How we helped Qvalia build a world-leading platform for automated transactions
You run a successful business, with satisfied customers and steadily increasing revenue. However, your business is building something that will soon change with the digitization of society. That’s when insight, capacity and the courage to change your company and its business is required— while the current business is still flourishing.
If you realize that sometime soon, someone is going to create a service that makes your company’s current line of business superfluous to requirements, then make sure that the someone is you. This is the essence of the reason Qvalia chose to engage Äventyret as a partner when it decided to take the next step in the development of the company.
Qvalia helps its customers optimize transaction flows. Since 1999, Qvalia has developed a successful business as a transaction specialist, consulting for clients across most industries, and returning millions of dollars to its clients on annual basis from accounting errors. Qvalia has offices in five markets and works with organizations in a global market.
Although the Qvalia consultancy business is a success story, the very reason it exists is because there are so many errors in traditional accounting. For a long time, Qvalia had realized that this would change with the advent of the digitization of transaction flows initiated by companies and organizations, and which will become mandatory for all public operations (probably from November 2019 in Sweden) in accordance with the EU Directive on Electronic Billing in Public Procurement.
At the start of 2015, Qvalia approached Äventyret with a plan to develop an entirely new business area: cloud-based transaction flows using a platform and technology that will come to replace the invoice in its entirety (and therefore also the e-invoice). Qvalia and Äventyret agreed that the best way to quickly achieve this, was to implement a number of prototype projects for the purpose of creating decision materials that can be touched (i.e. point or click). The prototypes should result in a responsive user interface (mobile first) for a number of services, and demonstrate the best functionality and user interface, while also being based on the forthcoming Qvalia platform, with centralized data and connections to external data sources through the cloud.
How we worked together
To get the most out of the project, a cross-organizational team was put together (with people from Äventyret, Qvalia and Prototyp, a close collaboration partner of Äventyret). The team moved into a Boiler Room in the Äventyret studio in central Stockholm. The first prototype project had a deadline of eight weeks from brief to delivery.
We started with a quick overview, in which the Qvalia team members – experts in financial transactions, industry regulations and existing systems – went through everything that was required with the concept develops and designers from Äventyret. Over the next few days, we carried out benchmark studies, technical recon and other operations together, in order to establish a common picture of the problems that we should solve first. After the first week, the project group had an establish, common picture of the challenges that lay ahead of us.
Week two began with a paper prototype in which we designed, broke down and taped together a number of versions of how frameworks, interactions and functionality should be tied together. Following a vote, we chose to proceed with two versions on paper straight into code.
So as to not lose ourselves in only functionality and risk dropping key parts of a user interface that is about the driving force, a parallel process was initiated in which two members of the project group focused on color, form and typography, while their other team members continued with the work on interaction patterns, response loops, data visualization and other aspects.
Over the course of a week, these paper prototypes were coded in Bootstrap and two weeks into the project we therefore already had clickable prototypes that could be user-tested. This gave us insights, which helped with the selection of a path, with one of the prototypes proving itself to be significantly more user-friendly. There were also lessons learned and key functionality also extracted from the other prototypes.
When the two project team members responsible for the graphics had a number of lines to present, the project team was able to quickly decide which of the lines that we should proceed with, and on the basis of this decision, work was started on the final prototype.
In Äventyret, Qvalia has finally found an innovation and service design partner that we had spent a long time looking for. I am especially pleased with the understanding of business demonstrated by all involved, which is of crucial importance to the creation of a successful product.
— Henri Taipale, CEO, Qvalia
During the three remaining weeks, the project was built and solutions were tested on a continual basis at internal demo and prioritization meetings every third day. When the project deadline was reached, there was a prototype in place that was then presented to the Qvalia executive team, for a decision as to whether the transaction platform should be developed or not.
From prototype to production
The decision went our way and Qvalia decided to allocate resources to properly develop the transaction platform.
Now it was time to divide the work for different purposes:
- One team would focus on producing ready-to-use code to enable the Qvalia technical team (reinforced by developers from Prototyp) to be able to build the basic functionality for the forthcoming solution, while
- another team (with members representing Äventyret, Prototyp and Qvalia) launched the next prototype project; extended functionality and what would become the payment aspect for Qvalia Invoices.
