Fuzzy Math & Availity

Please tell us about how you created an enterprise or business solution that keeps usability at its core while still effectively meeting business needs.: 

Making an organizational shift to focus on design is hard. Making that shift while acquiring other companies, and their unique approaches to design, doesn't make things any easier.

Availity, one of the nation’s largest health information networks, found themselves at just such a crossroads. Recognizing the need to prioritize design within their organization and to improve the customer experience for medical providers and insurance companies who use their suite of applications, Availity brought on Fuzzy Math to help define a path forward. We were tasked with creating solutions that Availity's growing design team could use to ensure current and future applications were usable, and consistent with the rest of their enterprise offerings. Beyond their internal teams, Availity wanted to expand their products to provide a platform for 3rd-party development, so we needed to ensure that our work was extensible enough to scale accordingly.

I. Discovery: Understanding the ecosystem, and finding alignment across teams

As an external design team, part of our task was to help align the two core Availity product teams, which were operating independently rather than as an enterprise team. We needed to get everyone speaking the same language, and viewing their respective products as parts of a larger enterprise ecosystem.

Our design team held workshops and interviewed stakeholders throughout Availity's organization, including senior management, customer support, development, product management, and design. We spoke with people across product teams, to understand each teams’ individual needs. Availity’s design team had a wealth of past research, which we used to fully understand and gain insight into their products’ end-users.

We quickly realized that users across their core products weren't so different. In fact, many people were users of more than one of Availity's applications. We worked with their teams to build enterprise-level personas and journey maps, capturing the experiences of their users beyond just a single touchpoint in a way that could easily be shared throughout their organization. Through workshops, we asked each of their teams to draw out what they saw as unique in their products. By overlaying each product’s set of unique features on top of the other products, we were able to show just how similar each product truly was. Their team was onboard, and excited about the idea of shifting their products to a consistent platform and enterprise experience.

II. Design: Creating consistency through patterns

To construct a robust, usable enterprise design system we first pored through the current Availity applications, taking note of every interaction pattern, visual style, and content piece.  We identified all the components that needed to exist across all enterprise applications, as well as some of the key features that would be unique to specific applications, yet still feel like part of the same family. Through discussions with their team, we learned not only how things were, but why they were that way, ensuring our suggestions would follow past successes and avoid any known pitfalls.

While Availity gave us strong brand standards, those standards hadn't yet been adapted to support interactive properties and platforms. We combined our knowledge of their existing applications with the visual language and goals of their brand standards to extend and modernize their existing communication design standards to apply to complex interactive tools. To effectively capture and communicate these standards to their team, we developed a living style guide with clear definitions of the colors, typography, and graphic design to use across their entire enterprise product spectrum.

For each piece we identified in our review of their applications, we compared all existing versions of that piece and came up with a single usable suggestion. Where in the current state there may have been four different ways to approach an interactive component, we used our design expertise, combined with our style guide, to define a single pattern to use moving forward—ensuring that no matter where a user is in any of Availity's products, they'll see components that both look and function the same. Showcasing parts of different applications built using this system gave Availity’s team a clear glimpse to the potential look and feel of the enterprise system.

III. Delivery: Building an extensible enterprise design system

We built a comprehensive Pattern Library document, along with example pages showcasing the patterns in use. Within the Pattern Library, we were careful to document how a component should look and work, as well as when it should be used, and any other user experience notes that would help during implementation.

We designed the Pattern Library to be a great starting point, which would be updated and expanded by their team over time. To help ensure the longevity and success of the Pattern Library throughout the organization, we helped Availity define processes for updating and maintaining the Library. These processes would be used by the Availity team and any 3rd party developers who would be building on top of their applications in the future. By using the Pattern Library—and an approval and update process driven by the design team—their developers would not only save time but also ensure their work resulted in usable, consistent interactions.

To reinforce the ongoing success of design within the organization, we reviewed the Pattern Library not only with their design and development teams, but also with team members from other departments, ensuring that everyone was on board and ready to move forward.

We believe that design is an important consideration throughout an entire enterprise organization. To help further that cause, we also provided education to many non-design team members around ways they can deepen their knowledge of the people who use their products, and the roles they play in the successful design of a product. Working with executives and managers, we helped define a UX roadmap to pave the way toward ongoing design growth and maturity. We also ensured that our Pattern Library and Style Guides were living documents, so that as their design system evolves, their working references can be updated and maintained in parallel.

Availity is in the process of releasing new features using the Pattern Library, as well as redesigning their suite of applications to fit within the design system and opening their platform to 3rd party developers.

What can others learn from the successes and failures of how you crafted your enterprise or business solution? : 
The greatest challenge in delivering an enterprise or business solution is aligning the client internally towards a user-centered design approach. For new clients, Fuzzy Math spends as much time training on user-centered design as we do implementing user center design throughout the project. So speaking to business-minded stakeholders about ways that design can impact their bottom line is just as important as our work alongside their design team to implement our. We were fortunate enough to ask for and receive access to individuals throughout the organization. The success was asking to speak with a multitude of people and establishing cross-team, cross-role relationships even before the project started. One area we took away as a learning was to align ourselves earlier in the project with their growing internal team of UX designers. This would have facilitated a smoother transition towards the end of the project, which was successful, but there is always room for improvement.

 

How were you able to balance complex business requirements with the need to give your users a usable and functional tool?: 
Our goal throughout the project was to ensure that every presentation, deliverable, and design demonstrated that a better user experience results in a better overall customer service experience. Our client, Availity, already understood that a better customer experience positively influenced their overall business. As designers it was our job to connect the two in their minds.
 
In healthcare, like other industries, there are many times that business requirements can negatively impact the usability or utility of a tool, application, and/or service offering. Our role as designers is to advocate for end users in all cases, even when they conflict with business (or technical) requirements. We utilize story telling to humanize the users, place them in a realistic scenario, and demonstrate the user experience. In some cases we lead workshop exercises with cross-functional team to prioritize concepts to determine if there was a conflict between user and business goals. If a conflict was found we could identify the way to achieve the business requirements while not fully sacrificing usability or utility within the tool. At the end of the day a mix of structured workshop activities and open discussions around user needs, business requirements, and technical constraints can deliver a proper experience.

 

Were there consumer applications that influenced your approach to enterprise design?: 
During concepting and storyboarding we performed analogous research on consumer tools to identify best-in-practice interactions that meet similar user goals as our tool.  We start with personas and user journey that include user pain points, user goals, and expectations. We then derive a series of themes from these journeys so we believe we can concept around. Each theme will have any number of consumer applications, tools, or devices that we believe we can leverage to explain how our client’s application can be improved.
 
On this project our final deliverable, and the focus of our submission, was the enterprise design system for Availity. End-users of applications don’t view tools and think about “design systems” or patterns. That is a designer’s approach. But users very quickly realize when these design systems are not in place because the experience breaks down. During this project we evaluated the design systems in consumer products, such as how Adobe, Google, and Microsoft have delivered a suite of products under a common UI and Design framework. We evaluated these systems to better understand where they were working and failing and how we could apply these to this project.
 

 

How did your team work within your company to determine what your users were looking for in an application?: 
Our process involved conducting primary research with internal client users of the product as well as leveraging existing primary research performed with health care providers. Research was synthesized into personas, scenarios, and user journeys to understand the current state experience. We then created potential future state storyboards targeted at many of the problems we knew their customer’s were facing. Storyboards included multiple concepts, which could solve problems in different ways. We worked through these concepts with a cross-functional team to ensure the best implementation that met user, business, and technical requirements. As stated earlier, it is our role to advocate in all cases for what is best for the user.