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IBM Design Thinking - Intro to Sponsor Users

By Nicole Keyes posted Wed June 17, 2020 02:48 PM


As IBM product developers, one of the most significant and impactful changes we've made is to adopt Design Thinking for design and delivery of our products. Following IBM's Enterprise Design Thinking principles has yielded a slew of benefits:

  • Delivered products have a much higher probability of addressing customer needs in terms of functionality and usability
  • Shorter time-to-market delivery thanks to function prioritization based on customer input
  • Customers who participate in the journey become strong advocates not only for the product but also the process
  • Accelerated adoption rates of new products

Design Thinking History

The principles of Design Thinking can be traced back to the late 1960s, in Herbert A. Simon's book, The Sciences of the Artificial. As it evolved through a variety of disciplines, Stanford's David Kelley adapted it in 1991 for business purposes, which is what many designers refer to today. It involves five key steps: empathize, define, ideate, prototype, evaluate (test).

Design Thinking Process

IBM Design Thinking

In 2012, IBM began a significant initiative to become more client-focused and user-centered under the direction of then-CEO Ginni Rometty and General Manager of IBM Design, Phil Gilbert. While Design Thinking sets the foundation for user-centered products, IBM found it needed to add a few other concepts to the framework to deliver outcomes at speed and scale, as well as setting team expectations for Design Thinking. The principles of IBM Design thinking are: a focus on user outcomes, multidisciplinary teams, and restless reinvention. The continual cycle of Design Thinking was simplified and named "The Loop" which sets an expectation for a continuous loop of observing, reflecting, and making.

The Loop

IBM's modification to Design Thinking also adds three key concepts: Sponsor Users, Hills, and Playbacks. These concepts added to the process and came to be called IBM Design Thinking. In this post we'll focus on Sponsor Users. We'll focus on Hills and Playbacks in future posts.

Sponsor Users a.k.a. Design Partners

Sponsor Users — or as we like to call them in Power Systems, Design Partners — are individuals who are existing or prospective IBM customers, who are experts in the area of an IBM product. Sponsor Users help teams close the gap between teams' assumptions and the user's reality. In the case of Power, a Sponsor User could be, among many other roles, anyone from a System Administrator to an IT Manager to an application developer. Sponsor Users give feedback to product teams on a regular basis as the team is realizing the product that one day the Sponsor User will likely use.

The Sponsor User is a co-creator with a product team, and actively influences the direction of the product's development, making sure that the product team is staying true to the ultimate user's needs. The Sponsor User often gets to see everything from early draft concepts; helps the product team prioritize ideas; sees low-, mid- and high-fidelity versions of the product; and often gets access to early code. Additionally, Sponsor Users who were actively engaged throughout the process are acknowledged in the final deliverable.

Power product teams recruit a minimum of nine Sponsor Users per product. Depending on the project, those nine Sponsor Users stay on for approximately six months, giving feedback once every two to four weeks in hour-long sessions.

Past and current projects influenced by Sponsor Users:

  • NovaLink
  • PowerHA
  • Monocle/Patch Planning
  • ibm.com/power
  • Enterprise Pools
  • OpenBMC
  • Cloud Management Console
  • PowerAI Vision

Projects that are actively looking for Sponsor Users:

  • eBMC — Replacement GUI for existing ASMI (Advanced System Management Interface)
  • HMC — Hardware management console for configuring and controlling managed systems
  • Power Virtual Server in the Cloud — New offering for provisioning and running Power workloads on Cloud servers
  • PowerVC — Virtualization management tool designed to simplify management of virtual resources
  • Rendezvous — Internal product for consolidating HW sharing/scheduling tools into one solution

If you'd like to get involved as a Sponsor User, contact Nicole Conser, and let her know which project interests you.

Interested in learning more about IBM Design Thinking? Watch "The Loop".

Contacting the PowerVM Team

Have questions for the PowerVM team or want to learn more?  Follow our discussion group on LinkedIn IBM PowerVM or IBM Community Discussions