The Meaning of IBM Design Thinking
IBM has been in business 104 years. Today, they employ over 400,000 spanning 170 countries. As a global technology company, one of their business challenges is building enterprise software products at scale.
I’m fascinated by IBM’s evolution as a provider of social technology and collaboration tools used by businesses of all sizes around the world. Recently, IBM launched Verse, an application designed to make email social and easier to use, while also providing smarter capabilities to enable a workforce to be more productive in our daily interaction in the workplace.
The approach IBM has taken in the development of Verse is particularly interesting to me because it has an impact on a large segment of the population – namely people with disabilities. Here’s how IBM tackled the challenge of making social technology that can be used by anyone regardless of age or ability.
IBM set out to revamp their approach to developing social technology solutions with recognition that it needed to:
- Improve the UI of its software product portfolio
- Shift the product development focus away from being engineering-centric by adding more emphasis on design with more focus on the user experience
- Develop a method of design collaboration that works on a global scale
IBM dedicated $100 million to the effort, which included building new, flexible design studios all around the world and hiring 1,000 new designers. The new hires changed the ratio of designers to engineers from 1:33 to 1:8.
IBM didn’t always think about design in this way. In fact, before IBM could undertake an initiative with the potential to change the way we work, it first needed to change the way IBM builds software products.
So, they brought in Design Thinking consultants from Ideo and Stanford University School of Design to help create a new problem solving methodology that would work at scale. The result led to IBM Design Thinking, a human-centered, inclusive design methodology which is the guiding principle behind the creation of IBM Verse.
As one of the first products created with IBM Design Thinking at its core, Verse was created in response to how we work instead of as a repository for email and files. Verse increases productivity and reduces stress by putting the things we need at our virtual fingertips. It also gives us a glimpse into the future of the workplace, and a new way to work.
If you examine the activities where you spend most of your workday, sorting through email is probably near the top, while scheduling meetings and reaching out to collaborators would likely come in a close second. Verse brings all of those functions (and more) together in a cloud-based application that uses cognitive technology to predict and deliver what you need, when you need it.
In a recent podcast I recorded with M.E. (Mary Elizabeth) Miller, IBM Verse UX Designer, and Duncan Hopkins, Senior Design Team Lead, IBM Design, Enterprise Social Solutions we discussed how IBM Design Thinking shaped the way Verse brings together email, enterprise social, calendar, and collaboration tools.
These four elements give a glimpse into how Verse can change the way we work.
1. Brings important emails to the surface
Few things are more frustrating than having to search through mountains of unimportant emails to find the ones that deserve your attention. Verse employs cognitive technology to analyze how you use email and brings the most important messages to your desktop.
2. One click to team members
Most of us have a select core of people with whom we interact on a regular basis. These could be collaborators, clients, or strategic partners. Again, using cognitive technology, Verse brings images of the people who matter to you most right to your desktop, where you can click on them and choose how you want to make contact.
3. A truly active calendar
Verse transforms the calendar from a third-party device into an active helper. Rather than being a separate function, the calendar appears as a timeline at the bottom of the Verse dashboard. The timeline moves automatically as the day progresses, and alerts you as events approach.
Beyond that, if you tell Verse that you need to schedule a meeting with a group of people, Verse will check each person’s schedule, create the meeting, notify participants of the meeting, and add it to their calendars.
4. Works the same. Works together. Works for me.
The above heading is the motto of IBM Design Thinking. In practice, it means that every IBM software product must work the same on every device, work together with the other software people use, and must work for all users, including disabled users, without the need to create a separate version just for them.
IBM Design Thinking embodies inclusive design. To learn more about inclusive design and how it’s transforming the way social collaboration software is being developed on a global scale, access our Social Business Journal Volume 6*. It’s ungated – no form to complete. Just click on the image below to access this Journal.
*Social Business Journal Volume 6 is sponsored by IBM.