IBM Digital Business Assistant
UX Design, IBM Design Thinking

Since the project kick-off in Summer 2016, I have been driving end-user experience for IBM Digital Business Assistant. The assistant helps business users and knowledge workers to keep a focus on their daily work, while the assistant, in the background, watches for crucial situations. When these situations happen, the assistant notifies the user and recommends to take a couple of actions. These situations and actions are simply called skills. And it is up to every single user to choose what skills the assistant should have.

Watch the video on right to understand more the problem space or read more at https://ibm.biz/Bdi3Vn.


Design process

This project started from scratch and the scope was obviously pretty ambitious. To tackle it efficiently we held a design workshop with Designers, Offering Managers and Engineers, where we all together decided on personas and goals of the project. There was a lot of work planned so we split our design team - 1 designer per experience. Later on, we started using a squad model and together with 2-week sprints we got very close to engineering, content and offering management peeps. As the only designer in my squad, I had a perfect opportunity to steer the experience and ensure that the designs get implemented as designed.


IBM Digital Business Assistant

End-user

Based on our research, nowadays knowledge workers are overwhelmed by information and often not aware of quickly changing situations. They have to constantly deal with interruptions and distractions caused by notification overload. What was very interesting and challenging about this kind of a user, is that he just wanted to do his work and get notified only if the situations impact her current work. He does not care about the technology, nor how it is done and by no means he would go and build his own skills. So it had to be simple and very "consumerish". There were other more technical personas, who needed to be considered too.

IBM Digital Business Assistant

UX Design

The process which I followed was pretty common for UX. I used the research we have gathered, took the goals from our workshop and started sketching out the initial scenarios to get ahead of our excited engineering team. These sketches and later on wireframes were validated by our sponsor users as well as stakeholders on our weekly playbacks. Sometimes we got too far with our designs so focusing on creating incremental designs was the key.

Within my squad, my main focus was to keep it simple, not to over-complicate it "in an enterprise software way," therefore from the start I used Mobile first approach. We did a number of iterations within the squad and design team.

Long story short - for this project I did everything you would expect from a UX designer - user & market research, sketches, wireframes, prototypes, user testings, playbacks and I was always making sure our designs get implemented.


IBM Digital Business Assistant

Delivery

At the end of the day, our product has seen its early stage of life at IBM Interconnect conference (see the video on the right side), which drove a good number of closed beta sign-ups. After that, we have successfully started the open beta of the web app, together with both native iOS & Android app. Stay tuned for more information and in meanwhile read more here.

UPDATE 2018: IBM Digital Business Assistant was merged with an award-winning IBM App Connect, and our assistant piece will work inside of their product.

My comments

To be honest ... this project was my baby. I really enjoyed working on it because it was a new project with a vision to disrupt a way how business users work. And therefore it had to be damn simple, no XY customizations for every kind of business and use case. No there was 1 and that is it. This changed to be one of the most challenging and at the same time rewarding moments at IBM, as not everybody was onboard of doing something simple, so it was a designer's task to open everyone eyes.

UPDATE 2018: I decided to share a blog with my fellow designs about: How not to go insane when your epic project is killed 💔, and it is basically a story about this project.


IBM Digital Business Assistant

Tools

Pen & Paper, Sketch, Invision, Marvel App, Mural.ly, Github / Zenhub