The Ohio Society of CPAs partners with the accounting professionals to advance the state of business so Ohio can enjoy a healthy and sustainable economic environment. The Ohio Society of CPAs represents 85,000 CPAs and accounting professionals who are the strategic financial advisors to Ohio’s leading businesses. With experience with public, private, and non-profit organizations, they work with business leaders and policy makers to help with initiatives like fair and predictable tax environments within Ohio.
OhioCPA came to us in hopes of replacing their existing course e-commerce platform with a new, fully customized platform built within the context of their current CMS system, Sitefinity. Because of our experience working on their current site, and their positive experience with our design process, they decided to work with us to move this project forward.
Building a foundation of new ideas within the context of our existing work, because we have the experience with their CMS system, we built the requirements for this project within that context. Having long-term trust with our clients is our goal here at Swtichbox, to become partners with our clients. We aren’t just looking to do work, but to help our clients build and improve their business processes. When current clients come to us with new ideas, we can pull from our repository of experience with the client and their solutions to ensure that each factor of the project has been considered.
After the initial request from the client, the Switchbox team sat down with the client to get a deeper understanding of the project. In this case, we had a series of meetings with the client to review the existing course e-commerce system, get an understanding of the pain points and reasons the client would like to make changes, and to develop a baseline understanding of the project requirements. Once we had a handle on what the client wanted, we were able to develop a plan and a scope for our discovery project. The “scope” of the project is an outline of the activities and questions that the project seeks to answer, along with the overarching outline of the functionality to be understood.
Since, every discovery has different needs, we handle each one slightly differently. With an existing project like the OhioCPA one, we are faced with different challenges. When developing a scope for discovery, we determined that it was incredibly important to understand the following:
In order to answer these questions, we determined that we would need to create the following:
In order to direct the project, the Strategy team likes to work with the client to better understand why the project is valuable to their business. In the case of the Ohio CPA e-Commerce migration project, the client felt that the value in the project was having more control over the functionality of their online course offering catalog. With their existing site, the functionality was limited due to using a generic LMS that they were customizing to their needs, making it difficult to solve problems as they came up. Understanding this value point, it was important to focus during discovery on making the new e-Commerce site have incredibly flexible administrative functionality, and making it easier and more user friendly to manage the courses on the day-to-day. This helped us eliminate major internal pain points, identify improvements that could be made to streamline features, and to provide important safety and security features that the customer service team needed to alleviate their biggest daily struggles.
Every project that Switchbox takes on requires some amount of discovery – this is because every project has a history and stakeholders and business needs that have lead it to us. No matter the size or origin of a project, the Strategy team at Switchbox will sit down and get a good understanding of the client’s business, the needs that sparked our involvement, and the processes which any software supports. In the case of Ohio CPA, because we knew a lot about the marketing processes of the business and not much about their continuing education sales and administration business, we had to take a deep dive into entirely new segments of their business processes.
Understanding the needs of stakeholders in different segments of the business
Continuing education is a key part of the Ohio CPA business model, so it was important for our Strategy and Implementation teams to get an idea of how this part of their business was managed and what types of functionality they required in their current day-to-day operations. Once we had a handle on the day-to-day, we were able to get deeper, understanding the unique pain points for each stakeholder segment. We discussed the needs of the customer service team, the learning team, and the marketing team individually, and we included the specific needs and pain points of each into the project solution.
Rebuilding existing software with new features requires a deep understanding of the existing software features
Because we would be replacing their existing LMS system’s e-Commerce platform with our new software, we took our time in discovery to get to know how the existing software works. After walking through the customer journey, we also worked with the customer service and learning teams to get an understanding of what they had to accomplish within the context of the application. This process allowed our team – especially the Implementations and Design team – to see first-hand the types of experience issues that needed to be addressed in our solution. Once all of the functionality was understood, the requirements for our new application were captured in detail to ensure that nothing was left out.
Building in our existing software required developer involvement to ensure our requirements were grounded in reality
During a normal discovery process, the Strategy team works independently of the Implementation team in order to best manage resources and make it easier and more affordable for our clients. In the case of a major application overhaul with an existing client like Ohio CPA, we felt it was necessary to have the current lead developer involved in the discovery process from day one in order to ensure continuity and technical feasibility every step of the way. Because of the high level of developer involvement, the team felt confident when the discovery assets were fully approved and the process of handoff from discovery to implementation was straightforward and quick.
This project was unique because our team was performing a discovery into adding new functionality into the client’s existing project. In conjunction with that, the client had engaged another development agency who had specific skills working with the data repository software that would serve as the backbone of the project – Aptify. Because of this added set of stakeholders who were performing their own independent discovery alongside ours, we had many touchpoints with them to ensure that we were all on the same page. In the case of Ohio CPA, we asked the client AND a representative from the development agency to fully review and approve all requirements written for the project. This ensured that we were all speaking the same language and that our perspectives and goals were in line.
The client was incredibly involved, and that was very beneficial in ensuring that the requirements were comprehensive. The client representative for OhioCPA was a key asset in making the complex discovery process possible. Our contact at OhioCPA was an incredibly involved and responsive resource who assisted in coordinating schedules between both Switchbox and their development agency working with Aptify, and in ensuring that all of the important Ohio CPA stakeholders were in attendance to the correct meetings. Other than being an amazing coordinator, the client was an asset because they had a plethora of knowledge about the past implementation details in their existing e-Commerce solution, and historical knowledge on the issues that their many internal teams were facing. Because we had such a prepared and helpful resource, the discovery process was smooth and moved quickly along a well-defined timeline.