Result: Qvalia Invoices
During the spring of 2016, Qvalia Invoices was launched and the customers – companies of many different sizes, public authorities, municipalities and municipally-owned companies – cam streaming in.
The new Qvalia services enable companies to manage their entire transaction flow directly in mobile devices and tablets or computers. The basic version is free to use and manages the creation, sending and receiving of invoices entirely electronically, via an easy to use interface. Instead of creating invoices as PDFs that are sent via email, the invoices are sent entirely in XML via an electronic invoicing system and is integrated with the company financial system via an API.
This leads to efficiency as well as error-free financial management. Companies and organizations that use Qvalia Invoices can also create and sign agreements with their customers and suppliers, keep track of credit ratings and behavior, sell invoices and activate bank credit checks directly from the interface. Through this business development that has emerged from the prototype project with Äventyret, the Qvalia service portfolio has been extended and future-proofed.
As the preferred innovation and design partner to Qvalia, Äventyret is working continuously on the further development of Qvalia Invoices and forthcoming related services. Watch this space for more revolutionary, disruptive financial services that will be the fruits of our ongoing collaboration.
Qvalia Invoices: an in-depth study
Concept: A cloud-based transaction platform that in the long-term will render the invoice unnecessary.
The overall goal of the transaction platform is to do away with invoices entirely, as there is a better way to manage the financial flow for a company. Instead, Qvalia Invoices offers a 360-degree solution that makes it possible to create offers, agreements and electronic payments, alongside a workflow in which certification, approval and payment take place in the same interface. The platform creates the conditions for streamlining and reorganizing the customer’s financial function, as well as increasing accuracy in accounting and management of VAT.
Design: form and interaction that simplifies and improves
The graphical form and interaction design produced by Äventyret for Qvalia Invoices is born of the input values of simplification and improvement in comparison to existing financial systems on the market.
Therefore, we have created a light and easy-to-use graphic form in which figures are supported by interactive graphs and infographics. Äventyret has emphasized the fact that, in addition to being simple, Qvalia Invoices must be enjoyable and inspiring to use (something a lot of service designers tend to forget). So, for example we built statistical overviews as landscape images with pyramids and hot air balloons, which in a detailed view can be unfolded for a more in-depth view of the transactions.
Interaction design is based on constant advancement in the use of the service. As it is possible to use Qvalia Invoices via a mobile device, tablet and computer, we have built a responsive solution, in which a big part of the focus has been directed towards the steps that a user is in. As an example of how to make use intuitive and easy, invoice creation is divided into a number of logical steps, in which different layers are presented depending on what data will be entered by the user. This places a significant focus on each step of the task and minimizes the risk of entering incorrect data.
Prototypes or ready-to-use code? Both are needed!
Äventyret continuously delivers interface prototypes for flows selected for further development by Qvalia Invoices. In this way, prototypes serve not only as the basis for making decisions, but also as simultaneously easily understandable and advanced requirements specifications. The prototypes make it easier for the Qvalia systems development team to maintain both the pace and the quality.
Determining what should be included in an interface prototype is integral to the quality of the end result. Using our own brand of service design, that we call innovation-driven service design, Äventyret has realized that the most difficult part of our job is to create a whole without doing everything at once. This is why we choose to work with our clients on the selection of part of the solution, for which a prototype is then created that visualizes only the solution to the most challenging problem.
But we don’t stop there. When our clients need it, Äventyret delivers productive, responsive interface code that can be used as the basis for further development by the client’s technical team. in collaboration with Qvalia, we share responsibility for the code that is to go into production through an interface team, strengthened with developers from both Äventyret and Qvalia who work with the same code base with Git for version management.
Using traffic data analysis, we have tested the service quantitatively, as well as qualitatively through shadowing, focus groups and user interviews. Test results are fed back into the continuous process of modification and improvement of the completed solutions.
From a technical perspective, Qvalia Invoices comprises two parts:
- The first part is an application in which users manage their transactions, which are written in Node with Angular as the front.
- The second part is a service bus that integrates with the transaction system, written in Java. Hosting is done by Amazon AWS with EB (auto-scaling).
Choice of technology and development of all parts in the solution were done by Qvalia in collaboration with Prototyp and Äventyret.