SharePoint improves user experience and increases productivity

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Challenge: automate the process and improve information architecture

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As their number of external consultants increased, the International Executive Service Corps. (IESC) established a way to sustain their exponential growth by automating their contract approval process in SharePoint. But, the automation was limited, and a timely process caused users to circumvent the system.

Faced with a system wrought with delays and data integrity issues, as well as a severe loss in productivity, IESC needed a way to improve their contract approval process and their overall user interface. Simply—if staff didn’t like the system and understand it, they wouldn’t use it.

The solution? Putting the user experience (UX) first. IESC partnered with MainSpring to improve the user interface, restructure the information architecture, and create a new workflow to automate the approval process within SharePoint, which would dramatically reduce the number of steps and the amount of time spent on procurement.

Journey: limited process frameworks

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With their number of external consultant engagements on the rise, IESC realized they needed a way to organize and simplify their onboarding process. So, in 2015, they established a new procurement system for submitting consulting contracts to their compliance director. Their system, however, was built using SharePoint’s preexisting ticket system, which is a limited process framework.

To work with the limitations of SharePoint’s ticket system workflow, most of IESC’s procurement process was completed manually. Once the contract was written, the compliance director/document approver would upload the pages into SharePoint. From there, the approver would download the files to a computer and convert them to PDFs. Then, the approver would merge the files together, upload it to SharePoint again, and link it back to the original ticket.

It didn’t take long for users to recognize the system’s shortfalls. So, when users began creating data integrity issues, IESC knew they needed to reevaluate their system with a formal review. They found that, not only was their procurement workflow poorly designed, but their user interface was deficient, and their information architecture was unsecure.

Collectively, these issues led users to believe that SharePoint was counterintuitive; in result, users began to bypass the process. Moreover, the compliance director was forced to allocate more time for the process, resulting in a severe loss of productivity.

This disconnected and time-consuming process prompted IESC to find a better solution. They knew they needed an automated workflow to help save time and allow them to complete their contracts entirely online, but they also wanted to improve the overall user experience (UX). Consequently, they reached out to their existing IT strategy and consulting firm, MainSpring, for help.

Around 30-40 hours were allocated for IESC’s discovery and planning phases. With this time, IESC was able to discuss the project and piece-meal it together from start to finish—giving them total control over their solutions.

Impact: increase in productivity levels and a secure document depository

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In a little over 140 hours, IESC had a new solution in place. To the team, it simplified the systems, making them more intuitive. Some of the key benefits to IESC’s solution include:

  1. Greater accuracy
  • Improved form and data validation to ensure all contract requirements are met
  • Eliminated all manual steps to preserve data integrity and enforce business rules
  1. Increased speed and improved usability
  • Automated steps, such as document conversion, eSignature (DocuSign) and email alerts, to reduce the time needed for contract approval
  • Created a single page workflow and contract status legend to make the system intuitive and easy to use
  • Defined contract and supporting document tags to make the content searchable and to improve the aggregation of content for reporting
  1. Better transparency and oversight
  • Properly structured the architecture to make it easier to conduct modifications as internal processes change
  • Made the contract workflow history accessible so that it can be easily queried and audited for internal compliance
  • Improved document security to prevent data loss by unauthorized access

By improving IESC’s automation processes and refining UX, MainSpring gave time back to the staff—increasing their productivity. Because of this, IESC was able to achieve return on investment (ROI) in just a few weeks’ time.

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