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Redefining an Enterprise Solution

Designed an enterprise data protection solution that creates emotional connections with people and speeds up daily data protection tasks, using IBM Design Thinking.

 

Creating The 5 Year Vision

The Vision

The Vision

Tivoli Storage Manager (TSM) is an enterprise data protection solution offered by IBM. Over the history of the product, there were several attempts to build a user interface (UI) so operators didn’t have to rely on the command line interface. Each attempt was universally disliked because the UI’s didn’t support user needs, required deep domain knowledge, and wasn’t easy to use. Customer trust was eroding. The TSM organization had to create an easy to use solution, requiring less specialized skills, immediately.

Brenton joined IBM in 2012. His mission was to lead the design of a solution that would delight existing and new IBM customers, in four short months!

Month 1 – Deep Dive With Customers and Users

The key to understanding user and doing meaningful research is to ask the right questions and plan for success.

  • What do we need to know?
  • What UX methods should we use to understand and get answers?
  • What are the workflows we find in organizations?
  • How do people share data protection problems and solutions?
  • What are the top data protection pain points?
  • What best practices enable users to be more productive and happy?

In answering these core questions, we begin collecting data to understand the users (and customers) wants, needs, workflows, and desires. Brenton immediately got the architecture team out to customer offices to conduct ethnographic style field research. This research was critical to understand the complicated environments of the real world.

Field Research

Need to automate basic tasks

Need to automate basic tasks

Through the research we saw users are performing many tasks manually and tracking things in paper notebooks. For the new solution (later named the Operations Center) to be successful, our team had to automate basic tasks, integrate into daily workflows, provide easier ways to setup backups, and simplify everything.

User Groups

Collecting feedback on ideas

Collecting feedback on ideas

User group feedback was another invaluable method for quickly understanding the users and their needs.

 
Prioritizing Pain Points

Prioritizing Pain Points

During one user group meeting with over 50 participants, we broke out  into small working sessions. Brenton ran a pain points session where the users prioritized topics by frequency and severity. We ended the first month with a deep understanding of our users and initial categories for our user personas

 

Month 2 – ‘The Vision’ in a Design Thinking Workshop

ibm-team-wireframing.png

In the second month, Brenton setup a week long face to face design workshop for our team of architects, developers, and stakeholders. The goal was to create a shared understanding, synthesize customer and user requirements, reconcile the technology capabilities, and meet business objectives. We did workshops on pain points, competition & gap analysis (enterprise and consumer), brainstormed, and wrote preliminary user experience scenarios.

Within a couple of days, we had this wireframe to drive the 5 point vision, based on persona types.

5-year-vision.png
 

Relationship Diagram – Mapping out the Experience EcoSystem

Even more strategic was our relationship diagram. We used it to understand all parts of the user experience, understand customer’s business needs, user’s conceptual models (called mental models), and how we could evolve our offerings as services. (A final version of the diagram is shown.)

Month 3 – Refinement & More User Participation

Paper Card Sort

Paper Card Sort

Brenton leveraged his deep experience in UX research and design methods to teach the team how to build great solutions.  He showed the team how to conduct both paper and online card sorts, to construct an information architecture for the operations center.

Online Card Sort

Online Card Sort

The online card sort data indicated a more traditional task based architeture is best to suport the existing customer base. Customers also gave us other types of valuable feedback in IBM’s early access programs.

Month 4 – Concepts

Because we are developing in an agile environment with 4 week cycles, we had to quickly close on concepts and designs. We created different concepts for different personas such as the Senior Solution Architect, a Systems Operator, and a Business Partner.

A business partner dashboard would need to provide an overview of multiple clients (know as tenants) and the ability to investigate specific clients easily. For the business partner’s clients, an iPhone app could assign ‘to do’ items to users so they can take ownership of their environment, without neededing to know internal complexities of TSM.

Evaluating the design for accessibility (top half of image)

Evaluating the design for accessibility (top half of image)

Brenton  brought this inclusive stewardship to IBM.  Accessibility was designed into all concepts. The top half image above the red line, shows what the screen would look like to someone with green-yellow-red deficiency (Deuteranopia). The bottom half, shows the ‘normal’ perception.

