Business-to-consumer (B2C) financial services provider Ally Bank and business-to-business (B2B) professional services firm PwC Australia took home top honors in the design category of Forrester’s first annual Outside In Awards. In our recent report, Amelia Sizemore and I describe how — despite vastly different business models and target customers — Ally and PwC followed strikingly similar approaches: human-centered design processes that involved a collaborative kickoff stage, extensive research, contributions from customers and multiple parts of the business, and numerous iterations of prototyping and testing. 

Ally evolved its mobile banking app quickly — without sacrificing customer input.

Ally gave itself just nine weeks to design and test its new mobile banking app. Incredibly, team members managed to involve customers during seven out of the project’s nine weeks.

After an initial round of customer interviews, the team asked 10 mobile banking customers to complete a two-week diary study. Participants noted the financial activities they needed to accomplish and sent in photos of places where they wanted — but weren’t able — to bank. Next, the team conducted informal tests of its initial sketches and paper prototypes with a new group of customers. Finally, the team brought yet another group of customers into its usability lab for formal prototype testing.

PwC’s new intranet fulfilled the intertwined needs of clients and employees.

Professional services firm PwC Australia had an internal communication challenge: Its traditional corporate intranet was structured around org charts and weekly internal news, and its client delivery tools often lacked strategic focus and were unaligned across the firm’s diverse businesses. So in late 2011, the firm launched an initiative called “PwC online” with the goal to standardize and infuse client centricity into internal digital work processes across PwC’s business units.

The PwC online team hypothesized that presenting end users and employees with a ready-made solution would invite challenge, but co-creating a solution would create buy-in and ownership. To put this notion to the test, the team commandeered a giant workshop room in PwC's Sydney office, turning it into an “experience lab” — a physical space where end users and stakeholders could create and give depth to personas using photos, screen shots, and sticky notes. Then the team recruited clients and employees from each business unit to collaboratively define and sketch out interface elements, such as a personal profile, search results, and the client-facing landing page of a project collaboration site. Participants continued to help design and provide feedback on wireframes and functional prototypes as they evolved.

B2C and B2B firms should follow a common design process.

Regardless of their industry, customer experience professionals who want to design useful, easy, and enjoyable experiences should follow the lead of Ally and PwC Australia by leveraging a human-centered design process. If you’d like to learn more about how these two award winners conducted in-depth research into customer needs and wants, created representative personas, prototyped collaboratively, and iteratively tested their concepts to converge upon effective solutions, please check out our report.