Creating The 5 Year Vision
IBM Spectrum Protect is an enterprise data protection solution offered by IBM. Over the history of the product, previously known as TSM, 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 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.
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 group feedback was another invaluable method for quickly understanding the users and their needs.
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
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.
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
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.
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 Spectrum Protect.
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:
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
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.
“You Missed the Mark”
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 tested the new designs with customers as part of our normal Agile release cycle.
Detailed Visibility to Daily Operations
A huge pain point for all TSM users was understanding how data moves through the system, and its status.
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.
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!
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
We love to have our executives participate too. We can zoom in on the vision earlier and faster.
Prior to IBM Design’s Language guidelines, Spectrum Protect 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.
The Evolving Solution
The Solution in the Field
Check out the live demo.
Next – Design Thinking at Speed and Scale
Aligning and Training a 520 Person Team
With a dispersed and diverse team across five geographies, we wanted to scale up our success across the entire 520 person organization. Our VP bought into the business case, and granted everyone permission to participate in a five day internal design thinking workshop or external workshop with customers.
We guided and coached the organization to work collaboratively with product offering management, agile, and design thinking. Everyone learned how to solve real user challenges, deliver faster, and increase ROI!