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Helping Aquent Qualify Orders

Patrick Branigan
Feb 1 · 4 min read

Aquent is one of the most successful creative staffing companies in the world. They help the most successful companies partner with creative talent via workforce services, managed services, and project management. That success is due in part to their ability to create, maintain, and scale internal product and technology solutions that serve their staff and agents. One such solution is a proprietary software system that encompasses processes ranging from talent sourcing and order management to applicant tracking and payroll.

Every time a client has an order (needs talent), Aquent agents gather information to put into the system. This information is stored as data which is, edited, validated, updated, and shared throughout the entirety of the order’s lifecycle. While opportunities for optimization and automation are evident, we were tasked with exploring concepts that would increase data accuracy and quality at the first step of the order lifecycle — intake.

I worked with a Product Manager and a team of engineers to research, define, ideate, prototype, and validate solutions to the challenge. We began by interviewing and surveying users and then created personas to reflect our primary targets — agents, account managers, and account directors. Next, we conducted a UX audit of the existing flow of information and user touchpoints, effectively highlighting the architecture, content landscape, and user flows we were working with.

A user persona image with corresponding details.
A user persona image with corresponding details.
Persons
Complicated user flow diagram.
Complicated user flow diagram.
Existing user flow with annotations
User flow diagrams.
User flow diagrams.
New, simplified user flow

We found that the initial hypothesis that order information needed to be “checked at the door” wasn’t exactly a problem. Instead, we found that communication of this information from one party to another was inefficient, disruptive, and sometimes entirely absent. There were three themes present:

  1. Lack of awareness of existing information.
  2. Prioritization of new and existing information.
  3. Lack of cross-team communication.

In the absence of other designers and a tight deadline, I facilitated a design jam with the team (a series of divergent and convergent thinking exercises). This allowed for awareness of design thinking infused into the agile development process. It also provided an opportunity for unique, non-design perspectives to be expressed and considered, especially in regards to feasibility, earlier in the project lifecycle.

A whiteboard with sketches, diagrams and dot stickers for voting on ideas.
A whiteboard with sketches, diagrams and dot stickers for voting on ideas.
Design jam snapshots

We took the results of our design jam and generated wireframes and medium-fidelity compositions and continued iterating.

Visual compositions with notes and sketches overlaying them for revision.
Visual compositions with notes and sketches overlaying them for revision.
Revising compositions

The direction we decided to pursue is a two-page experience at the entry of an order into the system. It provides a form tied to the database. This allows pre-population of existing data, as well as consistent information capture across all users, without the reliance on third party tools. It also enables the surfacing of client-specific information, providing a robust display of Aquent’s past relationship with the company based on past orders’ data. Finally, the form was built using a field locking mechanism, allowing multiple users to edit the form at once without the risk of overwriting in the same field at the same time.

A list interface.
A list interface.
Requests page
A form interface.
A form interface.
A long form interface with corresponding chat module.
A long form interface with corresponding chat module.
Initial composition of request form and corresponding chat module
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Snapshot of active field locking

Also included is a chat module, where users can communicate in real-time. It stores as an internal ledger from which natural language processing is used to lift contexts, keywords, and patterns. Users can invite collaborators to chat, effectively providing access to the form and chat history.

Chat module interface.
Chat module interface.
Request with not collaborators
Chat module interface.
Chat module interface.
Request with multiple collaborators
Collage of user testing results.
Collage of user testing results.
Earlier user testing of compositions

One of the most rewarding results of this project is being able to have helped uncover patterns and habits of how different agents communicate with one another. It’s a study on not just if information is accurate but also on how information is being arrived at, and what implications it might have on different users’ success. Moving forward, we’ll be continuing to iterate on the form experience, most notably changing the form to become a two part sequence with supporting client details always displayed. This will lessen the page length, increase performance, and lessen the cognitive load on users. Additionally, we’ll be making the form smarter–presenting fields specifically tailored to certain client’s and job inquiry types.

Patrick Branigan

A collection of work and thought by Patrick Branigan.

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