A design hackathon
Finalist of a three-day design hack, organised by VISA, Founders of the
Future and AKQA to simplify the complex for small businesses. Our team created a solution that would save businesses and its employees 10 to 12 hours a month in admin tasks by making paper VAT receipts redundant.
Sole UX Designer,
UX Researcher, Workshop Facilitator
THE CHALLENGE | SIMPLIFY THE COMPLEX
VISA is a global payments technology company enabling consumers, businesses, banks and governments to use digital currency by facilitating electronic funds transfers.
With 5.6 million small business owners in the UK (FSB, 2018), VISA wishes to deliver an easier and better way of doing business for these small companies. As every company is unique and faces several financial challenges, four opportunity areas were formulated:
Our team focused on simplifying Administration as this area proves to be particularly time-consuming and confusing for business owners.
VISA provided us with a persona profile named Emma, an art studio owner and mother who spends a few hours a day on her financial admin. To get our team on the same page and to empathise with Emma, I led a few rounds of design thinking group exercises. Starting with empathy mapping, drafting out 'a day in the life of Emma', followed by experience mapping, then by 'how might we' statements to finalise with dot-voting to narrow down the scope and agree upon our focus. From this the following three key design challenges emerged as our starting point:
How might we give business owners more control over their admin?
How might we make business owners enjoy doing their admin?
How might we enhance the collaboration between business owners,
their employees and accountant when doing their admin?
'How might we?'
To get more insight on the problem we were solving we wanted to involve actual potential users. We divided the group in 3; 2 teams of 2 went outside
to guerilla interview shopkeepers around Holborn in London asking them for 10-15 min of their time to understand challenges faced during administrative processes. Whilst 1 of us stayed on the premises to make a head start doing online background research, looking into the current market landscape, potential competitors, and gather information about technical constraints and possibilities.
We spoke to 9 small business owners and found out that sorting out VAT receipts and invoices was a reoccurring pain point. HMRC (Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs) requires businesses to submit quarterly VAT returns by recording all sales and purchases by keeping physical copies of paper receipts. 5 out of 9 interviewees shared that receipts would regularly be lost, misplaced, or at times missing as they forgot to request a VAT receipt with their purchase. One of the business owners went as far as showing us a receipt in his wallet, which over time became faded and unreadable thus not admissible for his VAT returns.
''Senior decision-makers in finance and accounting admit to not being the best at keeping receipts, as 65% confess to having lost them''
''25% working in a small business is spending over 10 hours a week on administrative tasks.''
Like many other small businesses, Emma spends roughly two and a half hours a week to organise her receipts. We wanted to find a solution that could give Emma back her time and to not having to go through the repeated struggle of looking for VAT receipts. So we created the following problem statement:
''Business owners like Emma find the process of organising their itemised VAT receipts tedious and time-consuming. Emma needs a quick and easy way to prepare and submit her VAT receipts to her accountant so that she can spend more quality time with her daughter and focus on her art frames''
Example of Emma's daily business expenses, B= need for an itemised VAT receipt
We started to evaluate existing software that touches upon what we were solving, followed by a brainstorm session about how our potential solution could look like in the form of an app. This was the point where we started to get a little sidetracked, as our ideas were mostly around making the process more 'fun' for Emma, and not focusing on getting the job done 'quick and easily' as per our problem statement. We all felt that Emma did not need yet another app that would simply substitute the time spent on sorting paper receipts to time spent on sorting digital receipts.
Existing solutions evaluation
Minimum Viable Product Matrix
The idea of an app was quickly discarded as we wanted to avoid having Emma to:
download, learn and incorporate a new software or app
complete a series of repetitive actions such as taking photos of receipts
scan QR codes
send and receive numerous emails with receipt attachments
We learned that in the current electronic payment infrastructure chain, certain available data that is useful for HMRC VAT submissions are not being passed on between the 'Acquirer' and the 'Issuer'. An API integration for electronic payments with bank cards could solve this data gap. Whereby VISA as the 'Issuer' could request and pull available data directly from the 'Merchant', so that data such as itemised descriptions, VAT amount and VAT number could be then passed on to the 'Institution' ie. the banks. Who then, as a result, would be able to display these details onto their clients' monthly bank statements. In this case Emma's monthly bank statement.
Current electronic payment environment
Suggested API integration
HOW WOULD THIS LOOK LIKE FOR EMMA?
As Emma banks with HSBC, I started sketching HSBC transaction overviews and bank statements with the required data needed for VAT return submittals. Having the VAT number and VAT amount displayed on monthly issued business bank statements, Emma; when paying with her bank card would no longer have to keep or search for physical receipts.
The assumption I took was that banking institutions like HSBC will have a lot of legacy constraints, so in this particular case, I kept to HSBC's current look and layout. The same concept would be true for other banking institutions like Santander, Barclays, ING, Lloyds, TSB and Nationwide for example.
See below for screenshots of our desktop prototype of how an HSBC business bank account holder would see their VAT receipts itemised in their transaction overview and monthly statements:
Itemised transactions overview
Monthly bank statement
We created a solution for small businesses that would save approx. 10-12 hours a month in sorting out paper VAT receipts. During user interviews we discovered that businesses often lose and spend hours in sorting out these receipts. With an API integration, VISA would be able to capture all the information that HMRC requires for VAT returns directly from the merchant. VISA then can pass this information on directly to the Institutions (banks like HSBC, Barclays, Santander etc). This way businesses won't have to sort and worry about paper receipts as the VAT details are now to be found on their monthly bank statements. Giving businesses back their time, and just in time before HMRC requires all receipts to be kept digitally for 7 years. 🍻
Our team came 3rd out of 80 fellow designers and 11 teams and we were invited to VISA's Innovation Centre in London to pitch our solution to the wider VISA team.