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Case Study


Document Control & Submittal Management Application

Focused specifically on projects with tagged equipment,
DocBoss improves vendor document management


A Document Controller manages the numbering, filing, sorting, and retrieval of documents. An efficient doc controller manages all documents in a timely and accurate manner. This role demands constant communication between technical teams, projects or departments. 

Strategy: Improving usability by analizing data from analytics, running user tests, and quick iteration.
Methodology: Product Development & User Experience Design under waterfall development

Tools: AdobeXD, Illustrator, Proofme and Trello

Understanding the problem

Being a document controller for a Vendor company can be frustrating. This job is crucial to the success of all projects, but do not get the recognition they deserve.
Engineering Production and Construction companies to Vendors and Sub-suppliers submit hundreds of documents. A document controller needs to route the right document to the right person and the right time. These documents are always changing hands, new information gets added, and orders change. They use spreadsheets to keep track of it and it very easy to lose control of what is going and experiencing delays.
Also, the documents themselves are hard to read. They are a series of technical documents, like manuals, test or procedures.
Every piece of equipment becomes part of a compilation at the end of the project. In a compilation, all docs get indexed, reviewed and printed. These compilations are hard to produce and manage, they could weight 20 kilos of paper. One single error and everything will be rejected.

About the product

DocBoss is the main product of the Gnaros, a software company located in Calgary, Alberta.  Its goal is to simplify, automatize and optimize the chaos described above.
The system keeps track of the piece of equipment in a purchase order or project. Then it links each equipment item to series of required documents. Docboss creates an index for each tag-doc relationship. The system keeps track of where the documents are, route them to the right person and at the end of the life cycle. At the end of the project, it collects all documents in a compilation, ready to print.

Screens showing the product before its redesign

Understanding user’s pains

Before starting redesigning the app, DocBoss did a lot of legwork to understand users. In 2016, DocBoss published the study “Supplier vs EPC, Why is document controlling so painful?”. On it participated of 106 organizations, 45 supplier organizations, and 61 EPC organizations. The study focused on document controllers, project manager and inside sales representatives.

Research results

Every EPC company submitting documents to faces the same problems:
  • Large volumes of manual work,
  • Complex (or unclear) expectations and procedures.
  • Time-consuming rework, frustrating both parties.
The single most important factor to EPC respondents is accuracy and format. For 80% of respondents, the most important factors are data validation and correct formatting. Suppliers often have no document control system or defined protocols.
Top Suppliers pain points related to documentation
  • Payment holdbacks related to documentation. In other words, no docs, no money.
  • Frustration (and extra cost) when a minor mistake causes a document rejection.
  • Document management skills are not appreciated or rewarded.

Top EPC pain points related to documentation

  • Dealing with supplier is messy and iterative
  • Lack of attention to timelines
  • Receiving poor quality document scans, documents not usable.

User personas

In our research, we discovered two personas. Daryl a document controller from a small supplier company. And John, a project manager working at an EPC company. We represent them as cartoons, to add some fun to a serious and dry engineering problem.

We used illustrations instead of photos to present our personas, it is more fun that way!

Daryl, 27

Daryl, 27

Document Controller

Daryl is always paying attention to the smallest details. He never forgets a birthday and his deep sense of humanity makes them one of the most trusted guys at the office. His methodical approach to life ensures that nothing is left to chance. He sometimes is responsible of solving problems that he cannot control. He wants to show everyone how good is he at his work, but nobody pays attention until things go wrong. He has a bit of college education, but it is not related to his current job.
John, 38

John, 38

Project Manager / EPC

He is responsive, accurate, and provides constructive feedback on a regular basis. He is passionate, determined and assertive.It is important for him to ear the respect of his peers and accomplishes his goals. He does not feel at ease until all details are double checked and the situation is under control.  Sometimes he can come out as a control freak, and strain some relationships because of it. He has several project management certifications and a degree in Engineering.

Let’s talk about design, shall we?

In November of 2015, we started working on a complete redesign of the whole enterprise application.  DocBoss as a product had captured the attention of many potential customers but usability problems usually got in the way for closing sales.  Also, current users had several issues working with the interface, requiring a long learning curve, and relying on customer support on regular basis to do routinary work.

New Information Architecture

Docboss information architecture was radically simplified, grouping screens and tasks together and separating primary, secondary and tertiary areas.  There was a big focus on making very clear which sections where project base and administrative.

You can inmediatelly see the difference in this side by side comparison.

Old architecture

New architecture

New navigation

A new navigation came along with our updated information architecture.  According to our analytics, different personas had different was to navigate to a specific project.  

Quick access to Dashboards

Actions dashboards and projects list where favored by document controllers, because it allows them to see specific document cards that required attention.  For project managers, Project Dashboards were they place to go since it will allow them to see the overall health of a project.

Quick project navigation

The navigation offered multiple ways to navigate into a project, and it also offered the option to quickly jump from one project to another.

Navigation inside a project

Once a specific project was selected, the project areas were divided four main sections and one quick access area (upper bar).

Navigation into admin area

This mega menu allows the user to access to user profiles, library, lists, reports, and overall admin areas.

Project Dashboard Redesign

The redesign project dashboard allowed to group projects, pin important projects to the top, and show/hide projects according to specific data.

Project cards

Each project and its analytics where represented by an expandable card.  Once the card was expanded it would allow the user to quickly see crucial information about the status of the project, like progress (completed / not started / in progress), incomplete cards (by due date and location), incomplete cards with customer and documents ready to send.

Assigning files from the incoming document dashboard

Every document coming in from outside the system needs to be placed in the right container, commonly called document card.  We had three different kinds of sources for those documents, files from a vendor, from internal or from a customer.

See how the assigned files to a card from the Incoming Documents Dashboard works now.

About this client:

DocBoss minimizes the manual work required to deliver project documentation. With a unique solution which creates and links the document register to the order data, DocBoss systematically creates document metadata (including document specific tag lists).

Learn more about DocBoss

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