PwC’s Small Business Services

Bringing new audiences to a 100+ year-old accounting firm

Brooke Kao
Suitcase Words


The Vision

PriceWaterhouseCoopers provides accounting services to Fortune 500 companies. They’re seeking innovative solutions to diversify into new audiences and industries. My team was hired to explore problems small business owners face and how to leverage PwC’s expertise to solve them.

The Problem

On average, 75,000 small businesses close per year. The reason is not for lack of profit; rather, the issue lies in cash flow management and ability to convert invoices into real cash. Small business owners struggle to track and collect on their invoices.

The Solution

PwC’s Small Business Services track invoices and send reminders when payments are expected to come in. When a late payment arises with a client, the services provides templates to guide the business owner to collect on their payment without harming the relationship.

What I Did

With a small, cross-functional team of 2 designers, 1 developer and 1 product strategist, we shipped a React Native app in six weeks to the App Store.

  • Built proto-personas, including the user and the PwC stakeholders
  • Led storyboarding and story mapping sessions to unpack user journey and feature set
  • Mentored team, including PwC stakeholders, to observe and facilitate user interviews
  • Conducted a diary study to validate product-solution fit
  • Owned visual design and applied PwC branding throughout the app
  • Shipped React Native code

The Outcomes

  • Shipped an app in six weeks under the compliance scrutiny of a major enterprise company (this is no minor task)
  • Secured $7 million in funding for future PwC innovation products
  • Conducted 37 user interviews over six weeks
  • Trained an offshore team in Shanghai on Design Thinking and Agile best practices
  • Gave 2 talks about the product: on innovating in the enterprise and on diary studies
An evolution of personas: from our proto-persona to unpacking user feedback to new personas.

User Insights

  • Templates aren’t human enough. Our small business owners dislike asking for payments, but email templates lacked the communication style and personality each user has.
  • People only need to be reminded once. Our app sent notifications every day when it saw invoices weren’t paid yet. Some of our users found this quite frustrating.
  • There’s more to it than just the small business owner. Diary studies revealed nuanced relationships to the user: the user’s client, the accounts payable mangers, and more. This enabled us to explore future work with different, bigger customer segments.

Learn More

  • Walk through the Invision prototype
  • Read the talk my team and I gave at a Balanced Team event



Brooke Kao
Suitcase Words

NYC based Researcher and Strategist // @brookekao