Article

How we work together to create beautiful products at Xero

At Xero we pride ourself with quality user research. But simply putting one person, or one type of role, on the front lines of research is not enough.


Anna McSweeney,
Product designer

This is a story of how we sent a Designer, a Product Manager and a Developer from New Zealand to Canada to conduct two weeks of user research together. What follows is a fabulous lets-write-a-blog-about-it example of when things go right, but if you want to hear about when things aren’t always perfect, read how Katie talks about how the design process is rarely linear.

I’ve been at Xero for a year now and in that time I’ve helped deliver a sales tax MVP for our Canadian users. I’ve also learnt a weird amount of information about how the sales tax system in Canada works.

We’ve released an MVP, what problem do we solve next? How do we work together to decide?

Last year, when we kicked off the Canadian GST project, Xero sent the Product Manager on her own to Canada to conduct research. She came back brimming full of user knowledge and excitement to build this product. You could feel her passion, you could hear what she was saying, but still it was hard to feel yourself.

Despite this knowledge of user research, the usual suspects of opinions about where to start still rise to the fore. “Other markets did it like this”, “the platform needs to be more stable before we can build anything”, ”need another opinion here”.

Collaboration in a cross-functional team is hard when everyone’s coming from a different angle. But when you’re all brought into the same problem and use these different angles to solve that problem, the process becomes more efficient and the solution will be that much better.

The same usual suspects of opinions came flooding back after our general release of our MVP. How do you get everyone brought into the user problem rather than relying on one person as the voice of the user?

 

A Designer, a Developer and a Product Manager go on a road trip...

With the help of our research team, the Product Manager, a Developer and I gathered up all of our assumptions, discussion guides and concept prototypes into a suitcase and traveled to the other side of the world together to unpack them.

In Vancouver, Montreal and Toronto we ran workshops with accountants, bookkeepers and business owners to rapidly generate pain points when it comes to sales tax. Participants used post it notes to generate their most tedious, frustrating, time consuming tasks and ranked them to give us a quantitative sense on what the biggest pain points were.

We delved deeper into these pain points with 21 research sessions across the three cities. Doing research globally can be tricky, and research so far had been all online calls, but nothing beats meeting people using our product in real life. As a team, we felt their pain points and understood their needs together. Bouncing around the city to get to each interview was also a useful way to get to know each city!

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A surprising new sense of empathy was created

There is a whole Xero team placed in Canada. Meeting them meant understanding of how product strategy people, account managers, marketers and event organizers work. There are so many roles involved in making this product successful.

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Do research together as a cross functional team

Teams become genuinely user centric when they don’t just rely on one voice who conducts user’s research. You realize what problems are big and which are small together; you don’t have to go back and have meeting after meeting to try and recreate empathy for our users with each other. The process becomes streamlined and solutions have the potential to be better when you have all roles looking at the same problem through the different lens of their role.

Open roles

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