We collaboratively designed task flows, setup wizards, and finalized concept directions for major tasks and hit our deadline. Analyst were 'amazed' by our progress:

I was amazed by the intuitive, flexible nature
of TSM Operations Center.
— Robert Anatruda, Analyst, IDC
Fantastic! This usability is amazing!
— Eric Sheppard, Research Director, Storage Software, IDC

Evolving the Design

To prioritize work, we came up with three areas of focus called "Hills" at IBM.

 

Protection and Scheduling, Hill 1

Users wanted to easily modify backup and protection tasks, and understand how the server maintains itself each day. They wanted visibility and control of these system health activities, without being required to get training.

This visual flow demonstrated how we articulated the user needs and innovated.  It was an ongoing process of user research, feedback, design refinement, and repeating the cycle until our users said the designs met their needs

 

UX Field Research Leads to New Insights

We flew to user sites and conducted UX field research to understand and further articulate how the solution would provide value to our customers.

We flew to user sites and conducted UX field research to understand and further articulate how the solution would provide value to our customers.

A pain points discussion with a user quickly evolved into a pro-active participatory design session. Great ideas surfaced: • See which client backups are taking too long and move them to another schedule – a balancing task • Visualize add hoc and manual initiated backups (we didn’t think of this) • Maybe overlay the network performance to check for bottle necks (another good idea)

A pain points discussion with a user quickly evolved into a pro-active participatory design session. Great ideas surfaced:

• See which client backups are taking too long and move them to another schedule – a balancing task
• Visualize add hoc and manual initiated backups (we didn’t think of this)
• Maybe overlay the network performance to check for bottle necks (another good idea)

We captured the concepts on the whiteboard.

We captured the concepts on the whiteboard.

Legacy Challenge

Legacy conventions, commands, interaction models, and limitations were in conflict with how users thought about scheduling data protection. The operations center had to makes sense in today’s modern world of iPhones and evolving ease-of-use expectations. Our design model had to be understandable to the experienced user and excite new markets too.

To solve this challenge, we analyzed the existing model, and then mapped a newa design model as an overlay, and evolved nomenclature to provide a cleaner path for moving forward.

To solve this challenge, we analyzed the existing model, and then mapped a newa design model as an overlay, and evolved nomenclature to provide a cleaner path for moving forward.

“You Missed the Mark”

Not everything was smooth sailing. As we refined the design and got feedback, users told us we missed the mark on a couple of features. Our team had evolved a calendar view, and users needed a line item view. We had to go back and redefined our solution (hill). The UX design team created new prototypes for user feedback.

Not everything was smooth sailing. As we refined the design and got feedback, users told us we missed the mark on a couple of features. Our team had evolved a calendar view, and users needed a line item view. We had to go back and redefined our solution (hill). The UX design team created new prototypes for user feedback.

Another challenge was data protection runs on 24 hour cycles, and people don’t normally visualize collections of 24 containers. Brenton and the UX team did more human factors research on representation of 24 hour systems. We looked at a variety of real world objects including yard lighting timers, calendars, Android Apps, and systems based on the sun.

We evolved to a 24 hour clock face and needed more data on the final orientation. Brenton outlined a abstracted survey to get feedback. The UX team finalized and administered the survey. 67 people responded with over 30 individual comments. Our user base was engaged and passionate. Analysis found commonalities amongst the top responses and we finalized the direction.

We evolved to a 24 hour clock face and needed more data on the final orientation. Brenton outlined a abstracted survey to get feedback. The UX team finalized and administered the survey. 67 people responded with over 30 individual comments. Our user base was engaged and passionate. Analysis found commonalities amongst the top responses and we finalized the direction.

 The UX team updated and refined the prototypes for user feedback. Sponsor users confirmed this solution had evolved from good to great.

 The UX team updated and refined the prototypes for user feedback. Sponsor users confirmed this solution had evolved from good to great.

This beta code shows the user quickly visualizing all data protection schedules across an organization, and looking at details on a specific schedule.

This beta code shows the user quickly visualizing all data protection schedules across an organization, and looking at details on a specific schedule.

We tested the new designs with customers as part of our normal Agile release cycle.

