I recently spoke with Shara Barnett, the manager of the User Experience (UX) group at Intacct, on the recent growth in the team and the increased emphasis on design thinking and ease of use at Intacct.
BRITTANY BENSON: Shara, can you tell me a little bit about the user experience group at Intacct and why it’s so important to our organization?
SHARA BARNETT: Sure! Intacct realizes the strategic importance of user experience (UX) and we have recently been ramping up the team exponentially. When we think about creating a great Intacct user experience, we really want to understand how our Intacct customers work, the tasks they do, and then we want to create workflows that streamline those tasks within Intacct.
And of course our desire is to automate tasks where possible to save customers time, as well as provide integrated insight in the user experience to drive actions. For example, instead of having to run a report to figure out what to do, you can access a dashboard and immediately see what you need to pay attention to, and which tasks need to be completed.
Note that when we talk about user experience we aren’t just talking about the user interface of the product. We want to think about all the customer touch points with Intacct. We are interested in the full customer journey. And we realize that what customers care about is different depending on their role in the company.
BB: Tell me more about how you think about the user’s role in the company when designing user experiences.
SB: So as you can imagine, the CFO who uses Intacct a few times per month to look at a dashboard or run some financial reports has a very different experience with the product than, let’s say, an A/P Specialist that is in Intacct 8+ hours per day where data entry and quickly finding information is key. Or from an employee user who only signs in once in awhile to enter an expense report and that is the main thing they do in Intacct.
We actually create personas, or models of specific target users based on synthesizing our research and observations of many real users (i.e., Patti Payables). These aid in creating designs for different kinds of people and in designing for a specific somebody vs. a generic everybody.
BB: Are there specific processes you follow to ensure a good user experience?
SB: Yes! We follow a design innovation process that consists of three core steps in developing new features: empathy, ideation, and experimentation. We have recently hired Glynis Hively, who comes to the Intacct UX team with a lot of formal design thinking training from the Stanford d.School and IDEO. She is really helping to put more structure around how we design experiences at Intacct.
For example, we are kicking off some research on how to improve the task of paying bills. So, we are in the “empathy” stage of the innovation process. This means we are spending more upfront time making sure we really understand the customer problem and are framing it accurately so we build the right solution. In this stage we are visiting current Intacct customers and observing them completing their tasks in their own environment.
It is so important to observe users in their own work environment because it is as important to learn what users are doing OUTSIDE of Intacct as it is to watch what they do in Intacct. If a customer is exporting everything to Excel, or sorting and organizing all their bills in piles before entering them…these are all clues to things we could probably be doing better in Intacct to save the customer time and avoid some of these “work-arounds.”
As we are designing the end-to-end experiences, we collaborate closely with product management, documentation, engineering, marketing, and other teams at Intacct.
BB: This is all really insightful to know! Is there anything else you’ve learned from visiting customers?
SB: Well, yes…there is a lot we can do to keep improving and modernizing Intacct! Intacct has been around awhile and expectations around user experiences are changing so rapidly with everyone now owning and interacting with mobile devices every day. Our users are very explicitly telling us how things like search and filtering should work.
Our most recent design hire, Jenny Ihrie, comes to us from eBay, and has strong experience designing consumer experiences and brings ease and simplicity that is expected to our product. She will be helping to design our next generation user interface. Our early user feedback (experimentation) on the new UI received very positive feedback so we are excited about the future!
If you have questions for the UX Team or want to learn more, be sure to leave a comment. Also, if you are interested in participating in upcoming user research or usability sessions, keep your eyes open for opportunities that will be posted from time-to-time within Intacct.
Learn more about why Intacct is different, and why it matters.