James Helms, Design Leader, ProConnect, Intuit
James Helms, Design Leader, ProConnect, Intuit

The Intersection of Design and Accountants

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Intuit® ProConnect™ design leader James Helms recently sat down with Jody Padar, CPA, and Liz Gold as part of their Let’s Get Radical podcast series. Here are some of the highlights of the conversation.

Jody and Liz: What excites you about designing for accountants?
James Helms: I’m excited about how the problems accountants have; they are very interesting.  As a designer, that is our gold standard – big problems that are worth solving. At Intuit, we’re designing for relationships. Accountants see the world one way and clients see it a different way. That’s one of the reasons they hire accountants in the first place. We are always looking for ways to better serve accountants in the moments that matter to them.

JL: What have you learned from accountants?
JH: We’ve connected with more than 500 accountants across our different products. We are constantly engaging with them – early, when we need inspiration, and later, when we need validation and a gut check. What we’ve learned is accountants see themselves as difference makers. They get up every day to solve big, important problems for their clients. There are obstacles in their way, such as inefficient processes and trying to stay on top of the work itself, much of which is far flung and out of their control. It’s the accountant’s role to orchestrate a year’s worth of financial data, the implications behind that, and all the pressures that come with getting it right … making sure it is accurate, on time and nothing slips through the cracks. All these things are in the way of the work they really want to do, which is to have great outcomes for their clients. They want to be trusted, confident advisors. Instead, they end up trapped under all this work.

JL: What is Design for Delight, and what does it mean for accountants?
JH: It’s about getting to know your customer deeply. Not just listen to them, not just talk to them, but really understand what it is like to be them and what their pain points are. It’s getting into our accountants’ heads and hearts to see what makes them tick … and what ticks them off. Next, it’s using those insights as a springboard to come up with lots of different ideas to solve problems – then narrowing with criteria such as, “Is this big enough? Important enough?” From there, we rapidly create iterative prototypes that translate those customer needs into a tangible experience for experimentation. In short, we move from design thinking to design doing.

JL: As you were developing QuickBooks® Online for Accountants’ Practice Management, how did you apply Design for Delight?
JH: We did what we always do, which is start with the customer. We met lots of different accountants with lots of different kinds of practices in several countries, because we wanted this to work globally. The common problem that came up over and over again was this idea of tracking tasks internally, as well as tracking work, communication and data collection with their clients. We looked at how they currently solved that problem: whiteboards, third-party apps and spreadsheets, and more … and saw that, because all these tools were disconnected, they were incredibility hard to maintain and keep up to date. We saw the value of tracking all of these tasks in one place, right where the works happens. That was our biggest opportunity to solve well, so we used that as our inspiration.

JL: How can accountants contribute to future design efforts?
JH: Accountants interested in being considered for future testing efforts should send an email to practicemanagement@intuit.com.

Editor’s note: Practice Management is now available in QuickBooks Online Accountant.

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