A look inside the IRESS Laboratory where users are co-designing XPLAN

Promoted by IRESS.

IRESS Labs brings users into the software design and development process to share their opinions, experience and insight - and we’ve spoken to some of the XPLAN users.

Users co-designing XPLAN software in IRESS Labs

Like you, we believe that software should just work.

While we’ve always sought and embraced user feedback in the design of our software, we wanted to find a way to gather more feedback from more users.

So nine months ago we opened IRESS Labs, our user-centred co-design approach, focusing initially on XPLAN and to be rolled out across all IRESS products over time.

In practical terms, IRESS Labs takes concepts and ideas, generated by both users and IRESS, into experiments for iterative design, prototyping and testing with users. This ultimately leads to co-designed functionality that does exactly what users need it to do.

And it’s working.

To date, over 75 users representing more than 50 firms are actively involved in IRESS Labs.

The insights and collaboration of those users has been invaluable to the recent releases of XPLAN, and it’s also been interesting to hear their thoughts on the process - why they got involved and what their experience has been.

Chris Ball, Operations and Development Manager at RSM Financial Services Australia, shares his view on the role of technology in advice businesses today: “Technology is having a greater and greater involvement and importance in advice as the business becomes more complex - marketing, advising, compliance, client servicing and nurturing – and technology is becoming more and more pervasive and impactful. I have been an active contributor of suggestions and requests to IRESS, which have always been well received.  IRESS Labs seems like an opportunity to be a couple of steps closer to the product team at IRESS who are actually delivering the solution we rely on.”

Melissa Coffey, IT Manager for FYG Planners, shares this sentiment: “Being able to quickly and efficiently capture and organise client data into information to form financial advice, without having any concerns about data integrity, is incredibly important to our business and the Labs concept seemed like an ideal way to retain all that we had already invested into XPLAN and contribute to its development towards our vision of what we want its future to be.”

What is IRESS Labs?

The Labs approach happens in three stages:

  1. Design discoveries - where users are actively involved in designing functionality and interfaces by providing insights on what’s most important to them and has the greatest impact on their business.
  2. Development experiments - where the themes, functionality, requirements and common user journeys defined in the design stage are taken into development; the same users iteratively test and give feedback on prototypes to ensure the software works the way they need it to.
  3. Delivery of co-designed functionality - the new co-designed interfaces and features are released into the latest version of the software, with the option to toggle between the new functionality and the earlier version.

While each Lab experiment differs, typically users go through interviews and workshops and then rigorously test and give their raw feedback on every aspect of our software design. Only the interfaces and features that meet their high standards make it through as co-designed functionality.

Using technology, we are now able to significantly scale our existing face-to-face user centred design processes. Our IRESS user community portal allows us to involve more users in the design and development experiments and the toggle feature built into our products means we can regularly roll out new and updated functionality that can be switched on and off, rather than users having to wait for scheduled releases. This means users will be able to get the benefits of new functionality as soon as it’s available. 

What’s already been delivered?

Recent releases of XPLAN include co-designed features resulting from IRESS Labs, such as:

  • A refreshed and contemporary screen design,
  • A much simpler menu structure to make navigating XPLAN simpler and quicker, and
  • A new opportunities management capability that enables better management of the advice and review business pipeline, accessing the rich client data in XPLAN.

Brett Billington, Director and Adviser at Up Wealth Management, considers his business as “an engaged XPLAN business, but since our involvement with Labs we definitely have a greater level of optimism on where the software is headed. Designing a system with the end user in mind requires context, and user input and feedback is important and can only improve future version releases and get improvements into our hands sooner”. Andrew Bourne, Advice Technology Consultant at Practice Dynamix said, “I can already see changes in XPLAN that have been made based on the feedback and discussions I was involved in - and that’s very positive”.

What have the results been?

The real outcome of the Labs approach is the unlocking of the rich functionality within XPLAN and making it more efficient, intuitive and delightful for our clients and users. Our Labs participants have interesting perspectives on what this actually means. 

Chris shares that “‘the breadth and depth of XPLAN is great, but what comes with that is complexity - so actively going out and asking people to collaborate on the design and development makes sure the breadth of functionality actually works for our business how we need it to work and solves our problems”.

Andrew sees ‘efficient’ being “as few clicks as possible to get the job done, so the technology reduces friction, streamlines processes and does much of the heavy lifting for you” and Melissa sees ‘intuitive’ as “the user being able to navigate from one function to another quickly, without having to consciously think about the meaning of the icons, the placement of menu links, or the purpose and output of each function”.

In relation to ‘delightful’, Andrew says that comes from “a well-presented, contemporary visual interface that is easy to understand and clearly presents information and, on a more practical level, as a user you’re absolutely delighted when the software is running properly”.

What’s next

Melissa has very clear hopes of what’s to come. “Being involved in IRESS Labs is fast paced, but the IRESS team is clear on its objectives and encouraging all the while; and it also gives us a better insight to the way IRESS thinks and works. It has been very interesting, a bit of fun and very worthwhile… but we are not done yet!”

The number of users contributing their insights and experience will grow significantly as we have a further series of experiments, across XPLAN’s CRM, Advice and Portfolio modules, scheduled for the rest of 2018 and into 2019.  Some of these are already underway, and include:

  • Adviser and client dashboards - presenting summary information in a better way.
  • Advice documents and presentations - preview of advice documents and tools to help advisers present advice recommendations to their clients.
  • Goals building and tracking - to help advisers better monitor progress against clients’ goals and tools to support review conversations.
  • Workflow - enhancements to the task management function.

The final word

We’re excited about the difference IRESS Labs is making to our software and, most importantly, to our clients and users. With real user insight going directly into the design of our software, we’re making our solutions even more efficient, intuitive and delightful. However, I will leave the final words to Brett.

“Hearing and seeing what IRESS is doing, and the pipeline of co-designed functionality that is coming to make our lives easier, there’s nothing more exciting. XPLAN is such a big and integrated part of our business, to have a hand in where it's going and work directly with the developers is great. Anyone given the opportunity to get involved should absolutely do so”.


For more information about IRESS Labs, or to keep up to date with our progress, visit the IRESS user community. To put your hand up to be involved in future Labs experiments, speak with your IRESS account executive.


Emily Chen, Product Executive, IRESS

A look inside the IRESS Laboratory where users are co-designing XPLAN
Users co-designing XPLAN software in IRESS Labs
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