XCM SOLUTIONS INC
From Spreadsheet Drudgery to Workflow Zen: How We Transformed XCM for CPAs
XCM empowers CPAs handling large firms and HNWI accounts across the US. Discover how our UX/UI design transformed their workflow from a number-crunching nightmare to a seamless symphony of efficiency.
XCM Solutions (Recently acquired by Wolters Kluwer) has a suite of products that helps firms centralize tax, accounting, finance, and audit processes within a single platform for end-to-end, streamlined workflow management. The holistic view of all work-in-progress helps leading firms and tax departments balance workloads, proactively address bottlenecks before they become problems, and drive profitability.
XCM Solutions (Now Wolters Kluwer)
US & Canada
User research | Website Strategy | Communication Strategy | Content Design | Content Writing | Information Architecture | Visual Communication Design | Development Support
Re-engineering a complex legacy product currently used by over 35,000 CPAs for workflow management in taxation
We had a long-term partnership with XCM for over 7 years till they were acquired by Wolters Kluwer. During the span of these 7 years, we worked with the XCM team to redesign the XCM suite of products inside out, literally by redefining the core principles on which the product was built.
We transformed the product from a legacy experience to one that used the latest in front-end design and technology to deliver a seamless consumer-grade experience to over 35,000 CPAs in US & Canada.
XCM is a product firm based in Maryland, US with tech and customer support teams in India. Their flagship product targeted large CPA firms handling multiple accounts of very large firms and high-net-worth individuals operating across the US. The product wrangles the complexity of high-stakes audits and tax filing, transforming paperwork into streamlined productivity.
XCM needed more than a facelift. They needed a reimagination: a user-centric overhaul that not only eased the chaos of compliance and workflow management, but also demonstrably saved money, time, and sanity for the customer. This meant understanding the intricate world of CPAs, their unique challenges, and the hidden inefficiencies buried within their ecosystem.
Our usual UX bootcamp got tossed out the window. This required full immersion. We needed to tap into the minds of these tax warriors, understand their unspoken language of deadlines and decimal points. So, we ditched the sterile labs and traded them for CPA trenches, ready to learn from the masters themselves.
Forging into unfamiliar territory wasn’t unusual for us. Enterprise UX was our battleground. But this time, the landscape was different – US taxation and the enigmatic lives of CPAs. We knew nothing about their daily grind, their pain points, the silent screams buried under mountains of paperwork.
Enterprise UX process for XCM
Forget cookie-cutter processes. XCM deserved a bespoke path, a deeper dive into the domain, deeper understanding of the user needs and product potential. We obsessed over details, crafting micro-interactions that empowered users at every turn. Our mission? A 10x leap in product value, a transformation so profound that every click demonstrated purpose. This wasn’t just a facelift; it was a redefinition, a testament to the power of meticulous design.
Solutioning - Finding 'value'
In product design, usability and aesthetics are important, but they’re not the whole story. The key is value. At Invendes, our central question is always, “how best can we solve this user problem?” This focus on value is what guided us in transforming XCM. Take, for example, the overwhelming data entry process junior CPAs faced. By developing a streamlined interface with automated data imports, we reduced their workload by 20%, freeing them to focus on client interactions and strategic tasks
Deep Audit & Heuristic Evaluation
Armed with domain know-how, user insights, and burning questions, we delved into a deep audit of XCM. This wasn’t just bug hunting; it was a treasure hunt for hidden efficiencies and elegant solutions.
This rigorous documentation, encompassing persona profiling, story mapping, affinity diagramming and beyond, wasn’t just an academic exercise; it was the bedrock upon which the XCM reimagination was built. By prioritizing empathy over mere efficiency, we unearthed user truths that revealed the solutions, ultimately guiding us to design not just for, but with, our users.
The primary persona was that of a CPA who reported to the ‘partner’ and did all the heavy lifting. She/he is usually overloaded with ‘tasks’ most of which pertain to client engagement, tax audits, and paperwork.
Pain-point: With multiple clients to handle, keeping track of various financial documents, deadlines, and regulations can be challenging, leading to potential errors or missed opportunities.
32 y/o, Certified Public Accountant New York, USA
“ Excel spreadsheets are a nightmare. I live in constant chaos. I’m longing to be a CPA, not a spreadsheet warrior ”
- Become a confident and competent CPA
- Improve efficiency and reduce errors
- Develop strong client relationships
Sarah feels lost in the labyrinthine menus and functionalities of the old platform, hindering her ability to complete tasks efficiently.
