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Cash management re-designed – UX putting the user first

Treasurers of global corporations require powerful solutions for their cash management. Intuitive ease of use should not be underestimated when it comes to selecting a TMS and enabling reliable liquidity planning. Technology and achieving a certain understanding of this technology are certainly part and parcel of a modern treasurer’s work. However, treasurers are neither IT specialists nor should they be expected to become such experts. What they do need are powerful tools that allow them to get on with their actual job, i.e. making strategic decisions that benefit their company. So how does User Experience (UX) design improve the usability of a TMS and help make the cash management process more efficient and secure?

Going with the (user) flow

The history of modern UX design begins in 1980s California, spearheaded by the behavioural psychologist Don Norman who was hired by the computer manufacturer Apple to run a novel research division. The latter was called into being to tackle a very specific problem:

Apple was working on a software for filing taxes and was wondering how to deal with the fact that the majority of tax professionals knew very little about computers, while many computer experts struggled with tax regulations. A viable compromise was needed for the development of the software, one that would ensure the usability of the software while paying heed to tax requirements. User experience design was born.

One of the main characteristics of UX design, as it is understood today, is a focus on user-centred design. Attempting to optimize the relation between form and function, this approach is based on the two categories of user interface and user flow, the former driving the latter. Considering the work of a treasurer, two qualities are crucial to the interface structure:

  1. Treasury is mainly about data, specifically numbers, which calls for a clearly structured typography. Simplicity is the key to avoid distraction.
  2. The same is true for the overall TMS user interface: Echoing the designer and bestseller Golden Krishna and his notion that “the best interface is no interface,” users ideally shouldn’t notice the interface at all. On the contrary, treasurers should be empowered to get their work done with a few simple clicks and no impediments.

Putting the user front and centre

This leads us straight to the heart of the second category, the user flow.

Let’s take a simple example: Imagine two machines. The first one requires you to constantly feed it with input that the machine then turns into the desired end product. Machine number two has these processes automated and only notifies you when something goes wrong, giving you the chance to manually intervene. Meanwhile, you can go about your daily business uninterrupted. Which one of these machines are you more likely to buy? Most likely the one that has the needs of the user in mind!

When we developed our new cash management process, we chose a similar approach to automation and user flow: before anything was developed, we talked to countless treasurers and scrutinized their daily cash management processes and the way they’re using the system.

Users were asked to verbalize every single step of their work. This way we could determine what they did as well as what their reasoning behind these steps was. This led us to a clear definition of processes, culminating in the realization that the system could support the user even better than it has in the past. Product managers, UX designers and developers processed these insights to come up with a new user flow based on a new degree and type of automation. 

Cash management reloaded

When we began to support treasurers with smart solutions back in the day, cloud-based software was the first step, eliminating the need for time-consuming and inefficient data collection and freeing up capacities for strategic planning. Now we continue on the path to user flow optimization by completely automating all repetitive processes to the point where users only get notified if an issue occurs. 

A cash manager needs a daily overview of all balances in order to make investment decisions. Up until now, this meant importing account statements, comparing planned and actual cash flows, analyzing these cash flows and making adjustments, for example transferring funds from account A to account B. An optimized user flow would turn this process on its head and drastically simplify it: In this scenario, the cash manager’s work starts with the balance overview and insight into reconciled accounts. They only need to intervene if alerted to a missing account statement or when reconciliation has not been completed. Such a user flow not only saves resources and time, it also ensures that treasurers do not forget any of the steps they would have to take in a more manual system. This boosts process security enormously.

From a UI design point of view, a clear presentation of informational icons on the balance overview page, aggregated by account groups, makes for transparent and intuitive usability. This means that this type of fully automated system is not an inscrutable black box but follows the user settings, which in turn are determined by a company’s setup and the relevant tasks. In addition, the user has the option to manually check and adjust each of the automated processes. The essential difference is that while treasurers used to have to feed the system, the opposite is now true.

Into the future with AI 

Where does this lead us? The most likely scenario for the future would be a machine that is able to learn, thanks to artificial intelligence: for example, a TMS that reacts to corrections by the users or to repeated manual intervention with additional automation offers. For now, this is still in the future - but we may not have to wait all too long. We’re working on it!

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