Enterprise Software UX Redesign
Automatize and optimize document control in large engineering projects.
DocBoss simplifies, automatize and optimizes document control in large engineering projects.
The system automatically logs every piece of equipment in a purchase order or project. Then it links each equipment item to a series of required documents. DocBoss creates an index for each tag-doc relationship. The system keeps track of where the documents are, routes them to the right person and at the end of the life cycle. At the end of the project, it collects all documents in a compilation, ready to print.
Complete platform redesign, development of complementary products like knowledge base, DocBoss Lite and DocBoss Portal.
Usability improvements reduced training cost for new clients, reducing onboarding from a year to four months. This development became a key advantage to attract new customers and high retention.
Working closely with clients and stakeholders, early and frequent validation of usability improvements and quick iteration.
Design thinking, continuous user validation under a waterfall development process.
When usability issues get in the way of commercial success
In November 2015, DocBoss, a document control software for large engineering projects, had a product had captured the attention of many potential customers but usability problems usually got in the way for closing sales. Also, current users had several issues working with the interface, requiring a long learning curve, and relying on customer support on regular basis to do complete simple tasks.
What is document control and why it is so important?
Engineering Production and Construction companies submit hundreds of documents to Vendors and Sub-suppliers. A document controller needs to route the right document to the right person and the right time. These documents are always changing hands, new information gets added, and orders change. Without a professional keeping an eye on optimizing and managing this workflow, it all fall into chaos.
DocBoss value proposition
DocBoss automatically logs every piece of equipment in a purchase order or project. Then it links each equipment item to series of required documents. DocBoss creates an index for each tag-doc relationship.
The system keeps track of where the documents are, routes them to the right person and at the end of the life cycle. At the end of the project, it collects all documents in a compilation, ready to print.
The hardships of document control
Being a document controller for a Vendor company is frustrating. They use spreadsheets to keep track of it, and it is effortless to lose control of what is going and experiencing delays. On top of all, their job is crucial to multi-million dollar projects’ success, but they do not get the recognition they deserve. Hence, a document controller’s average career lasts no more than five years before moving to something else.
If everything goes as planned, every piece of equipment becomes part of a compilation at the end of the project. In a compilation, all docs get indexed, reviewed and printed. These compilations are hard to produce and manage; I have seen them printed; they are almost 20 kilos of paper. If there is one error, everything will be rejected, and all that effort goes to the trash. To make things worse, the company producing the document does not get played until it is delivered and accepted.
Supplier vs EPC
At this stage, we already have observed two key user personas.
Document Control / Supplier
Project Manager / EPC
Inefficient processes create conflict
Key EPC-driven documentation challenges for suppliers
Every EPC company submitting documents faces the following problems
- Large volumes of manual work
- Complex (or unclear) expectations and procedures.
- Time-consuming rework, frustrating both parties.
- The single most important factor to EPC respondents is accuracy and format.
- Suppliers often have no document control system nor protocols.
Negotiating document requirements
Mapping document codes
Irrelevant or unavailable doc requirements
Creating project databooks and cover sheets
Responded data validation and formatting are the more important factors
Top documentation pain points for suppliers
- Payment holdbacks related to documentation. In other words, no docs, no money.
- Frustration (and extra cost) when a minor mistake causes a document rejection.
- Document management skills are not appreciated or rewarded.
Top EPC pain points related to documentation
- Dealing with suppliers is messy and iterative
- Lack of attention to timelines
- Receiving poor quality document scans, documents not usable.
Document Controller Specialist / 27
Salary $80k / year
- Tech savvy 60% 60%
- Experience 20% 20%
- Education 30% 30%
Daryl is always paying attention to the smallest details. He never forgets a birthday and his deep sense of humanity makes them one of the most trusted guys at the office.
- Receipt, registration, distribution, tracking, reporting and maintenance of records.
- Process and control engineering documents, drawings and deliverables in accordance with established guidelines and client specific procedures.
- Expedite the review and approval of engineering deliverables and vendor documentation.
- Microsoft office
Project Manager / 38
Salary $200k / year
- Tech savvy 80% 80%
- Experience 80% 80%
- Education 70% 70%
He is responsive, accurate, and provides constructive feedback on a regular basis. It is important for him to earn the respect of his peers and accomplishes his goals.
He does not feel at ease until all details are double-checked and the situation is under control. He has several project management certifications and a degree in Engineering.
- Prepare and implement specifications, cost estimations, equipment scope and deliverables in accordance with project requirements.
- Work with drafting staff to prepare and interpret schematic, process and equipment drawings, layouts and other deliverables.
- Perform review and evaluation of equipment vendor data and drawings and coordinate with supplier and client personnel.
- Coordinate material and equipment procurement and scheduling with vendor and field personnel during construction phases.
- Microsoft office
Setting Design Thinking for success
DocBoss has been by far one of the most user-centric companies I have ever worked for. It understood from the start that the root for any digital transformation had to be based on actively reaching our user base. To the point that twice a week I was asked to word from a client’s office, so I could see the document controllers working with the software in their environment.
Also, I was required to take customer service calls on regular basis, so I could hear users questions directly, their concerns, and learning the lingo. This also forced me know more about the software very quickly and how each company had a different way to work with it.