Being new to the TSM environment, the OC quickly raised my comfort level… Because the OC centralizes the TSM environment into one view, there is no need to log into ten different TSM servers, run home grown scripts, and then piece the view together. The OC saves time and streamlines the daily work flow.
— Geoff Kersh, Chesapeak Energy

Detailed Visibility to Daily Operations

A huge pain point for all TSM users was understanding how data moves through the system, and its status.

ibm-detailed-visibility.png

Our approach was iteration and collaboration. Brenton sketched out vision concepts on a white board. The Sr. Architect created the wireframe that made sense to users. The interaction designer created concepts for getting feedback from users. The visual designer refined the final layout and everyone collaborated in implementation.

The smaller customers with limited headcount switched immediately to this new interface (OC)… They are thrilled with the ease of use. It saves time, it saves absolute time.
— European Business Partner

Telling the story in 60 seconds

A key part of designing the UX is telling stories. Stories are especially good to explain the value we plan to deliver for customers. To generate some excitement and buzz, Brenton concepted a short trailer about the newest release. Our visual designer converted the idea into a 60 video and our internal stakeholders got in on the fun!

It is superb, I think it is one of our best pieces of marketing content!
— A storage director
This is so great– and hilarious! I love it.
— A product manager

Total Experience

Customers and analysts love this new focus on ease-of-use. However, the product experience still lags behind customer expectations for the total end-to-end experience.  Using IBM’s new Design Thinking methods, we are solving this problem through two directives: Users First & Modern Design.


Design Thinking

Design Thinking is the collaborative process by which the designer’s sensibilities and methods are employed to match people’s needs with what is technically feasible and a viable business strategy. It’s a human-centered approach to problem solving that helps people and organizations become more innovative and creative. Tim Brown, CEO IDEO.

 IBM Design Thinking is a collaboration between user experience, development, and marketing.

 IBM Design Thinking is a collaboration between user experience, development, and marketing.

Phil Gilbert is our visionary design leader at IBM. His team is rolling out Design Thinking at IBM, turning IBM into a design led organization, and revolutionizing the industry.  He calls IBM’s transformation, From Feature-First to User-First. Summarized, the primary goal is to design for users, not features, and not technology. IBM also has a new Design Language and a focus on the total product experience.


Users First

Brenton is injecting a users first mentality using a deep, participatory design collaboration with users and executive stakeholders. We are designing a solution that creates emotional connections with users, and speeds up daily data protection tasks.

Collaboration

Our team participated in an IBM program called a ‘Hallmark project’. This enables us to leverage new tools, including virtual tools, collaboration spaces, and workshop training. This framework gets everyone involved early, and sets the stage for innovation.

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Sponsor Users

Sponsor users are like participatory design users on steroids. Not only are users involved through the entire design process, select users present in progress designs at internal meeting and public events.

Getting the sponsor users involved early is a strategic advantage because they let us know when we have it wrong, and  participate in design.

Getting the sponsor users involved early is a strategic advantage because they let us know when we have it wrong, and  participate in design.

Users even become advocates and speak at conferences.

Users even become advocates and speak at conferences.

Executive Stakeholders

We love to have our executives participate too. We can zoom in on the vision earlier and faster.

In this ‘to be’ workshop, executive is coming up with a great idea on how to simplify the experience and feature.

In this ‘to be’ workshop, executive is coming up with a great idea on how to simplify the experience and feature.

Modern Design

Prior to IBM Design’s Language guidelines, TSM was burdened with legacy design requirements from other sister products. The introduction of IBM Design Language, empowered us to abandon dated designs, and move to a modern UI. People want easy, friendly, simple and approachable user interfaces that are responsive to desktops and iPads.

The three primitives in the new design language is font, color, and typography. Brenton created reference designs to synchronize the design directions, and the UX team designed the panels to implementation.

Concepts exploring color.

Concepts exploring color.

Detailed view of a server’s current status and history

Detailed view of a server’s current status and history

The Evolving Solution

Responsive Design

Responsive Design

 

The Solution in the Field

Checking the server from Starbucks

Checking the server from Starbucks

I can’t tell you how impressed I am with the work you guys have done on the new TSM… The amount of thought and analytics you have put into it is apparent. It’s just awesome. You guys rock!
— Wanda Prather, IFC

Check out the live demo.