As the Design Lead for IBM Pervasive Encryption, I get to work with an amazing, fun, and dedicated security team that spans nine time zones and seven IBM sites. We pride ourselves on “co-creating with clients,” and it’s around user-centered outcomes that we align as a team.  The first wave of this offering launched in the summer of 2017, with an enthusiastic reception from Wired, Forbes, The Wall Street Journal, TechCrunch, and The Skimm—whose writers pointed out that we had “found a breakthrough way to give hackers the middle finger.”

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One of the headlines from our 2017 launch

Due to the sensitive nature of this work, I have chosen to focus here on the process I established and continue to use with my team. For questions about design and design thinking in the enterprise securityscape, please contact me directly.

Our Journey

I joined the team in January of 2016, and it quickly became clear that we would be moving into some exciting but very uncharted territory. While a cohesive experience from the user side, Pervasive Encryption involves many interlocking sub-teams across the business, meaning our transformation efforts around IBM Design Thinking (IDT) and Agile would be happening at an unprecedented scale.

Going through this process, we used those methodologies to reflect on our own team practices. We developed a “First Iteration” approach that became core to the design and development of not just our offering, but all high-level teams for the overall z14 machine. Our experience and conclusions are covered in more detail in “Large-scale application of IBM Design Thinking and agile development for user-centered outcomes” in the forthcoming z14 issue of the IBM Journal of Research and Development.

In addition to the success of the offerings involved, one of the most rewarding aspects of this journey was the seven sub-teams who had never before engaged with users, but who adopted design thinking and iterative, user-driven development practices based on the success of our project. For these teams, I developed a low-resource strategy and materials for reference, occasionally mentoring them until they had established a set of practices that could in turn inspire other teams.

Our Design Process

The Design Thinking Loop: Observe. Reflect. Make.

Our team practices IBM Design Thinking, an iterative process focused on observing, reflecting, and making. You can learn more about it here.

Our approach is tailored to promote remote collaboration and whole team alignment. I believe in the power of having a multidisciplinary team moving towards clear and user-oriented goals. Some of the most crucial aspects of my role have been: communication, transparency, and the ability to make critical information both accessible and consumable to each member of our global team.

Here are some of the design practices at the heart of what we do:

Team Practices

  • Regular standups
  • Playbacks (iterative presentations to create internal and external alignment around our Hills)
  • Hills (user-centered goals that articulate the “who,” “what,” and “wow” of what we aim to provide)
  • Tracking User Exposure Hours
  • Creation and regular revisiting of design artifacts such as: assumptions grid, priority mapping, as-is and to-be scenarios, empathy maps, personas, big ideas exercises, experience mapping, storyboarding, 30/60/90 plans, etc.
  • Shared documentation in a central repository to build transparency and collective understanding

Design Research + Ethnography

  • Collaborative interview protocol building
  • User interviews (individual, group)
  • Contextual inquiry/site visits/field work/etc.
  • Surveys and microsurveys
  • Qualitative data synthesis
  • Currently exploring sentiment analysis in this space
  • Storytelling and content design to maximize impact of findings among the broader team

User Experience

  • Vision artifacts
  • Heuristic analysis
  • Process diagrams
  • Card sorting
  • A/B testing
  • Cognitive walkthroughs, think-aloud protocols
  • Wireframing, prototyping at varying levels of fidelity according to need
  • Playbacks and design artifacts to articulate findings that will guide us as a team from one iteration to the next

A Ferocious Team Delivers Ferocious Solutions

One of my favorite parts about this experience has been the team itself. We don’t always agree, but we always listen to and learn from each other, and have a lot of fun in the process. The impact of this collaboration has borne out in an offering that our clients love, and which has become the hallmark of IBM’s latest mainframe, the z14.

You can read more about IBM Pervasive Encryption here:

Closing slide from one of our research playbacks