This redesign happened in conjunction with a technology stack overhaul, which meant we had to be very careful since users were working on the system while the redesign happened.
New Information Architecture
Bringing order to the chaos
Docboss information architecture was radically simplified, grouping screens and tasks together and separating primary, secondary and tertiary areas.
There was a big focus on making it very clear which sections were project-based and administrative. You can immediately see the difference in this side by side comparison.
Reducing the distance between information and action
Broke down the path, so it follows the need for users to go from a general idea of how projects are doing to a super particular area that needed his attention, and then created elements that facilitated quick and clear user navigation.
Dashboards > Projects > Project areas
How to see hundred of documents moving at different speeds
In Docboss, there are three primary dashboards.
a) Actions Dashboard
b) Projects Dashboard
c) Project list: Visualize every single project in the system. (Not covered in this case study)
Project level navigation
This area displayed a panel with a project list and the option to filter down the project. It also offered the option to start a new project in this area.
Navigating project areas
Docboss is a highly customizable solution with multiple add-on modules. In order to facilitate quick access to each area in the project, the best solution was a mega-menu. Docboss is a desktop-only solution, so we did not have to worry about accessibility issues of mega-menus on mobile.
Navigating project areas
Dashboard need to have a very efficient way to convey complex information to their users, according to the user we needed to generate two different ways to deliver project information: Action dashboards & Project dashboards
Informing the user about what needs to be done at the right time
This is an operational dashboard, it needs to highlight what needs to be done in the near future and by whom. Time is very important for accurate document management, the dashboard needed to clearly show the progress of a document according to the location and status.
Our dashboards needed to be highly customizable and flexible since every company had a different way to approach its processes.
Time is relative, some users would consider a document coming due one month before its deadline, others just a couple of days.
The two progress bars included in the grid represented “Actions due date” and “Document due date”. An action could be getting a document signed by the project engineer, and the document due date is the date the document is expected to arrive at its destination.
Once the users knew what do to do, it was very important to allow them to quickly do two things:
Learning more about info the document. The kind of document will most likely tell the document controller who needs to be contacted.
Starting actions to solve any situation discovered from the dashboard itself. Eg. If a drawing for a part is missing, most likely a project engineer needs to be contacted.
The time between the user deciding to do the right action to be processed and its implementation needed to be almost instantaneous, many project details, document names and statuses were just serial numbers or codes, which puts a lot of strain on the user’s capacity to remember those details for long periods of time.
This dashboard allowed to access the managed document, visualizing the information of the outstanding action. Our document controllers are in a constant race against time, every register has a deadline and this dashboard made it very easy to keep track of them.
KPI’s displaying the overall health of the projects
This is an executive summary, it was meant for company stakeholders to have a quick view of what was going on in each project. We needed to answer a very simple question right from the start.
Is this project going to make me lose money?
Most engineering companies suffer from document holdbacks, which means, if the whole documentation is not delivered on time, they do not get paid. And if there is no money coming in because one tiny document was delayed, how are they going to pay their employees and 3rd parties.
Dashboard cards gave small chunks of information.
If there is something is wrong, how bad it is and who is the person responsible of it?
This dashboard was designed to give a quick review of the health of single or multiple projects.
Assigning documents to card
KPI’s displaying the overall health of the projects
Every page needs to be in the right place
Docboss automizes quite a lot of the work document controllers need to do, but still, life is not perfect, clients and suppliers are very likely to send the wrong information, outdated documents or just forget about simple things like cover pages for their docs.
We needed to have a very simple way to manage every scenario.
There are three main sources of documents from the system.
Suppliers sending you specs for parts you need.
Your in-house drafting team
Files from customer:
Any document the client is sending to you.
Docboss centralizes these flows in one single page and shows which files were sent via the vendor portal, own systems or manually added by the user.
Our document controllers sometimes receive multiple documents in one single pdf. This can be very complicated to keep track of, so we offer them the tools to be able to select a document and split its pages in multiple thumbnails, so it can be easily attached to the right document card.
For the document controller fixing all those problems required using a different tool to make the adjustments, deleting the current version in the system, uploading a new one and explaining the reasons for that change in the system.
In order to make this process easier, we included simple editing and annotation tools to our doc controller does have to suffer because of somebody else’s mistakes
There are scenarios where we did not know if the edited version of the original one of the documents were the correct ones. We eliminated any potential problem by keeping track of every document’s version and being able to revert file to older versions.
Assigning documents to cards video
You can see how it all works in this demo
The benefits of caring for the customer
The successes of this project are deeply rooted on the passion the company leadership has to deliver great experiences. It is incredible how a small company in Alberta could deliver so much to their customers in record time. The flows and features presented in this case study account for only 15% of the work I did with them and the whole redesign of their platform lasted less than a year, including a complete overhaul of their technology stack, redesigning every single flow, adding two new complementary products and a new help section.
Enterprise software with high-density information is challenging and the results most likely are forms and grids that might only make sense to a very nice sort of users. It demands a great amount of patience and problem-solving skills that simpler interfaces with easier flows just cannot provide.
The quality of your design is directly related to the challenges you choose to face.