During tax season tax professionals spend about 60% of their time on collecting and managing documents from their clients. Waiting for documents from customers can lead to wasted time and frustration and having multiple data retrieval methods leads to scattered client data. My team was tasked with solving this problem for our customers and their clients.
Working within an agile team we were able to deliver a first round of code in about three months. We relied on the Lean Startup frame work to build, test, and learn while delivering MVP's through out the season. I employed design sprints to work with the product management and engineering teams. We had a regular cadence of customer research and usability testing all in service to learning fast.
The resulting product, Intuit Link, helped reduce our customers cycle time by about 40% for tax preparation services. We are still on the journey to build, measure, and learn about how we can improve the product. In 2015 this product was awarded the Scott Cook Innovation award and continues to live on within the Intuit ecosystem.
How can we reduce the pain our customers feel around collecting and managing their clients' data
There is a saying that goes "The only two sure things in life are death and taxes." And every year a large portion of the population gears up for the tax season, gathers their documents including W-2's, 1099's, and various receipts that may be scattered all over their personal lives.
Now imagine you're a tax professional that needs to gather all of these documents - important and trivial. You then need to sort through these documents, determine what's relevant and not, rename, scan, copy, print, save, etc. You get the idea.
Now imagine all the different ways your clients want to deliver this data. In days past folks would bring a shoebox or filing cabinet into your office, or mail it to you if they were remote. Fast forward to the current myriad of delivery methods and you can see how quickly the pain compounds for our professionals.
We were tasked with solving this problem. Keep reading below to see how we accomplished this improved experience for our customers and in turn their taxpayer customers.
Discovery for this project included a multiple research projects. Because the team was moving so fast a lot of the research ran in parallel to the development of the actual product. Balancing learning with producing was a learning process for both engineering and the design team. Eventually we landed on a practice of doing design sprints that ran ahead of the developers in order to deliver assets ahead of time for the agile team.
I employed several kinds of research in order to fit the needs of the moment. We did field work in customers offices, we brought customers into our usability lab, and we had several customers attend rapid prototyping sessions.
This product team is still learning about the product and our customers so the research continues but is more targeted and feature specific. In the coming tax season the team will be focused on researching taxpayers (our pros customers) to deliver a delightful solution for the DIFM (do-it-for-me) segment of taxpayers.
Research Synthesis: Click the image above to open the PDF for a research synthesis deck. (password protected - fill out the contact form to request access)
Journey Map: Mapping the experience was a massive undertaking. We arrived at this solution after research and observation with several customers. This maps out the accountant back and forth between individual tax payers and business customers. We mapped each interaction, the emotions, and the phases of the engagement. Sharing this with the teams helped them gain greater empathy for our customers and THEIR customers!
LEAN + AGILE
The Lean Startup + Agile methodologies weighed heavily in how we ran this product team and the design team that worked on it. Embracing ambiguity and an experimentation mindset was uncomfortable at first, but I was quickly able to see the merit of learning and failing fast.
Lean experimentation was a huge part of the success of this product. We ran several experiments, gathered learnings and pivoted or persevered based on what we learned. After running through several loops of experimentation we were able to deliver on some of our hypothesis and pivot as needed.
As we continue to build new features, and integrate with other Intuit Saas products we will remain lean and agile
Design Sprint Board: Running design sprints with the dev team helped us work through each ticket/feature in an organized and timely manner. We would meet at the board and discuss the feature scope and requirements and sketch solutions. From here I would create the design wireframes and prototypes to test with customers and make any changes based on the voice of the customer. Eventually the feature would be delivered to the customer.
Intuit Link is currently up and running in it's third year. We currently have over 10K accountants and 160K taxpayers on the platform with plans to grow our global customers in the coming tax year. I will be working with the Canadian Intuit team to begin implementing Link into desktop products.
Additionally we plan to integrate deeper within the QuickBooks environment to allow the same collaboration between accountants and their small businesses.
You can learn more about the product on our marketing page.
Intuit Link's Marketing Page: Click the image above to open the marketing page for Intuit Link.
DEFINING THE EXPERIENCE
Since Link was a new product I had to imagine the possibility of what could be. I led the team with understanding the current user journey through research with customers. After that I mapped out what the current state was and what future state could be.
After we had an idea of the future state I was able to map out several flows that illustrated the symbiotic relationship between accountants and their customers.
From there I began sketching and wireframing and testing with customers.
Customer Stories and Flows: Back and forth flows from Accountant to Taxpayer
Click Path: Potential click path illustration
Initial Journey Map: Today, tomorrow and future state journey map