The primary concept behind the CX4 application is a collaborative, web-enabled process for direct manufacturing sourcing operations. While there are many supply chain management tools out there, most are designed around relatively simple indirect manufacturing and services processes. The CX4 app was built to enable large-scale, multi-lot sourcing projects with thousands of biddable items to be accomplished online.
The existing process for direct manufacturing relied heavily on complex Excel spreadsheets and offline or email collaboration. Our target user base is heavily Microsoft-centric, with over 75% of our users still using Windows XP with Internet Explorer 6. Existing interaction patterns and workflows had to be taken into account when designing the application, and we modeled the interface to loosely follow the Windows XP design guide.
Another challenge with corporate SaaS apps is that decision making purchasers often have very little actual interaction with using the application. Strict process controls and user tracking were a strong requirement, and we worked hard to implement these without impacting the end-user experience.
The interface needs to cater seamlessly to administrators, managers, buyers, and suppliers. In some cases the difference is clear-cut — suppliers are presented with a unique, simplified task-focused interface. Other scenarios are less well-defined — the boundary between project structure and process isn’t always predictable, and any given user may take on differing roles across seperate projects. One of our primary challenges was to ensure that the interface scaled across a broad range of user needs.
Our design process focused heavily on rapidly iterating on a high-fidelity prototype, which was also repurposed for marketing & client demos. CX4 was used internally by our market-making teams to run our own sourcing operations, and provided valuable feedback as we were working on new features.
We followed a Lean UX methodology — design for a new module typically involved a few sessions of brainstorming & whiteboard sketching, some rough Photoshop or Illustrator wireframes, then transitioning to the HTML prototype for detailed interaction flows. The prototype would be presented to existing clients for feedback before production development. More recently, we began to run basic but more formalized user testing, and experimented with using Balsamiq for wireframing.
I worked on multiple other projects during my time at Co-Exprise, not all of which can be shown here. A partial list includes:
Program & Project Management
Provides high-level insight across organizational hierarchy and multiple projects into buyer activity and workload.
Activities & Purchase Orders
Simple workflows that exist outside of the regular project structure.
Workflows and interface design around contract management, digital signatures, etc.
A proprietary ActiveX technology that can read multiple 2D & 3D document formats and convert and compress them into a common standard for viewing on the web, with full access control and content expiration controls.
Persistent libraries of items, documents, and cascading levels of project templates, allowing users to easily repurpose repeating projects.
A reverse auction bidding console, featuring patented bidding controls and real-time communication.
Environmental manufacturing compliance controls.
Administration modules for customizing the app for different co-brands, taxonomy builders for commodity coding, geographical classifications, etc.