In a nutshell
Due to the complexity of the mechanisms in the EasyTax software, we took the sensible decision together with the client to base our approach on iterative analyses and a conceptual design. Making judicious use of conceptual tools like personas and user flows added great value to the overall positive outcome. The collaborative success of the engineering teams of BearingPoint and Parkside was realized through an agile development process and weekly sprints.
BearingPoint is one of the largest technology consultants in Europe and operates in 22 countries. It is a leading provider of regulatory and risk technology solutions.
Parkside was commissioned to create the conceptual and UX/UI design as well as to develop the front end of the EasyTax user interface.
We adopted an iterative and agile approach for the conceptual design. The complexity of the project made it necessary to frequently re-examine previous solutions and utilize the findings to devise better solutions for upcoming challenges. In parallel, another team engaged with the front-end development while working closely together with the BearingPoint engineers.
Our overhaul of the EasyTax user interface helped to reduce error rates and enhanced its user experience significantly. As of April 2018, major clients are running extended tests with parts of the software.
We solved the following problems
More than a design commission
BearingPoint was primarily looking for a UX company to create a conceptual design for the new OLDP area of their EasyTax application. However, during the initial workshops we held with BearingPoint, they learned more about our engineering and design experience and decided to further enlist our help in creating the UI design and developing the front end for the EasyTax OLDP.
Learn to walk and then walk the talk
Before starting with the hands-on work, our team attended several half-day ramp-up workshops and training courses at BearingPoint to become acquainted with the complex EasyTax application. It is used for 20 different tax jurisdictions, including onshore as well as offshore taxation processes. Not only did our engineers develop a deep understanding of the application, but they also acquired knowledge of security trading, taxation and reporting — knowledge that was critical to the success of the project. Parallel to the onboarding, we started conducting user interviews with the BearingPoint clients.
Finding inconsistencies and a lack of thorough data processing – user interviews with BearingPoint clients
We held a series of interviews and workshops with the BearingPoint team to analyze all user roles, workflows and the challenges that financial service providers are facing on a daily basis. Among other things, it seemed that a lack of seamless integration and data processing features regularly led to inconsistencies, delays and errors in the evaluation and verification of data.
The typical tax reporting challenges can be found in the quality of the data: In general, the booking quality in core banking systems is insufficient for a high data processing rate. As a matter of fact, instances of missing data (e.g. acquisition cost history) or incorrect classifications (e.g. a capital disbursement has been classified as a dividend) had to be dealt with manually.
Originally, there was no option in EasyTax to clearly and comprehensibly visualize the transaction history of a customer in relation to a particular security within the software. Transactions were manually exported, then edited and analyzed in Excel spreadsheets, which resulted in inconsistencies. Key findings and requirements from the interview phase:
- Currently the complex relationships between transactions cannot be visualized well
- The transaction history should be made visible in an easy and clear way
- Operators must be able to understand the calculation logic and possibly the change history in order to verify the validity
- To analyze and edit complex tasks, database queries are currently exported to spreadsheets where they are manually processed and then reimported to the system, indicating a lack of seamless integration
- Fixing the same error in a variety of records is time-consuming and error-prone
- All change requests must be double-checked and approved by a second person before being implemented
- For their daily control routine, the operators need a central entry point (dashboard) so users can visualize all upcoming tasks
Our starting point
“The development of personas was an essential tool that has greatly accelerated the decision-making process and helped to prioritize tasks and develop the final solutions together with the client.”
— Partner & COO
- Drill-down views for easier analysis and error localization
- Integration of a ‘Query Builder’ to explicitly gain data from the database, restrict data records during analysis and editing
- Bulk edit function to fix the same error in multiple transactions at the same time
- Creation of a release concept for all changes (“four-eyes principle”)
- Traceable change history for all bookings
- Drill-down views of the calculation logic
- A dashboard to visualize all upcoming tasks
The creation of personas — “Who is my user?“
On the basis of the conducted interviews and workshops, we went on to the next step: creating personas. The development of so-called personas, i.e. the representation of properties, goals and user behavior through concrete but hypothetical groups of users, was crucial when it came to understanding the business challenges involved and ultimately improving the usability and user experience of the application.
Plotting user flow charts for better user understanding
To better understand how users get from A to B, we created user flows with which we were able to visualize the complexity of the path users take to solve a certain task in the application. User flows also help in identifying the intersections at which users must make decisions.
By plotting existing paths of interaction and gleaning the requirements from the interviews and workshops, we were able to optimize and simplify user flows. These new flows formed the foundation for improving the application’s usability. We iterated this process together with the BearingPoint experts, carrying out continuous improvement until we reached the expected level of quality. Furthermore, this approach made it possible to transparently monitor and evaluate the progress made by our team in a complex environment.
The user interface — challenges along the way
To fulfill user requirements and enhance the user experience, we had to tackle a number of challenges:
How does an interface look that gives operators the freedom to pursue different analytical approaches while still offering consistency as regards data browsing?
How can we visualize the results of a complex calculation and, if necessary, also combine this visualization with the change history?
How do we create a bulk-edit concept that allows not only overriding a property for multiple records with a specific value, but also adapting those records individually using a specific calculation formula?
How can we create a release process that allows us to bundle several consecutive editing steps in one session and then release them as one package?
Handing over the design elements to the engineers
Knowing that the project would be designed and developed step by step, we defined a style guide to ensure visual consistency. This guide contained all components in use and was continually expanded. In addition, we created detailed screen designs for each module that should be developed. These designs were then cross-linked in InVision in order to serve as a click dummy and reference for the developers.
The development that followed was characterized by close collaboration between the BearingPoint and Parkside teams.
Ongoing front-end development of the first elements of the application
The two teams (back end – BearingPoint, front end – Parkside) followed separate agile processes, with the back-end being developed upstream. The coordination between both teams was ensured by weekly teleconferences where details were clarified directly between the developers as needed.