Working hand-in-hand with our product manager, who at IBM is the business owner, I led a team of multi-displinary designers from the inception of the product through release and maintenance. I worked on all aspects of the business planning with my team as well as the executive sponsors and the technical teams from the project kickoff to the general availability, or release to the market. This provides some detailed explanation of some of the early decisions we made to bring the project to life. It is not a complete post-mortem, but rather a few chapters of the project, ending with the Persona development that was then used as the archetypes to guide the rest of the product development.
IBM had been a market leader in the software industry for decades. Their dominance, however, relied on a system of software and implementation teams the required extensive requirements gathering and customization of the installations for virtually every customer. It also required having a dedicated sales contact that worked with each business through every step of the process as well as being the point for all future company needs.
The as-is state of the IBM sales process also did not enable a customer to purchase any kind of software. Research could be done via IBM’s website but for anything greater than that, a customer had to contact the company and speak with a sales contact. As such, companies had sprung up in many of the markets IBM had been serving for decades and offered software that competed with its offerings as well as providing the customer no-hassle purchasing of these SaaS products via a standard shopping cart experience.
Realizing these conditions as a threat to IBM’s businesses my team was tasked with redesigning the entire customer journey for our e-commerce solution. IBM has a model that breaks down the customers experience through 6 distinct stages:
- Discover, try, and buy (how do I get it?)
- Get Started (How do I get value?)
- Everyday use (How do I get my job done?)
- Manage and upgrade (How do I keep it running?)
- Leverage and extend (How do I build on it?)
- Get support (How do I get unstuck?)
Due to the project’s required launch date and reliance on other teams’ projects in various stages of release, we focused on the first experience, broken out into 3 themes, for the initial release of the product:
- Findability (Discover) – A marketplace visitor can find the offerings that fit their needs in seconds.
- Completing Action (Try) – A marketplace visitor can complete the action she initiates knowing the service level agreement and its limits.
- Decision Making (Buy) – A marketplace visitor can decide how to proceed with an offering at a glance.
Project Design Goals
- Unify + Simplify IBM’s web landscape
- Make IBM relevant to the individual
- IBM’s digital commerce experience has a distinct voice and personality
- Educate and support consumers to find the best solutions for their needs
Now that we had the done preliminary research for the project, it was now time to put pencil to paper, ink to post-it, and fingers to keyboard to design the customer’s experience for the IBM Cloud Marketplace. The toolset for the IBM Design Thinking process is codified from years of product development and steps through 4 distinct phases: understand, explore, prototype, evaluate.
IBM Design is a sea-change in the way IBM approaches software development and at the core of it is design thinking. IBM Design Thinking is how we come up with the answers to our toughest problems. It’s a way for us all to think together – to work as one and make a difference in the life of a customer. We believe that the individual is the real customer, not the company where they work. Keeping our eye on that individual and their problems enables us to design a solution that meets their needs and solves their business problems.
Finding empathy for our customers allows us to design that will meet their needs more successfully. The user-centered approach is the core tenet to design thinking. Understanding our customers, their business challenges and the conditions they are in as they use our software allows our design team the ability to uncover the real problems they face and solve that issue(s).
Understand is the first stage of the process and focuses on several key exercises (Hopes and Fears, Persona, Archetypes, Empathy Maps, Customer Journey Map, As-Is Scenario, Pain Points & Opportunities) that will enable us to produce the our Personas/Archetypes and the complete As-Is state.
As we researched our first goal, we discovered several key observations about the site; some known, others unknown. A few of the most glaring were that there were actually more than half-dozen different marketplaces currently deployed; with more in development to serve industry specific niches.
None of these, but the IBM marketplace site, offered a full view of all of IBM’s products and none had standardized on any codified user experience and interaction pattern library. They did, however, create confusion for our customers as well as dilute the effectiveness of the brand and search optimization further reinforcing the need for a single destination for all customers to buy IBM’s products.
Another key issue we uncovered was there was no way for the customer to search the store which included: 120 SaaS Products, 277 PaaS Products, and 35 IaaS Products. Including a faceted search engine was necessary to enable product discovery.
The last major known highlight was no way to purchase with a credit card. There was no way to begin using any of our products, no matter how simple or complex, without picking up a phone and contacting an IBM Sales Representative.
Our Digital Commerce Product & Technology team’s work merged all of IBM’s digital commerce efforts into one strategy, investment, and delivery. This would simplify the technical infrastructure necessary to manage the site. It would also establish a codified user experience and interaction pattern library for IBM’s cloud products. Finally, it would be the single commerce platform that would power the company’s renewed efforts in expanding the ways that IBM sold its portfolio of products and services.
Through our research we settled on 3 distinct personas:
- The Cautious Leader
- The Multitasking Collaborator
- The Curious Experimenter
The digital commerce experience should work for every role but we designed for specific behaviors and mindsets based on our research and settled on these three personas. However, a person with a particular role may exhibit any or all of these three behaviors.
The cautious leader sees technological shift and doesn’t want their conservative enterprise falling even farther behind. They knows their employees will use software with or without approval so they need to figure out how to make it safe. Some key considerations they had were:
- Wants to empower his employees to innovate, while adhering to the very real compliance and security standards of his enterprise.
- Won’t tolerate any more than a reasonable risk of a data leak, no matter how great the tool is.
- Wants quick and easy access to expertise to help with product questions or configuration.
- Needs visibility into how people are using the tool in his organization to make informed purchasing decisions.
The multitasking collaborator’s team is working as a shadow IT unit to get around the clunky, hard-to-use but enterprise-safe tools. Visibility and sharing work assets is crucial to their remotely-located colleagues.
Wants the agility of a start-up, but their team has to prove a tools ability first. We found some of their considerations and concerns were:
- Their CIO understands why they use insecure tools, but they are slow on implementing a cloud-based system because of the potential security risk.
- Team members turn to each other, friends, colleagues, and trusted communities for recommendations for new tools.
- Wants to run experiments, develop, and deploy daily, not yearly.
- Wants IT to get out of the way of their work!
The curious experimenter is never satisfied with their tools and is always looking for the next, better option that will get their work done faster. Regarded as the go-to person for a product recommendation. We discovered their concerns and considerations were:
- Brand names are irrelevant, it’s the words of their peers that hold value.
- Wants transparency for pricing and trials.
- May need help pitching tool to CIO or new stakeholders.
- Doesn’t want to wait for approval. Wants the tool in her hands immediately.
- Expects her enterprise-grade tools to match the great user experience as the tools she uses in her personal life (google, app store, etc.)
We didn’t want to obfuscate or evade by hiding behind jargon. We wanted to openly communicate in the simplest of terms and communicate the value proposition of our products and experiences with lots of opportunities for them to contact us – but only if they wanted a personal touch. Otherwise, we wanted to ensure an honest and clear voice that evoked trust from our valued customers.
Gone were the days of creating a robust feature set of alphabet soup and jargon that provided no tangible content on the software’s role in growing the customer’s business. We wanted to not only understand our customers and their needs but also communicate to them in simple English about the best product to meet their needs.
This is a only the first component of a larger case study that I discuss with people interested in the process I have used with my teams to create new products. It was implemented through many of the stages and tasks that any designer working in the past twenty years has followed, but within the framework of IBM Design Thinking.
This approach of designing for the user, as stated earlier, was a sea-change for the way IBM had been doing business since its inception. IBM Design Thinking is powering that change within the enterprise. This was one of the first products launched using the evolving design framework at the company and helped provide some key learnings to that growing platform.
If you would like to hear more about this project or would like to work with me please drop me a note here.