MS Unified Billing


This project was to build an all in one integrated internal billing application from the ground up for Morgan Stanley, an American multinational investment management and financial services company. We had to look at this project not just from the lense of the tools but their entire process, and we discovered it involves using a legacy DOS command line system which required a huge learning curve and years of training, using another web based system simultaneously to resolve billing errors, heavy manual use of excel and macros. Overall from finding a billing error, diagnosing and resolving was 'very inefficient'. This new system and process is a multi-year initiative to deliver a solution in a responsive web platform. I was the sole lead User Experience and User Interface Designer responsible for the strategy, research, driving the project, and designing the final experience.

Initial Strategy

Taking decades of complexity and building a new process and experience for this project was no easy task, but putting together clear plan was going to allow the users, stakeholders and I to work in a progressive manner

Unified Billing System UX Timeline
  1. Do a couple sessions with of groups session with all users and stakeholders to understand and capture examples of some of their major pain points and journey
    • Billing Level Variance UX Userflow
    • Billing Level Variance UX Userflow
    • Billing Level Variance UX Userflow
  2. Understand the audience of users (managers and team) structure and what distinguish their works. This would help us see the big picture of teams with assigned structure in a user persona deliverable and see if their are opportunities to make the work as a team more efficient.
    • Unified Billing System User Persona
  3. See all the points of the system each user type use so we can draw up current state information architecture and do early hypothetical design on future state information architecture working with users
    • Unified Billing System Information Architecture Snippet
  4. Since now we have some example user journeys, personas and information architecture we can come up with some early User Experience concepts to learn more about user’s mental model, expected behaviors, desired information, as well experience we haven’t even thought about for the new system. This would be done in 1-on-1 moderated sessions with users so we have clear unbiased quantitative and qualitative insights on searching, navigating, page orientation, taking notes, viewing history/audits, billing details, and how we should integrate other applications.
    • Unified Billing System Early Concepts User Testing Notes 1Unified Billing System Early Concepts User Testing Notes 2
  5. Dive deeper into the specifics of research finding to further build out the experience and data on each iteratively
  6. Once we get a minimal viable state for users to be able utilize this application for what they do majority of the time, we wills start incorporating visual design using the Morgan Stanley design system
  7. Iteratively work with Developers, Stakeholders, Subject Matter Experts, and Users to ensure we’re align for first launch of this new system

Pain Points

  • Using multiple system to resolve both retail and institutional clients issues
  • The current web based systems is limited to certain functionalities and is read only
  • The DOS command line system is editable however updates aren’t reflected in the web based application synchronously
  • Both the web based system and DOS command line system must be used together when users are resolving for variances (Variances are their terminology of billing errors that are generated based rules that are setup in the system from both Morgan Stanley, SEC compliance regulations, or client request). Most billing are automatically processed however Financial Advisors may override fees for particular situations for specific clients, SEC or the client (Mutual/Index/Investment Fund Institution) may pass a rule which is not predictable and impacted accounts have to be manually surfaced, reviewed and updated accordingly.
  • Depending on the task users are completing they aren’t able to view relevant information to complete a task such as viewing latest fee while viewing list of accounts
  • Existing searching capabilities are limited within all the applications they have today isn’t robust enough there must use macros whether that’s SEC compliance changes or client requests
  • High usage of excel to piece information together to help them close a task
  • Users have to rely on Subject Matter Experts knowledge for certain rules and procedures to resolve a task that’s not properly documented


  • A web based Responsive application system that’s WCAG AA 2.1 Compliant
  • Search and view accounts by a mix of attributes
  • View multiple layers of account details
  • View notes and audit trail of account updates
  • View billing activity within an account
  • View and update a billing transaction
  • Deep link particular account or billing details to other systems

Information Architecture

  • Analysis of current state and future state with a mix of both user flow and information architecture. After understanding correlation of the screens we started with a hypothetical analysis and updated it as we iterated post the early concept sessions. Unified Billing System Information Architecture Full


  • UX account search results column priority (form of Card Sorting) workshop with users helped us find default view for account search results
    • Unified Billing System Account Column Priority
  • UX account details organization workshop helped us understand grouping and relationship of some of the data
    • Unified Billing System Closest Matching Data Account Details
  • Billing details had the most complexity in terms of numeric correlations where we spent the most time iterating
  • It was challenging once we reviewed the experience with Subject Matter Experts and Development Team, there were many valuable opinions and we further redefined the user experience for both institutional and retail work to be more integrated and seamless, minimized actions and added additional information on billing details
  • The initial development of this application is expected to be in November 2023 before we can engage with Development team and reengage with the users for continued learning and validating


  • Search would be more robust having the ability to
    • Do a simple search
    • Advanced search with mix of attributes
    • Manage and execute saved searches
    • Share saved searches to other team members
    • View recent unsaved searches
  • Apply bulk changes to accounts without macros
  • Alerts which will help users prioritize and manage their work, and view assigned tasks


Unified Billing System Accounts Simple Search Unified Billing System Accounts Simple Search Unified Billing System Saved Advance Search Unified Billing System Accounts Simple Search with Results Unified Billing System Account Details Unified Billing System Billing Details Posted w FA Payout

Final Test Results

We could only validate using the Figma prototype, I will do user testing once we have the first build instance for find-ability of common data, time it takes to complete account detail updates and dig up relevant information to resolve for variance (billing errors)

  • How much time we can potentially save users for billing variance use case?

Future Outlook

  • We can’t eliminate the exception tool because it’s also utilized for audits, however we’re hoping to make the new system communicate with it synchronously and not have to wait 24 hours for updates to push through. There are technical and security challenges which we’d have to further discuss with the development team so we can come up with alternative solutions in case of limitations. The legacy system is over 2 decades old this would be 5+ years migration initiative, even once fully migrated we would still have to keep the legacy application live for historical purposes.
  • We can’t eliminate email from the process because hedge funds, mutual funds, and investment institutions can communicate with users via email, ideally it would be great to have a central communication system that can funnel all requests but would be a dedicated system entirely due to the unpredictable complexities of these communications
  • We look forward to working with the Development team on the initial build to run some testing sessions


This application utilized the Morgan Stanley Design System