Presenter(s): Benjamin Shown, Morten Lüneborg
Date-Time: August 15, 2019 @ 1:00 PM
Agency and client partner to create a foundational, user-centered design direction for an enterprise product looking to leapfrog the competition. This is a presentation of concrete examples and insights from their collaboration, user-centric solutions, and work designing product systems that scale.
Benjamin Shown, of Blink UX (hereafter Blink), and Morten Lüneborg, of Stibo Systems (hereafter Stibo), open the presentation with an overview of their professional backgrounds and respective organizations. They frame what follows as a story of an agency-enterprise relationship.
From their talk, it was clear they collaborated well and overcame challenges together. For one, they overcame geographic separation across several time zones, with Stibo headquartered in Denmark (with 20 offices around the world) and Blink headquartered in the United States of America (with several offices across the U.S.).
Stibo is a multi-domain master data management company. Their enterprise software suite deals with complex business information ranging from physical products you buy in a store, to services, people information, location information, and more. For example, Home Depot uses Stibo software to manage product information. Stibo supports a total community of approximately 220,000 users.
Stibo is also a self-described jack of all trades with respect to their enterprise software suite. To help illustrate, Shown and Lüneborg display an image late in their presentation of a mock Swiss army knife with a comical number (literally dozens) of blades and tools as a metaphor for the feature-laden Stibo software suite.
Stibo wanted a fresh start – a “clean sheet” – with their data management software to unshackle the enterprise from legacy decisions. They sought Blink’s help.
Shown and Lüneborg covered a range of things about their collaboration, starting with “Before and After” states and ending with “Features vs. User Journey.”
In the “Before” state, Blink noted no strong point of view in the Stibo software suite and that it lacked brand POV experience – i.e., it could be any company. The software suite offered customers a poor way of finding product information and featured patchwork UX user flows. It was fairly basic and tried to do many things. The design required extensive training and was not intuitive. There was a lot of interesting but not useful data. While Stibo has various competitors, the biggest was themselves in terms of managing their enterprise software suite.
Shown and Lüneborg observed that the tough thing is thinking about a user-based approach – basic things like product weight, size, compatibility with related products, mixes, and models across the enterprise. Accordingly, Blink used a series of low fidelity sketches during the design process to developing look and feel.
For the “After” state, Shown and Lüneborg highlighted their adoption of Table Zoom for a crisp, efficient method of tracking workflow and product data across the product suite. They thought about product in terms of a journey-based approach to customer (user) experience. They improved visual design, enhanced contrast and use of purposeful color, and incorporated ample white space without sacrificing information relevant to the user journey. They also developed a high-fidelity motion piece (mock up) to go with the design.
Shown and Lüneborg discussed their “Trojan Horse” approach.
Instead of boiling the ocean (redesigning Stibo’s full suite of data management products across the enterprise) they focused on key user journey – i.e., key experiences; the 80% of what users are doing. They took the results from that work and injected them into the larger suite of Stibo data management products.
Shown and Lüneborg discussed how to “Accelerate in Less Time.”
They displayed a quote by Felix Wang (Google UX Designer) – “Design is never done, it’s just due.” – to underscore time as the biggest metric in design. This gave rise to the question; how can you use less time with more benefit?
The Blink-Stibo collaboration lasted four months – November to February minus holidays. At the front end Shown and Lüneborg started with user research (existing customers) and strategy during a November workshop in Atlanta. From that analysis, they strategized approach and kicked off the design phase for both interaction design and visual design. At the front end, the started with user research. In January they held working sessions in Denmark, and in February they incorporated motion design work. They found that running interaction design and visual design in parallel was helpful in integrating and informing collective efforts.
Blink and Stibo worked across two continents, with Blink team members in Boston, Seattle, and San Diego and Stibo team members in Aarhus, Denmark and in London, underscoring “distributed teams” as the new normal.
To overcome geographic separation, Blink and Stibo used online tools like Zoom, Slack, Box, and email to communicate. They adopted a bi-weekly meeting cadence. They emphasized full participation in video calls, and they maintained steady communication on Slack. They leveraged the lengthened workday between time zones for feedback cycles. For example, afternoon inquiries from Boston would receive answers from Denmark by the following morning (Boston time).
Shown and Lüneborg discussed “Gaining Momentum.”
Blink provoked Stibo in a constructive way with somewhat provocative and radical concepts, which forced Stibo to rethink how they implemented features of their software suite and approached solutions. It made them ask the “whys” and not just stick with what they were used to.
High fidelity mock ups by Blink helped Stibo highlight internally their need for a fresh start, which gave the UX team the needed priority and time for redesign. These mock ups also helped Stibo rethink their desired end state.
Shown and Lüneborg discussed “The Ugly Problem of Enterprise.”
Stibo observed that with enterprise software in their field, user experience is often an afterthought. The enterprise adds features over time. While this yields extra functionality for the user, it can be challenging to navigate – i.e., feature overload. Recall the mock swiss army knife above with dozens of blades and tools.
Stibo recognized there were issues with their enterprise software. They wanted to change it. The big question was “how” when faced with challenges of trying to rethink and revolutionize a product with a clean sheet approach (rather than updating via slow evolution). The business often asks for: the same features as the existing product, to make it look pretty, to just make it more intuitive, and for it to be like (pick your favorite application). On the other hand, users really want something that makes them efficient, does not add cognitive stress, and offers an intuitive flow. Stibo and Blink adopted a journey-based approach. They narrowed in on specific journeys central to 80% of customer activity. This forced Stibo to relearn how customers use their products and reconsider how to organize functionality to create good flow for users.
Shown and Lüneborg wrapped up with “Features vs. User Journey.”
In analyzing features for completeness vs. user journey, they found 80% of user journeys used just 10% of all features. By focusing on select journeys, they were able to reduce complexity and rethink how to help Stibo customers.
High-fidelity mock ups by Blink also enhanced user engagement. As a result, Stibo is setting up a client research program to mature the journey and new products through collaboration with end users.