Forrester Project Design Lessons from Ally Bank PwC Australia

Can the successful development of a B2C mobile app and a B2B intranet provide best practices for interactive projects? A report from industry research firm Forrester claims they can.

The two projects described in “Design Lessons from Forrester’s 2013 Outside In Award Winners” took the top prizes in the customer experience design category at the company’s first annual Outside In Awards.

  • Ally Bank used a rapid iterative process over nine-weeks to design and test a mobile app.
  • PwC Australia, a B2B professional services company offering assurance, tax and advisory services, redesigned and rebuilt its employee intranet.

Mind Into the Game

Although the successful projects were very different, they both utilized “nearly identical” steps, including research into what the customer wanted, utilization of personas, iterative prototyping and iterative testing. But a key, overarching consistency was that both organizations used feedback from customers and stakeholders throughout the various iterations.

The Ally Bank project had a shortened schedule because the company lacked a mobile banking app and, in the highly competitive banking world, its customers were noticing. To keep user needs front and center throughout such a fast timetable, Ally employed several strategies.

First, it got everyone’s mind into the game. A two-day kickoff workshop included an ideation challenge to design a tour of Paris. The exercise quickly went beyond its initial in-the-weeds approach involving tour routes and vehicles and instead concentrated on creating an overall theme — a tour as if it were a day in the life of Parisian painter Monet. The lesson learned: participants coalesced around the idea that an overall, end-to-end banking journey was the main focus and that specifics — like checking bank balances — were details.

As might be expected with such a short schedule, the team also decided to apply agile project management. Rather than the traditional waterfall or sequential form of project management, in which the whole project is tackled at once, it took an agile or iterative approach, more aligned to the plan-do-check-act cycle of business process improvement The team organized customer scenarios into functions based on personas and created a series of iterative prototypes. 

Stop and Test

John Dalton, vice president and research director at Forrester Research, told CMSWire that a successful approach does not necessarily have to be agile-like. “I know some shops that are very effective with the waterfall method,” he said. But a key benefit of an iterative approach is that it encourages collaboration between the interaction, experience and/or graphic designers who are facing the customer and other team members, such as project managers and engineers.

In the Ally project, customer feedback was solicited and incorporated at four specific steps in the design. The initial customer testing was conducted informally with sketches and paper prototypes, followed by formal prototype testing.

The big danger with this approach is that features can continually evolve as different customers or executives respond to incomplete sketches or prototypes that only suggest the actual user flow. To help reduce the possibility of an endless loop, Ally scheduled executive reviews from stakeholders, at which they played videoclips of user testing sessions and obtained approval of the approaches being taken.

Dalton said other organizations using agile project management can avoid the endless loop issue by having someone who is empowered and willing to say “Let’s stop and test.” Otherwise, iterative development could become a gateway to project hell.

The Irreducible Component

Forrester noted that common tasks are easier to conduct via the mobile app, customers bank more often and more expensive call center and website interactions have been reduced. In fact, within a month of launching, the mobile app accounted for 70 percent of all Ally eCheck deposits.

PwC had a different problem. Instead of creating an app for outside customers, it needed to revamp an outdated internal intranet, including communication between employees and client delivery tools.

The cross-departmental UX team at PwC also started with a two-day session, utilizing brainstorming techniques that it offers to clients to help design creative solutions to the business challenge at hand. To gain buy-in from employees and other end-users, the team created an even larger workshop, “a physical space where end users and stakeholders could create and give depth to personas using photos, screen shots and sticky notes.” You can see some of the paper mockups created during these sessions in the image, above.

Some of PwC Australia’s clients and 6,000 employees were involved in both the kickoff session and the workshop, and then a roadshow was created to demonstrate and elicit feedback throughout the company about the developing intranet.

Like Ally, the PwC project had tangible successes, such as improved access to information, faster workflow and a collaboration tool that now supports more than 1,000 project teams and has helped reduce email volume by 25 percent.

According to the Forrester report, the key lessons from these two projects include:

  1. Have a brainstorming, multi-departmental kickoff.
  2. Use customers’ input throughout, consistent with business needs.
  3. And iterate again and again and ...

Dalton told us that a big theme connecting these two projects “is their very aggressive approach to getting to know the customer or the end-user”  — and bringing their views, needs and feedback into the experience design process. Regardless of whether it’s waterfall or iterative, end user involvement “is the irreducible component.”