For over a year, I worked within the Business Services & Solutions team at Microsoft to build an internal enterprise tool by conducting user research, creating interactive prototypes, and validating designs through usability studies. I engaged in cross-team collaboration with engineering from conceptual design through implementation and release.
Today, Project Managers (PjMs) at Microsoft are using a variety of tools to manage their projects—monitor health, track and analyze financials, request resources, approve time and expenses, etc. There is no one software that can help a PjM perform all of their daily tasks. Current process and tools are complex, customized, and labor intensive. They spend valuable time entering data in various tools rather than monitoring, analyzing, and planning their project. Instead, they find work-arounds, such as creating complicated macros in Excel or taking notes in Outlook. The major issue with these workarounds is the lack of consistency and transparency between users because their files are saved on their individual computers.
A custom tool with SAP back-end capability focused on the user experience for the financial aspect of project management. This solution would reduce operational costs by removing manual steps and data entry, as well as improve Time-to-Value for Project Delivery by simplifying end-to-end processes and reducing interface complexity.
Working in an agile environment, our team worked on a two week sprint cycle, with features planned and reviewed at the end of each sprint. Each feature goes through the following steps before delivery to engineering:
- Research and Ideation
- Design and Prototype
- Usability Testing and Prototype Revisions
ITERATIVE DESIGN + USER VALIDATION
Initally, formative research and analysis was completed by observing users perform daily tasks to understand goals and pain points of the current process. Then, we performed a competitive analysis of all of the current tools being used to understood the current environment.
During the research and ideation phase of our sprint cycles, we would facilitate brainstorming and sketching sessions ensuring members of each team (process, business, engineering) were represented. We also met with field experts and internal resources to understand process needs for each feature. I would then take the sketches and information gathered to create low-fidelity interactive prototypes in Axure.
Working closely with the user researcher, we would conduct usability studies to evaluate two different design options for usability and comprehension. Participants were asked to perform tasks within each prototype to allow comparison between designs. Participants engaged in an hour-long remote test session using Skype screen sharing and were asked to use the think-aloud protocol.
Once the usability studies were completed, I would create the interaction specifications and refine the designs with user and stakeholder feedback. During this last phase, collaboration with the visual designer and engineering team was key to ensure their was alignment between the interactive prototype and high fidelity visual designs.