Maria’s eyes fly open to the blaring alarm clock. Her first day at her CPA firm looms large, a dizzying mix of excitement and nervous energy. Coffee in hand, she dives into client onboarding – mountains of paperwork, tangled tax forms, and an unfamiliar application interface. Frustration mounts as she navigates clunky menus and searches endlessly for vital information. Deadlines tick ominously closer, adding to the pressure. Maria yearns for a streamlined system, a workflow that doesn’t feel like wrestling an octopus.
35 y/o, Certified Public Accountant New York, USA
“ My team is drowning in emails, deadlines are blurry ghosts. I spend days chasing updates, not leading. We need a central hub, everyone in sync, like a well-oiled machine.”
- Gain real-time visibility and control
- Improve team collaboration and communication
- Free up time for strategic planning and client relationships
The old system provides limited insights into project stages and team performance, making it difficult to track progress and identify potential roadblocks
Richard drowns in a sea of emails, phone calls, and budget reports. Juggling client demands, team deadlines, and strategic planning leaves him with a perpetual knot in his stomach. Visibility into project progress is a blurry mirage, reports take an eternity to generate, and team communication feels like a game of telephone. Frustration gnaws at him – he needs a platform that empowers, not drains.
Where do we start
Embarking on a UX audit and product re-engineering is an opportunity to revisit the very foundation of the user experience. It’s a chance to ensure that the fundamentals – the global structure, nomenclature, role management, and design system – are rock solid. With over 35,000 CPAs who were active users of XCM, every change had to be carefully considered. We documented each revision meticulously, backed by clear business rationale (small changes in large ecosystems can carry a hefty price tag). Each tweak was then honed through targeted testing and granted the final seal of approval by key stakeholders.
We handpicked a UX team to complement XCM’s existing strengths in documentation, interaction, interface, and front-end. Our engagement model was to become their dependable, long-term design partner filling in and complementing their existing strengths.
We forged close partnerships with product owners, developers, customer service, and management, fostering a seamless flow of ideas and decisions. Designs landed ahead of development sprints, paving the way for XCM to internalize the design function over the long term
This is where the rubber meets the road – Information Architecture & Interaction Design. We piled up countless whiteboard shots, post-its, and sketches. Hundreds of wireframes evolved through an iterative process of user testing, data analysis, and stakeholder feedback.
Each one, a snapshot of an evolving landscape, reflected the nuanced needs and workflows of CPAs.
Visual Language (UI) & Design System
This looks like the easier part but not really! The UI design and the visual language were intended to take the usability to the next level using subtle messaging using colors, spacing, typography and layout.
There were hundreds of wires and we needed a very detailed Design System. We toggled between UI design and design of the Design System (DS) adding elements to the DS as and when new wires were created.
XCM’s iconography ditched the dry and embraced the intuitive. Inspired by user workflows and data patterns, each icon became a visual whisper, guiding actions and providing clarity at a glance. Think minimalist maps for navigation, clean charts for data insights, and friendly prompts for task management – all woven together to create a visual language that spoke to CPAs without a single word.
User Interface Designs
Hundreds of wireframes later, we weren’t just designing screens, we were crafting tools that felt like extensions of their brains. The resulting UI balances intuitive navigation with aesthetically pleasing elements, ensuring a seamless experience that empowers CPAs to focus on their core tasks.
Impact & Conclusion
The results were transformative. Not only did XCM report a surge in user satisfaction and efficiency, but the redesigned platform demonstrably delivered on its promise of financial return. With streamlined workflows and reduced usability errors, CPAs saved valuable time and money, allowing them to focus on what mattered most: their clients.
XCM Solutions’ engagement with UX Design Labs demonstrates the power of user-centric design in transforming complex enterprise systems. Through a long-term, flexible, and innovative partnership, a legacy product was re-engineered to be extremely user-friendly and a joy to use.
The collaboration not only exceeded expectations in terms of design and schedule but also empowered XCM to grow internally and embrace user experience design as a core part of their development process. It’s a testament to how design thinking can lead to business success.
We were engaged as the UX Partner throughout the growth stage of the product for over 7 years. The XCM suite was eventually was acquired by Wolters Kluwer.