What are the difficulties and learning whilst working UX toward Retail Inventory Management System(B2B) product?
I had worked as UX designer in countryside design agency company which focused on building up the system toward B2B product before I quit the job. It had a lots of some takeways during these two months especially how B2B product works out in UX, and the difficulties toward retailing system.
What are the background?
Whilst the company had built up longer relationship toward local coffee retailing company, supplying information consulting and system which can help company works out their operation, financial, human resources management and ERP system specifically.
Now, they had began to organise the inventory management system to help their headquarters, branches for their stock status and any changes in terms of clarifying their stock information to realise all the selling conditions and operations.
Difficulties had faced
1. Information Gap between locals and metropolitan areas
At first, client somehow told us that they point out some outcome they would like to have (some how like Beautiful interfaces or similar interfaces from other companies, not a object methods), PM and UX will spend more time scheduling on clarifying what they really want , the information they would like to have and metrics they would like to pursuit.
On the hand, local areas are lack of knowledge about how to conduct UX and user research to clarify the need, especially like somehow they are given wrong information or having wrong users to join the meetings, causing more money and time for further improvements.
Also, in Taiwan or even most of Asia, if you need to conduct new techniques and perspectives, which is getting involved into existing system, you need to persuade them in long-term time period and show the proff of evidence that have huge benefits with positive results in local areas.
so, what are the solutions?
Firstly, you need to educate and realise the real problems from client side, analysing the whole page of situations (like quick shifting side from the client, you may need to handle up client with long-term relationship with intensive communication and understanding).
Secondly, the senior staff need to take ownership toward educating clients about real timeline and team development, especially how to develop the team building, how to settle down the responsibilities, and formal process development, calculating the estimated time for development, letting your client realise the formal process of collaboration, conducting the step-by-step time management, building the professional and user-friendly which is aligned with client’s real-time usage interfaces.
2. ‘Client’s need is the all the priority, money is the highest value‘— collapsed business model with local design consultancy’s monthly subscription
While working in design consultancy, you will always hearing that ‘client’s need is the most priority’, it is half true, but in the another half, it is wrong based on unreasonable business model, resulting in the low-quality of services and low-value toward client’s products.
Whilst started to create the flow in the product and tried to understand the user’s flow and manufacturer knowledge in the industry while entering the project, project manager frequently asked UX designer and UI designer to shift the title, names in the specific interfaces without any prior discussion with developers and designers and some of structure of flow without client’s need. Or even somehow in the tighten period, project manager also asked UX designer and UI designer to keep speeding up to create one or two interfaces in one week. It demonstrated that lack of knowledge within product management will lead to the low-quality of services and products, resulting in client’s need is the high priority and service may not be aligned with real user’s need.
On the other side, as my previous experience from my colleagues, in design consultancy firm, each case’s charging fee will be case by case, depends on client’s case and need, charging the fee based on the contract without any subscription plan.
Some of colleagues told me that company had monthly or long-term service subscription based on profound relationship and strategic partnership with other local business. It will led to one of the crucial reason why client’s wants to hurry up the progress of software development in a short time period due to paying huge amount of money in a longer period.
3. Lack of manufacturers knowledge — B2B product’s biggest challenge for designers
While being lack of manufacturers knowledge, as an UX designer is struggling to realise the industry’s need and working process of flow, like importing and exporting system and how to allocate the stocks from branches to branches, headquarters and warehouse. Due to lack of knowledge and lack of the assistance from project manager with documentation, I spend more time in scrolling retailing system related references, taking more time to realise how system works out, and how the system operate in different roles, and how roles delegated in the system and how it helped the company to operate the business in retailing system.
Due to this situation, I had created system operation documentation for designers to realise how the importing and exporting system works out, letting the further designers have mindset about fundamentals to make sure that they are on the same page as project managers and other stakeholders.
4. Lack of product manager — UX plays an role in product management in the further improvement
Whilst we are hurrying up to create the interfaces and functionalities, we missed out many features so many times, but I feel like one of the reason is quick notes in the meetings without any formal meeting notes in company’s meetings and product improvement documentations.
In order to improve this situation, I started to conduct product requirement documentations(PRD), writing notes in documentations with history versions, any changes with functionalities and features, site mapping and wireframes, priorities on features and development, letting designers and developers have quick jump into any update. This really helps UI for shifting, transforming and documenting, and also helps me to realise how any changes with further development.
5. B2B products’s difficulties — clarify the need with complicated information and expectations
While I am lack of any further knowledge in the inventory system, I spend more time toward different situations happened in how stocks’s status changed. You need to figure out how the flow works out while stocks in the warehouse, on what situations user(branch staffs) will face in reality time period. Then, starting to asking questions about what their mindset and thoughts about users to react in specific situations, collecting data and real-time situations from them, ensuring what their feelings and complaints about flow or interfaces from clients, project managers or even staffs.
6. ‘Empathy’ is disappeared whilst in the team collaboration
At the mid term of project, project manager will start to scold designer’s performance in a personal way, it will be harmful to the team collaborations, atmosphere and communications, reducing the more cost of time in the each sprint and MVP development.
On the other hand, we are both freshers in the company, as a senior you need to change your position and mindset about other people’s current situations, it will help team built up the clear, health and better team collaboration.
While we are team collaborations to help software development smoothly, every role like UI, UX, front-end, back-end, and project managers will be well-communicated with fully understanding document. Both roles are each supported by each others, reminded each other’s faults, confusion and lack of communication, those will help company to develop the positive impacts toward further development for the company.
After these intensive and short period of time development, there some takeways I had realised.
Clear, formal process software development will help team growth and build up
If the team had built up longer relationship toward different stakeholders with clear responsibilities and who takes ownership, it will reduce the possibilities of dismissing or any further problems.
Project manager is not product manager, new pathway of shifting to product manager
Project manager’s job responsibilities was settling down the timeline, realising client’s need and negotiate with the different stakeholders in project and the further performance about project.
But project managers are not product managers, they don’t know the features of products, what user/clients really wants to have, and even flow of product(what user would like to see). Product managers take ownerships toward product positioning, product marketing and strategy, what product will be in the next five years, using data to operate the business, writing PRD and BRD, and longer consideration toward product in the further period. Also, they need to take over how product development, from planning to the after launching period, keeping track of product’s performance, and produce the reports to give other people review about product performance with further pathways.
Shifting career to the company have their own products
Due to this design consultancy experience, I started to think about careers to the company who had their own products, it will show their mindsets about formal development process with only one product or industry-related product, reducing the possibilities about time management and several products take up in one hand with confusion.
Thank you for watching.