Redesigning an Enterprise Marketplace

Founded by a team of students at Harvard Business School, Catalant (named HourlyNerd at the time) aimed to help small businesses access support from independent consultants. As the company grew, it began to shift its attention towards larger enterprise clients. To support this new enterprise focus, that platform needed to accommodate each client’s hiring process.

Catalant stakeholder meeting

We started the redesign effort with a stakeholder meeting. The goal was to draw out information about problems that existed with the current platform.

Design Challenges

These small businesses that Catalant initially targeted often requested help with market research, financial planning, and other small projects. To help streamline the matching process between consultants and clients, the platform initially prescribed a three step hiring process: an initial pitch, a phone interview, and a full proposal.

As Catalant grew, we began to hook big ticket projects from enterprise clients. These enterprise clients posted projects with a few extra zeroes attached and began to ask for custom hiring processes that would allow them to more thoroughly vet consultants. Clients wanted to schedule multiple rounds of phone interviews, share files with candidates, and request proposal revisions.

Enterprise clients who were used to working with BCG or Bain were also used to a white glove service. Catalant already had project associates who worked with clients to scope out projects. These associates became more involved with enterprise projects in a way that the platform didn’t currently accommodate. We needed to design to include this third type of user on the platform.

Catalant demand wireframes

After some discussion, we arrived at the idea of a single page project canvas. To pressure test the idea, we mocked up the full lifecylce of a project in some crude wireframes. This set shows the client view of a project.

Scope & Constraints

Motivated to close a deal with a Fortune 50 company, part of the engineering team was already knee-deep in a hacked branch of the platform. Another engineering team had already set off to lead a rebuild of the platform to accommodate future requests from different enterprise clients. The design team and I were late to hear about this new direction, so we needed to work quickly to get ahead of the engineering team and try to help guide the rebuild.

Design Solutions

Enterprise clients were guarded relationships, so we often had to work with the sales team as a proxy for customer research. Initial conversations with the sales team suggested that each client wanted their own unique set of features to review candidates in their own way. The engineering team was still out ahead of us and was working to build an elaborate set of feature flags to toggle features on or off for each new client.

The rest of the design team - Rene, Brian, and Petr - and I worked to better understand what each of these feature sets required. While Rene led primary customer research, Petr and I partnered with internal stakeholders to work through the hiring process that our platform currently deployed. Together, we used this information to map out gaps between the existing platform experience and what these enterprise clients were requesting.

We arrived at a shift in perspective: rather than prescribing a process, the platform should instead offer a toolkit. Each project was a workspace, where clients and Catalant associates could collaboratively write the project scope, browse available consultants, and review candidates. Clients could schedule calls, send messages, share files, and request more detailed proposals in any order that they felt best fit their needs.

We also designed flexibility into the hiring process. The small business projects only ever hired one consultant, but we noticed enterprise clients began posting duplicate projects to hire multiple consultants. We broke this 1-to-1 relationship and allowed clients to engage multiple consultants on a single project.

Catalant visual design

Through several rounds of usability testing and iterations, we slowly polished the designs.

Outcome

Petr and I cut many corners to get out ahead of the engineering team, and we managed to redesign the core of the platform in two months. While Petr continued on to redesign other components of the platform to support our core changes, I began to lead the front-end development of the rebuild. The engineering team and I chose to work only in plain old HTML and CSS, with a small amount of javascript to support certain interactions.

Five months from the start of the project, we launched the new version of the platform, allowing the company to accommodate new projects from several Fortune 500 clients.

Team