Stop the Bookmark Project

A case study on how to use user research findings to make pivotal project decisions

Summary

Don't have time to read? No problem!

Here's the snapshot on the project.

INDUSTRY

PROJECT TYPE

DURATION

 KEY STAKEHOLDERS

MY ROLE

Financial Services 

User Research

2 months

Back office managers and teams 

I conducted all the user research on my own

01 The Background

Advisor Solutions' business is growing at the speed that require them to hire many more associates to support their client inquiries; hence, they want to build a launchpad to quickly onboard their new hires as well as to increase their overall operational efficiencies among existing employees. 

02 The Approach

Since there were no proper research done for this business ask, I convinced the project sponsor and went ahead to conduct multiple sessions of 1:1 interviews as well as fly-on-the-wall observations with associates of different years of working experiences in the firm.

03 The Outcome

My research insights showed that building a launchpad will not help the associates to do their job better. The problem today mainly evolves around lack of proper onboarding and continuous educations. As a result, I helped produced manuals and convinced the business to dedicate training programs for its associates.

04 The Lesson

No matter if you're a designer or researcher, you have to think like a product owner, so that you can identify and build the solutions that will actually solve your users' problems. Often times, research might not be part of the project scope but if you think like an owner, you can make it happen! 

Full Case Study

Got time to deep dive? 

7 min read

The Background

01

 

Advisor Solutions is one of the fastest growing line of businesses in the entire BNY Mellon family. Due to our business models, we’re the same firm, but we treat them as an independent client. 

Today, there are 80 highly-trained Client Service Advocates in Advisor Solutions, with an average of 7 years of employment history with the firm. They’re familiar with the business, tools, and jargons. With the speed of business growth, Advisor Solutions now is tasked to 1) hire new associates and 2) increase its overall operational efficiency.   

 

The Business Ask is to build a launchpad where all the digital tools that Client Service Advocates use are centralized so that they can onboard new associates quickly and increase its current associates' workflow efficiency.

The Design Challenge I saw was not to build the most robust digital launchpad but rather to identify the pain points and gaps in the process, so that I could provide solutions to help the associates achieve more on a day-to-day basis.  

Given that this was my first project at Pershing, I had no prior working experience with the team, nor did I understand the process, or the culture. Following what my gut told me, I raised my concern on the unclear Business Ask during project kick-off meeting and asked stakeholders in the room to give me the time and resources I needed to conduct user research (which I later learned that is not a common practice at this firm, so thankfully I was able to conduct research on this project!). 

In short, as you continue reading this case study, you will soon realize this is not a case study on designing for launchpad but a case study to ask the right questions to find the right problems to solve!

The Approach

02

 

To conduct user research in many technology companies might seem like a norm but it is certainly not a norm in many traditional financial service firms. Thankfully, by following my instinct to raise my concerns during project kick-off meeting, I managed to convince the sponsor of the project to provide me contacts to recruit research participants. 

 

To understand current associates' pain points, I interviewed people with different roles and years of experiences in the Client Service Advocate team. Their roles are as follows: 

  • Group Manager

  • Team Lead

  • Senior Associate

  • Junior Associate 

  • New Hire!

Aside from the 1:1 interviews, I was also able to practice fly-on-the-wall where I simply observe what they do in real-time fashion. In a typical situation, it's not very easy to do fly-on-the-wall because people feel like they're being watched. The advantage of me being new to the firm actually made them feel more comfortable having me observing, especially they now just feel like I am doing job shadowing.

My goal through these exercises was to find the gaps and understand what the true pain points and needs are.

GROUP MANAGER

Her day-to-day is mostly filled with managerial tasks. She jumps in to help associates when there's an escalation. She doesn't spend much time in front of her computer. 

She is not our target user for this project.

TEAM LEAD

Her workstation setup consists the 3 main platforms she needs to get her day-to-day job done which are — 1) Outlook, 2) Salesforce, and 3) Internal Chat for Exception Processing. 

Additionally, noticed her notebook is right in the center of her workstation, apparently that's her way of keeping track of her day. It's a personal audit in case she gets any complaints from clients she can refer to her notes on the conversation.

NEW HIRE

This was her first week with the firm. She showed me what her onboarding resources were and demonstrated to me some of her day-to-day tasks. During our interview, she actually had to pick up a call from client, so I was able to observe her entire workflow.

From my conversation with her, I learned a great insight that our onboarding guide is poorly documented!

JUNIOR ASSOCIATE

He let me sit by him for a good full-hour to observe his workflow. Although he's junior in this role, he has worked in other roles in Advisor Solutions for more than 15 years.

 

While observing his workflow, I noticed while his setup is different from others I've talked to, he has all he needs in a bookmark where he repeatedly accesses them.

JUNIOR ASSOCIATE'S DESKTOP 

"WOW", I said. 

This is one of the two screens this Junior Associate has. I asked him why he had all these files downloaded, he said "so that I don't have to keep the client waiting". 

The intention is great BUT the issue here could be the file is out-of-date since he saved as local copies.

 

When I showed him how to save as favorites in our platform, he was delighted! 

Pain Points uncovered were 

For New Hire — lack of training resources for company & product 

For Junior Associate — lack of product feature knowledge

For Manager or Lead — NOT our target user for this project

At this point, I wanted to pivot this project to another direction. I didn't think designing a launchpad would solve the problem of onboarding new hire or increase operational efficiency. 

In order to justify my rationale, I decided to also analyze the software tools we initially were going to build into the launchpad. 

What did I discover here? Majorities of the software are single-sign-on and there are only 3 platforms used frequently by most associates; hence, there is really no need to build a launchpad!

The Outcome

03

 

Since my research has showed that no launchpad is needed. How do I go about convincing the team? I told them we need to Stop the Bookmark Project! I showcased different individual workflow whether it is using bookmark, notebook, or multi-monitor setup. Let's just say there were a lot of "Aha" moments in the meeting.

For Seasoned Associate — to help them do their job more efficiently, I consolidated the pain points I discovered and compiled them into a product release training which the manager will go over during their town hall.

For New Hire — to help them onboard quicker, proper onboarding resources are definitely needed. For starter, I created a Pershing + Finance jargon for the team to distribute to new hires, so they can refer to the terminologies quickly. 

Ultimately, Advisor Solutions decided to use their budget for building the launchpad to hire a dedicated internal trainer to tailor course materials specifically for New Hires and continuing education for Seasoned Associates.  

The Lesson

04

 

FOR PRACTITIONER

User Research is really the bread and butter of design. Don't ever jump into conclusion on building another piece of digital solutions that does not solve your users' problems. 

 

To conduct effective user research, you need to advocate like a Product Owner and

1. plan your project timeline

2. explain to your stakeholders your testing assumptions 

3. set clear user recruitment criteria  

4. timebox yourself to deliver your insights 

5. last but not least, present your aha moment with your team!

FOR BUSINESS

One of my professors in grad school used to say this to us "if you want to spend the money. SPEND THE MONEY!" What does that mean? Spend it in the right place. Not in places that won’t add value to it.   

I know a lot of businesses when they get budget, they're eager to spend. If you don't spend it, you loose it. In this case, you can choose to spend it right, as long as. you do some proper research first! 

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