NGS Super: User-Centred Approach
About This Project
In 2014, NGS Super embarked on a journey that would redefine its brand ethos and embrace a ‘customer-centricity’ approach to digital throughout its touch points. By 2017, a milestone was reached when NGS Super, through extensive research released their most advanced and user-centred website.
The website was not only seen as an advancement for the Fund, but also an experience disruptor to a $2.5 trillion Superannuation and Retirement industry – It’s the largest retirement fund in the world, only surpassed by the UK and Canada’s retirement system.
Created in 1988 and as of 2018 NGS Super is ranked in the top 15 Funds in Australia with over $9bn of Funds Under Management (FUM).
As a senior leader, my role encompassed all levels of the project from conceptualising, conducting stakeholder interviews and management, research, analytics, roadmap development, all the way through to presenting, planning and finally delivering off the back of the approached initiatives.
The challenge for this project came from a number of fronts, which included:
- Regulatory changes affecting competition between banking retail and industry super funds
- Changes to consumer needs and expectations – transparency and reliability
- Technology advancements in personalisation and scale
- Organisational change management
The Process – Defining the problem (internally)
In order to create the right balance between delivering solid outcomes to improve the Fund’s digital capability and, managing the external constraints, I needed to begin the journey towards understanding how things came about.
By understanding WHY tactical activities had occurred, I was able to identify a baseline approach, gain internal support and begin to move the Fund into the right direction.
The approach was to understand the current performance across all digital touch points that the Fund OWNS.
In parallel, there was a need to develop a strong support base amongst senior management. In order to achieve this, I needed to:
- demonstrate my ability and knowledge around the digital landscape and,
- understand and articulate what the meaning of ‘digital transformation’ really meant to the group.
By demonstrating knowledge and expertise in my field and understanding their rationales, I was able to:
- nullify any misunderstandings
- unify and get a general consensus in the meaning of transformation to the Fund, and
- directly gather buy-in from the business without having made any key decisions.
Understanding The Customer Experience (Externally)
This particular phase in the ‘Discovery’ process enabled the working group to identify who our target audience were. In particular, key elements of the target audience base needed to be uncovered, including:
- General demographics
- The media they consume
- Their digital preference (desktop vs mobile) in consuming and taking action on complex financial decisions
- Life stage / psychographics
- And many more
We were able to answer these questions through a series of qualitative research (focus group and individual interviews), and quantitative surveys and interrogating existing online behaviour data.
My role within this exercise was to assist in developing the key questions, monitor the participants and eventually use the research data to synthesise and define.
The outcome from this discovery phase enabled the group to:
- Develop the key personas that the website would need to cater towards
- Formulate the key problem(s) and assumptions
- Develop the success metrics
- Rough timelines and budget requirements
This was presented to senior management and later to the entire company.
My role oversaw the discovery work using internal resources and external agencies to assist. In addition I also oversaw the recruitment and on-boarding of the Fund’s new digital partner (Request For Proposal – RFP).
The decision to find a new digital partner was the result of a wider digital audit that was conducted earlier, which determined the need to move away from the incumbent and recruit an agency that could support the Fund’s move towards the direction it needed to meet the demands of its customers and remain competitive in the face of a deregulated market.
The Discovery Result
One of the major tactical activities that was identified during the Discovery phase was the need to redevelop the website.
The major issues was not only the uplift in the design front-end atheistic, but more importantly the inflexibility of the back-end platform to enable the Fund to deliver the tactical features needed to produce the experiences we, as a group, expected.
Through the initial ‘Discovery’ phase we identified they key areas of improvement between the different levels of the business – People, Process, Platform.
From a website point of view, we needed to identify the features and prioritise this accordingly to what we needed for launch, what could be done after and what we were going to launch later.
In order to highlight the immediate needs, we developed a comparable matrix looking at the ‘Value to the user’ (x-axis) by the ‘Time for Release’ (y-axis).
After the agreed feature list was prioritised and documented, we worked with our new digital agency to develop a roadmap document which logically:
- laid out deliverable approach (agile sprints)
- initial ideation low-fi designs and
- roadmap milestones that integrated with the Fund’s current seasonal outputs.
This was a unique situation, as my role not only required me to be hands on with the information gathering, stakeholder management and reporting, but also facilitate our new agency to on-board with the Fund as well as maintaining Business As Usual (BAU) tasks and campaigns.
During the entire project, there was multiple communications to the senior leadership team to keep them updated on the progress of this delivery.
Looking at the design, we needed solve three major problems:
- Ascetically design the site to appeal towards the target audience without alienating the other audience segments
- Leverage the latest technology to facilitate in future design testing (A/B and Multi Variant Testing) and cookie implementation
- Architecturally build the website that complied with security measures needed within the industry standards
In order to solve these problems, multiple agile sprints were activated in order to develop the solutions required.
Design For The Target Audience
A material design approach was used to replace the flat panel metro design for the website. We looked at various designs, but ultimately chose this methodology as we recognised a shift towards a layered design, and we wanted to incorporate animation and, subtle contrast in colours to delineate the hierarchal structure of information on a page.
Early designs took inspiration towards a Google search design. The rationale with this approach was to acknowledge the familiarity of search (Google) and facilitate on the user to search on the site.
The final design approach still heavily centred the user on search, but incorporated familiar traditional block style design. The approach would enable the website to lift content from different parts of the site towards the homepage, thus enabling some personalisation to the returning user.
From a technology point of view, we also injected other analytic tools such as Hotjar, Crazyegg and Optimizely into the website.
Design For Security
With this particular sprint, we investigated and ultimately came up with a multi-level security solution with Amazon Web Services (AWS). This multi-layer approach featured clear authority access enabling the Fund to be as secure as possible, which was further validated during the penetration-testing phase.
The Slight Pivot and Delivery
Upon launch of the new website, it was decided between senior management that both old and new website would run concurrently. This was to enable a fluid soft launch and to mitigate any initial shock that regular visitors might have between the old and new website designs.
In addition, the soft launch, enabled us to identify any additional minor bugs which were fixed prior to a hard launch a few months later.
After three months of launch we saw visitations rise above expected performance numbers and we saw other key performance indicators that we identified at the start of the project validate some of our initial assumptions during the ‘Discovery’ phase.
This project allowed me to go through all different experience levels, from researcher, stakeholder manager to, decision maker and tester. This will enable me to approach any task from website design to complex operation problems with confidence as I can use this experience as a “blue print” the draw upon.
One of the key experiences was leveraging UX user-centred design approach towards the build of the website. In addition, working with cross-functional teams to create a modified agile delivery approach that satisfied management needs whilst remaining on time and on budget to deliver.
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