User Workflow Redesign Project

Any student wishing to graduate from the Applied Information Technology program at George Mason University had to complete a year-long capstone course. During the first semester you would approach, partner with, and analysis a small to medium size business. The goal was to understand how the business functioned through its repeatable processes. Working with your team of 6 other students you were to approach a business, pitch a solution, and actually build it.

Observations

During the summer prior to the start of my final semester I was getting my haircut at a hair salon. My mind began to wander and I overheard another stylist complaining about one thing or another. Looking around the salon I noticed a few things: 

Hand Written Notes Client information is printed out daily a sheet of paper for each client? Given 12 clients a day multiplied by 9 or 10 stylists they must use a lot of paper. Given the nature of the business and the variations in handwriting what’s the probability of a mistake or wrong information being recorded for a client? How much paper are they using in a year?

Booking System Not only from a color scheme but from an overall design standpoint to convey information; It also doesn’t seem to show data that would save them time and often the assistant has to make large modifications to store needed client information.

Security Passwords are left in plain sight, employees all use the same account, and the account has a very easy password, “1234”. Customers are left alone on the second level with these system unlocked with access to client sensitive data (addresses, phone numbers, e-mail address, etc).

Communication Many times I’ve arrived on time only to wait for my appointment. 15 min will pass by and my stylist won’t even be aware that I arrived. Given the stylists mobility throughout the salon there’s seems like no formal communication system in place. An assistant must physically get up to find a stylist. When they leave the front desk unoccupied a cash drawer with no lock on it is left vulnerable to theft. 


User Interviews

Receptionist 

Most of the assumptions I’d made were exactly that, assumptions. If i was going to have any chance at success i had to talk to the people who working in their environment day in and day out. I wanted to get a view of the business from multiple viewpoints since each of their needs and requirements would be very different within the process stack of the overall business.

Stylist

To be honest I was kind of shocked at how desperate the views were but these interviews played a crucial role into how we were going to design a solution using technology to solve their business problems. Understanding their frustrations, i felt, was pivotal. It became obvious that the person paid the least was being given the greats responsibility. Someone paid $12/hr was a lynchpin to the business running successfully and if they faltered, so did the entire business.


User Workflows

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Coming away from the interviews it was clear there were multiple breakdowns in the business process. The general manager talking about efficiency but what I heard from user feedback it was that certain aspect were just flat broken. Below is a diagram of all the unconnected processes.

In a business where repeat business is so critical to it’s success.. it made no sense they this entire business didn't run a process that was more cyclical. The above process clearly did not put the customer at the center of its priorities. To the customer this process should be effortless and translucent. Every effort should be made to have those customers continue to return for services and the process should reflect that effort.

We also took the information from the interviews and took action. Specifically we sat for 12 hours at one location, they have over 15 in the DC metro area, and asked them outright why they didn’t buy products during their visit. The overwhelming answer was that they thought the prices are more expensive than elsewhere.

The truth was they were competitively priced but did a poor job conveying that to customers. Pricing was not publicly listed within the locations. The business also used their own barcode system and placed it over the existing UPCs for products, which disabled a customer ability to scan and look up the product for their own.

We also reviewed the existing software and hardware they were using. Hardware mainly consisted of outdated towers running out dated software. The main server for the location was also being used as a client. If anything happened to it, the entire system would shut down for over 30 minutes. Considering the immense amount of hair floating around it would often get pulled into the fan housings for the towers and cause reduced performance and increased risks for fires.

The software design seemed good in nature but lacking in execution. The color scheme had no legend and made more logical and relatable sense to the receptionists. In an effort to make it easy to view at a glance it seems the software made poor use of the space it did have and actually made their jobs harder.

The software also was used primarily for scheduling. Though it had the capability to also handle payments they used a separate system to payment processing. Inventory was also hardly used through this system, which did not discern b/t locations so if one location received a shipment and updated its stock, that update would push to all other locations thereby making their counts inaccurate.


Redesign

The above diagram reflects this cyclical process while incorporating the feedback we received from the interviews with employees. It uses existing equipment and cloud based systems to increase efficiency. We use tablet and cloud computing to increase communications with customers involving product costs. Major highlights from our to-be included:

- Tablet computers
- SaaS software designed for Salon Industry
- Staff Reduction
- Electronic communication bus w/in business and b/t locations and customers
- Integrated Inventory, Purchasing, Accounting platform by location
- Advanced Analytics and Reporting