XCM Solutions

A taxation workflow management application

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

CLIENT

XCM SOLUTIONS INC

MARKETS

USA & CANADA

PROJECT

ENTERPRISE UX

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.

We’ve worked with XCM Solutions since 2014 to design products that impact ease of doing business for thousands of CPAs and Tax professionals from across the world

XCM had a leadership position in their niche, but not without competition. It was one of the oldest products in the market with top Fortune 50 clients, but the experience was legacy.

It badly needed an upgrade on all fronts, usability and interface and visual design. Yet, it was a popular product with thousands of existing users who had spent effort and time orienting themselves to existing screens and flows.

They had a very strong technology team. However, the design folks were struggling to keep up with the growth. As a company growing at a rapid pace, XCM needed to quickly scale its design team, re-engineer its legacy experience, define a visual style guide & design system and set processes that enabled all stakeholders to take strategic product design decisions.

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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 design a scalable design system that could be extended by the development teams

So while XCM focused on the product vision, functionalities, domain, technology, we provided support for all design related functions including but not limited to Design Thinking, Innovation, Information Architecture, Interaction Design, Wire framing, Prototyping, User Testing, Visual Design, Design Systems, UX Recruitment, Resource Augmentation & Training

process

The Engagement

After an in-depth analysis of the current status of the products, XCM’s internal strengths in UX documentation, interaction design, interface design, front end development we hand-picked a suitable team with the right skill sets to compliment XCM’s team so that we get the design sprints ahead of development and not keep dev waiting.

The idea was to provide XCM a team they could depend on as their own for the long term. Our team would collaborate with the product owners and developers, be in meetings with the customer service teams and also brainstorm with the management for key decisions and road mapping. We worked towards delivering designs at least weeks ahead of planned development sprints.

Initially, we owned up all tasks related to design, but simultaneously worked on helping XCM internalize the design function to the extent possible. We build & mentored an internal design team at XCM to work in sync with our own. We helped XCM with resource augmentation, recruitment and also design training

The Engagement Process The process was designed around a design partnership - creating a co-creation model to help XCM meet aggressive business objectives.. Meaning a very flexible engagement model where the XCM team availed any skill within our team on an On Demand Basis

The Engagement Process The process was designed around a design partnership - creating a co-creation model to help XCM meet aggressive business objectives.. Meaning a very flexible engagement model where the XCM team availed any skill within our team on an On Demand Basis

UXD Process Juggler
Created by potrace 1.16, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2019

Step 1 - Rules & Tools

Set up the design collaboration model, with the right mix of skills from both ends. Most importantly, define the rules and tools to be used during the engagement. The tools we used were Miro for all the discussions with the management team and product ownership on more strategic decision points - roadmapping, processes, user stories, use cases, tracking deliverables etc. For actual wireframes, prototypes and visual design system we used Figma and Sketch.

Created by potrace 1.16, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2019

Step 2 - Internalization

This is a long term partnership and the quality of the deliverables will depend on our understanding of the domain and more importantly documenting and internalizing it. In XCM's case, the domain was complex and in the absence of proper UX documentation, we noticed things going haywire pretty quick. So we spent adequate time internalizing the business, domain, work flows, user needs, pains etc and also collaboratively documenting it which we might say was the most challenging part of the engagement.

Created by potrace 1.16, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2019

Step 3 - Metrics/ User testing

How do we know we are getting better… What are acceptable numbers, and how do we decide on those? How much should we change - how much is too much? How do we test?

After each design sprint, we used to test with the customer support team and also the actual users on the clients' side and measure the effectiveness... Sometimes quantitatively, but mostly qualitatively.

Created by potrace 1.16, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2019

Step 4 - Design sprints/ Lean UX

Design effort was always iterative and unpredictable and had to be kept flexible. In between, we had to accommodate requests from the support team on urgent client requests and also embarrassing UX bugs.

So, the most critical part of our engagement was to efficiently sync our design effort with the XCM development sprints. This was easier said than done. This is a challenge product firms have even when they have internal UX teams. In a co-creation model, it's a lot more.

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.

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The Deliverables

The deliverables were continuous and ran into hundreds of meeting notes, sketches, white boards 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 helped set up industry-standard design workflow for seamless, effective, and quality design outputs. With the ongoing partnership, the Design team has come at par with the Development team and ensures all delivery deadlines and quality standards are adhered to.

An equally important outcome came out of our resource augmentation service, where we identified UX designers who could effectively work on XCM's product, help XCM hire them and also train them to orient them into the product and the design process. This helped XCM internalize the UX process over time and reduced external dependence.

enterprise ux design

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