforts by filling in gaps in skill sets and setting up established design processes

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Enterprise UX

The Challenge

Re-engineering a complex legacy product currently used by over 35000 CPAs for business critical tasks.

XCM Solutions helps firms centralize tax, accounting, finance, and audit processes within a single platform for end-to-end, streamlined workflow management. The holistic view of all work-in-progress helps leading firms and tax departments balance workloads, proactively address bottlenecks before they become problems, and drive profitability.

XCM held a dominant position in its niche, but faced competition. Despite being one of the oldest products on the market with top Fortune 50 clients, its legacy user experience slowed growth. A major overhaul of the usability, interface, and visual design was needed, but the product was still popular with thousands of existing users who were familiar with its current layout.

The technology team was strong, but the design team struggled to keep pace with the company’s rapid growth. To maintain its edge, XCM needed to quickly expand its design team, modernize its legacy experience, establish a visual style guide and design system, and establish a process for informed product design decisions by all stakeholders.

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The Challenge

Getting an organization to shift focus onto design is hard. Especially when every change we made on the product – structure or flows – had ripple effects on the entire codebase.

XCM found themselves at just such a crossroad. Recognizing the need to both prioritize design within their organization and to improve the customer experience for the thousands of finance and taxation professionals who use their suite of applications, XCM brought on UX Design Labs to help define a path forward.

The Task

We were tasked with auditing and re-engineering existing applications. XCM needed a UX co-design team who could take ownership and whom they could rely on to ensure current and future applications were usable and consistent with the rest of their enterprise offerings.

They were also expanding on their product offerings, necessitating a few new product initiatives and also designing a scalable design system that could be extended by the development teams

While XCM focused on product vision, functionality, domain, and technology, UX Design Labs supported all design-related functions including Design Thinking, Innovation, Information Architecture, Interaction Design, Wireframing, Prototyping, User Testing, Visual Design, Design Systems, UX Recruitment, Resource Augmentation, and Training.

The Engagement

After evaluating the current state of XCM’s products, UX Design Labs carefully selected a team with complementary skills to support XCM’s strengths in UX documentation, interaction design, interface design, and front-end development. The goal was to provide XCM with a dependable, long-term design partner.

Our team collaborated closely with product owners, developers, customer service teams, and management to ensure efficient decision-making and roadmap planning. We aimed to deliver designs ahead of development sprints and continuously worked towards internalizing the design function within XCM.

UX Design Labs initially took on all design tasks, while also building and mentoring an internal design team at XCM. We provided resource augmentation, recruitment support, and design training to help XCM effectively integrate design into their workflow.

The Process

The process was designed as a collaborative partnership to achieve XCM’s ambitious business goals. This approach allowed for a flexible engagement model where XCM could access any necessary skills from our team on an as-needed basis.

Step 1 - Rules & Tools

We established a collaborative design model that utilized the complementary skills from both teams. To ensure smooth engagement, we defined the rules and tools to be used throughout the process. Miro was used for discussions with management and product ownership on strategic decisions such as road mapping, processes, user stories, use cases, and tracking deliverables. For wireframing, prototyping, and visual design system creation, we utilized Figma and Sketch.

Step 2 - Internalization

As this was a long-term partnership, the quality of the deliverables would be heavily dependent on our understanding of the domain. In XCM's case, the domain was complex, and without proper UX documentation, things quickly became disorganized. To avoid this, we spent considerable time internalizing the business, domain, workflows, user needs, and pain points, which was the most challenging aspect of the engagement. Collaborative documentation was crucial to ensure a shared understanding and to support the long-term success of the partnership.

Step 3 - Metrics/ User testing

To measure progress and assess the effectiveness of our work, we conducted testing after each design sprint. Both the customer support team and actual users on the client side provided feedback, which was collected both quantitatively and qualitatively. This feedback helped us determine the impact of our design decisions and make any necessary adjustments. By constantly testing and evaluating, we were able to ensure that changes were made in an effective and efficient manner, striking the right balance between improvement and preservation of the user experience.

Step 4 - Design sprints/ Lean UX

The design process was iterative and flexible, allowing for changes as necessary. At times, we had to accommodate requests from the support team for urgent client needs and address pressing UX issues. This unpredictability required us to remain adaptable and agile in our approach to ensure the best possible outcome.

A comprehensive, user-centered design language

The existing system design couldn’t express the complexity of the new UX paradigms or support certain new strategic shifts. UX Design Labs conducted research with internal stakeholders, to understand the product and current implementation. And also with users of the XCM products, to understand how people currently use the system and identify unrealized opportunities.

Through this research and a rigorous design process, we helped XCM develop a singular, broadly applicable design system that would help users more easily use and understand its products and provide a baseline from which XCM could more easily extend its offerings. This system helped in extending the new design paradigm through a modern, consistent, and extensible visual design system.

The Deliverables

The deliverables were continuous and ran into hundreds of meeting notes, sketches, white board shots, documents, wireframes, prototypes, visual designs & design system elements delivered on a time schedule not to keep the dev team waiting on us.

These were the visible part of the deliverables. But the true value, any firm with a massive product gets from UXD is our painstakingly difficult understanding of the product, domains, markets, and the users and our ability to think along with XCM to make critical decisions w.r.t the product design & development

The Outcome

UX Design Labs successfully established an efficient and reliable design process, leading to exceptional design outcomes. With our long-term partnership, the design team has become a key player in the delivery process, consistently meeting deadlines and maintaining high-quality standards.

As a result of our resource augmentation efforts, we were able to identify talented UX designers who were well-suited for XCM’s product, assist in their recruitment, and provide training to integrate them into the product and design process. This helped XCM gradually internalize UX and decrease their reliance on external support.