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How Design Thinking Doubled My Impact
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By Michael Fitzpatrick,
Senior Technical Staff Member - Architecture and Design for Enterprise Networking Solutions (ENS).
I recently presented at the IBM Impact 2014 Conference in Las Vegas. I want to take this opportunity to share a valuable lesson I learned during my short time at Impact 2014.
Before I divulge what I discovered, let me tell you a story about a couple of items that helped influence how I approached my presentation.
I recently participated in several meetings with the IBM CICS team, where they provided feedback on a design mini-camp a group of their designers attended. The intent of the mini-camp was to better understand the IBM Design Thinking principles. I had been introduced last year to some of these concepts, such as hills, sponsors, and playbacks, while I was helping another area with their disaster recovery plans. Recently, the CICS team took our Enterprise Networking Solutions design team through much more detail and explained the rationale behind the methodology.
One of the key takeaways I learned from these meetings is about changing the way we, as an organization, describe our new functions and products. As software designers, we tend to be focusing on the task when describing what our new function comprises, rather than focusing on the end user experience brought about by using this new function. By changing the focus, not only does it allow designers and developers to continue to deliver these new functions and products, but it also allows sales to better understand what the product does, and enables customers to relate to their own experiences.
Another takeaway was to be careful with overuse of words or catch-phrases. An obvious example for me is “cloud”. With everyone claiming they have cloud offerings, the same story is being told, so no one is differentiating themselves, and customers start tuning out. The way to set your product apart is to tell a better story. Customers don’t just want to sit there listening to you tell them how great something is, they want to see it and experience it.
This got me thinking about a session I presented last year at Impact titled “Continuous Availability with GDPS Active/Active Sites” at Impact. The presentation described the existing disaster recovery solutions as well as went into technical details on the components that make up GDPS Active/Active Sites, with a focus on Multi-site Workload Lifeline. Maybe the title wasn’t the most powerful way to describe the true “wow” of this solution. The session was in a very good, early afternoon time slot, and attendance was satisfactory. However, there was minimal discussion during the session and did not generate any customer interest from those in attendance.
Armed with the new design thinking and focusing on the end user experience by telling a better story, I contemplated what I could do differently with this year’s Impact presentation. I was immediately handicapped with a poor time slot, the last session of the day. This was going to be a challenge; it was quite possible that few would attend at that late hour of the day. That would have been disappointing since I had made the long trip to Las Vegas to deliver just this one session!
I started by changing the session title to “How one customer reduced their planned outage time by 90%!”. This seemed to grab customers’ attention, as a few people walking down the hall to see what was being presented next in each conference room, turned in for this session. Also, rather than give a detailed, technical discussion of the components that the customer used to achieve this reduction in planned outage time, I “told a story” about the challenges this customer had with elongated outages during planned maintenance activities, the steps they took to accomplish their goals, and the products, including Multi-site Workload Lifeline, they used that helped them achieve this reduction.
Despite the time slot, there was double the number of attendees compared to last year’s session! Even better, there was plenty of good discussion throughout the presentation, and several customers stayed well after the session to relate their current challenges to me and whether they could reach a similar result that this customer had achieved. It has currently led to several customers expressing a strong interest in pursuing the technology that Multi-site Workload Lifeline provides.
So I now have first-hand experience with how changing the description of a new function or product and directly relating them to a customer’s own experiences helps tell a better story for our customers. Thank you, IBM Design Thinking! I’m looking forward to my next experience to shape and deliver a story that helps convey the value of our solutions to our clients. See you in Vegas next time!