Design & Strategy

Integration as a Service

A case study on navigating through complex organization to provide the best human-centered design for all stakeholders

Summary

Don't have time to read? No problem!

Here's the snapshot on the project.

INDUSTRY

PROJECT TYPE

DURATION

MY ROLE

KEY STAKEHOLDERS

Financial Services

Product Strategy, Service Design, UX Design & Research

2 Years+

I lead the experience strategy of front-end design and internal workflow redesign 

CIO, Technology Advisory Board, Global Client Relationship team, Integration Strategy team

01 The Background

The Business Ask is to build an integration portal that will serve all clients' technology needs to improve business engagement experience and speed-to-market. To fulfill this ask, the team is tasked to navigate through complex organizational workstreams so that the portal can be developed with meaningful content and underlying workflow to support ongoing updates. 
 

02 The Approach

Multiple efforts to identify internal and external pain points and gaps were taken place. From hiring external consulting firm to conducting internal empathy workshops, these approaches were used to help the team zoom in/out of multiple touch points. Additionally, content management system (CMS) was chosen to ensure frequent releases and version controls can be done easily.

03 The Outcome

What came out from this project is not simply the frontend solution but also the internal workflow processes. From client engagement to legal & compliance, the workflow is simplified and the rate of errors are reduced. Most importantly, all stakeholders gained more empathy not just for the end client but the employees as well! 

  

04 The Lesson

Being able to see the big picture so that the end-to-end experience can be designed requires understanding of all touch points by all parties involved in the project. Research is important but coming up with consumable insights that are digestible is equally important because not every stakeholder can be in the research process with you and you want to make sure they gain empathy as well!  

Full Case Study

Got time to deep dive? 

15 min read

The Background

01

 

Pershing has been providing technology solutions for more than 75 years. Whether it’s a proprietary solution or a customized widget for the clients, Pershing has experiences in providing solutions of all kinds. These experiences are however, built on very manual work streams. It is unsustainable and unscalable. 

 

As the industry is moving towards open architecture, the strategic initiative is to provide all different types of integrations, such as API, Micro Frontend, SSO, Files, SWIFT, and FIX in one single portal where clients can learn, build, test, and deploy quickly. This idea sounds logical but the logistical part of this is the real challenge. 

To give an example, today, Pershing has about 20 APIs used by clients. The process of onboarding a client easily takes weeks or sometimes months in some cases. It is a painful, lengthy, and manual process which involves Relationship Management Team, Technology Consultants, Implementation Engineers, and very often the Executives to be part of the conversations. Moreover, just like any large organizations, there are silos. Many. 

As the Business Ask is to build an Integration Portal so that clients can self-service from exploration to implementation, the Design Challenge is to navigate through the complex organizational work streams so that the experience designed in the frontend for the clients can be supported with the Pershing internal workstreams sustainably. 

To give you a little more idea on what complex business and technology services are involved in this portal, below is the snapshot of all Services Pershing provides. Some category examples include Financial Advice, Billing, Reporting and Analytics, Data Management, and Third-Party Content.

The Approach

02

 

I lead this initiative from the experience design aspect for both the client and the employee.  

Due to the complexity of the project scope, we hired an external consulting firm to first help us identify current pain points in our integration flow. 

Every approach has its pros and cons. The benefit of this approach is that we can gather lots of data in a short amount of time. The problem with this approach is that it's very difficult for teams to gain empathy. It is also very difficult for executives to digest the nitty-gritty details in the journey maps.

When these journey maps distributed across the organization, all I hear from across the team is "oh we're doing a bad job on integration". Many thinks that it's "none of their business" because they cannot relate to the process. 

In the ideal world, we would like every stakeholders to be in the research process, so they can understand customer or employee's pain points. The reality is, it is impossible to conduct such research practice. 

So instead I partnered with a Business Service Owner and conducted a workshop where we role-played how a complex API implementation process could look like for a client. 

The blue dots represent Pershing employees while the yellow dots represent clients.

