Global Item Procurement

The story
Costco Wholesale

My Role
UX Lead / Researcher

Date Range
June 20, 2016 - January 31, 2017

I’ve done most my user experience design work for Costco Wholesale as a full-time salaried employee. This project is one example of the types of projects I’m thrown on. I am legally required to conform to Costco’s non-disclosure agreement, so there are some things I won’t be able to talk about. Still, I hope you find this use case interesting.

Design Need (Problem / Goal)

The process managers who who commissioned the Global Item Procurement (GIP) design project previously purchased IBM’s Business Process Management system. The goal was to digitize and streamline the highly manual Costco buying tasks. Following their first attempt at the design, they discovered that users were continued with their manual processes. They fielded reports that the tool was too complicated, out of alignment with their expectations, and in some cases, confusing. Leadership over the team decided that they would certainly be tackling the tool from a different direction, but hey had some time, so they decided to pull in the UX team to begin a redesign effort. This was when I was pulled in.

Old BPMS Design

“Lucas is very passionate about his work and brings a lot of innovation and great ideas to the table. He was great to work with and exactly the type of UX designer we needed in our large somewhat unstructured effort. He was organized and had a methodical plan which brought a lot of productivity with it. He also brought an element of outside the box thinking and innovation.”

Brent Ryan IS BPM Analyst 3, Costco Wholesale on LinkedIn

Research (Discovery)

Most of the work I did for this project was in the research phase. After running their initial release of the BPMS application, they already had a whole laundry list of changes they needed to make just to align to user feedback. After some discussions I learned that their approach was that of a firefighter putting out fires. We needed to baseline this design project. Two weeks of daily meetings were spent getting me up to speed with how Item Procurement works and walking through their master process diagram. By the end of the two weeks, I noticed that they were still continuing to refine and change the process map. We needed an application design that would allow for their continual fine tuning. That’s when we all agreed that we needed an application that was a container for the process steps.

Process map example from just one of the Costco buying teams

Once we were able to map out the high level sections of item procurement, the more typical research tasks began…

• Process management Tools study
• Procurement Tools study
• Getting to know our users Survey
• Getting to know the Spark UI (their preferred design library)


With so much time spent understanding the the procurement process, understanding user expectations, and analysing how leading procurement tools approach solving the problem of procurement, we were in a great place to begin designing the tool…

• Built Application Navigation Map
• Tested Navigation Map using Card Sort
• Revised Navigation Map
• Scheduled Workshops for each top level section
• Completed Home Workshop.

Wish I could say that we went on to build out the application within the time allotted (we were ahead of schedule), but the like so many projects at big corporations like this, our effort was put on hold due to other departmental changes. Sad. We left off with the assumption that at some point the project will kick back up again. I’m still waiting. 🙂


Development on this project didn't technically start. The developer was new to the Spark UI, so I sent him a simulation of the high level application.

Not all projects work out completely to the end. This was a project that was one part about User Experience, but then an additional/equal part business relationship.

Early global item procurement simulation screenshots