Collectively, coming out from this workshop we learned a few things we "kind of" knew but are now committed to prioritize — 

1. Client Engagement on technical training 

2. Knowledge Management on technical documentation

3. Implementation on statement of work

Now, how can we continue to help others understanding this process instead of going through a half-day workshop? Thankfully, I learned from an event I hosted at SDN NYC on how to make the invisible system visible.

This exercise is simple. All you need to prepare is 2-3 use cases, a large jute twine ball, and some cut-off cardboards where you can use to showcase each individual's role in the process. The roles can be people, software or any touch points involved in the process. As a facilitator, you will read through the use cases, and the participants will toss the ball whenever their roles are being called on. 

As you can see, at the end of this exercise, you will make the invisible system visible and participants will gain quick understanding (and very often some level of empathy) in this process, especially the ones constantly being called on.

All these interactive exercises are ideal to tell the story. What other ways can we tell the stories so we can use to identify our next steps. Instead of using traditional service design blueprint or journey maps. I created this modified version to help my team zoom out from their day-to-day and look at the greater picture! This eventually also got into all the reference deck to present in strategy meetings with Executive Committees.

As we identified many of the non-frontend or digital experiences we need to improve on, we also kickstarted the digital frontend design so that we could see which part of the process can be digitized and delivered concurrently. 

Additional stakeholders needed to support this effort —

1. Marketing on branding  

2. Legal & Compliance on terms & conditions 

3. Business SMEs on content curation 

The Outcome

03

 

The outcome really comes in all forms and phases, at the end of the day what we're trying to provide isn't just a frontend to users to navigate. We're trying to build a strategy around Integration as a Service holistically.

 

While we continue working on Integration Portal strategy, we co-created technical training manuals for Relationship Managers so they can answer high level client questions correctly. I am also in the process of working with knowledge management team to rewrite technical documentations. 

For the frontend portal strategy, We are implementing content management system as the foundation of the site. My design has to be templatized so we can allow more content publishing and editing more frequently than the traditional rollout release schedules. 

Here is the sample of the business subject templates I made.

Ever tile, every icon, and every section, was designed strategically for the purpose of reusing the components and categories, so that our development solution is scalable. 

As of the time this case study was written, this project is still on going and we're scheduled to have our first release next month after I run the first round of User Testing in the next two weeks. 

The Lesson

04

 

FOR PRACTITIONER

If anyone ever tells you that let's build an app or a site, and all problems will be solved. Please push back! Although I have worked on many projects that are digital solutions, this project definitely shows that a simple frontend solution will not solve your users' problems.

 

Here are some important takeaways I'd like to share —

1. Empathize more than just your end-users 

Throughout the project, I tried many different ways help the team gaining empathy. Very often, people think you just need to empathize with your end-users but the reality is that you also need to empathize with the people who are providing the service! You have to understand al stakeholders' viewpoint, so that you can find the best way to collaborate! 

2. Make your insights consumable 

If you've ever seen the decks management consultants bring to the table, you know these beautiful desks are going to stay on the table. Very often, beautiful charts or convoluted journey maps don't bring much value besides for presentations. They key is to come up with deliverables that are digestible, so that your insights can be seen. 

3. Learn to see the bigger picture

We all tend to zoom in to our day-to-day responsibilities without looking at what others are doing and how they are doing it. If you know when to zoom out to see the entire ecosystem, you will know what you need to do to add value from the holistic viewpoint.

4. Show & Tell 

Knowing where and when to socialize what you're working on is crucial because you will need to collaborate with many stakeholders if you want to have a successful project. People will not collaborate with you if they've never heard of you. 

  

FOR BUSINESS

To provide a good product or service, it is about designing for every touch point of the process, so that your solution is sustainable and scalable. In this example, if you build an aesthetically pleasing site but the content is poorly written, then your customer won't have a good experience. Similarly, if your internal process is broken, your employees will not be able to support your effort in building a better product or services for the client. These two things go hand in hand. 

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