How I scaled the design toolbox at IBM
I m one of 366,000 people at a 108-year-old Fortune 500 technology company, and I think I just figured out how to scale design tools across our entire organization.
Let me rewind events a bit and tell you the whole story.
Back in 2015, the productivity of our tools was greatly weakened and outdated, and accordingly, interaction with other IBM developers became more and more difficult. Our main information office (CIO) began to understand all the intricacies of IBM developers, and in a very short period of time, we began to use more modern toolkits on an ongoing basis, such as Github, Slack, Mural and many others. And now IBM is gaining access to these tools on a global scale.
I thank the gods of the Internet every day that I no longer need to use outdated tools. While it was a great time for modern IBM, unfortunately there were some problems in certain disciplines. In this case, I m talking about tools for designers.
The world of design tools is improving every day. I recently tested tools in the prototyping industry and discovered about twelve different tools … twelve. And this is only in one area. Let s not forget that there are tools for managing design systems, creating user interfaces, digital imaging, versioning, animation, and code transfer handling. And these are just a few of the categories of tools in the world of UX and visual design. I haven t even taken into account design development or front-end development tools yet.
Grains of sand
Let s call a spade a spade. Now is the perfect time to work in design. We have a variety of tools and full access to all kinds of information. The number of employees at IBM is constantly changing. At the moment, our headquarters consists of 2500 professional designers.
All of the aforementioned tools that complement and enhance the IBMer toolbox include purchasing licenses for tens of thousands or even hundreds of thousands of IBMer. The number of designers is just a grain of sand compared to all IBM specialists in general. The CIO s office has many options to support network infrastructure, tools, and other productivity enhancements for hundreds of thousands of employees worldwide. Implementing tools for niche discipline within a large organization is not their main job.
To achieve successful business results, design projects in large organizations need the best, latest tools to work with. These tools need to be implemented throughout the organization in accordance with the same security, legal, and procurement procedures that are followed by the CIO s office. Relationships must be maintained by the best experts in the field. Not every tool will survive the adaptation process; we must provide them with an environment for development and prosperity.
But that s only half of the problem.
Everything is a little complicated
IBM is one of the largest tech giants, with many divisions virtually all over the world. Given the complexity of a global enterprise, there are several ways to acquire a license, depending on which organization the employee is located in or where he or she is geographically located.
Navigating through these processes is a feat in itself. It is imperative to provide quality guidance for our designers, and unnecessary blockers need to be removed so that employees can freely carry out their immediate responsibilities.
So I did something
I created Design Toolbox at IBM. It is a community for empowering IBM developers across business units to find, acquire and use the best design tools. Why Design Toolbox is useful for IBM:
- Clear cost forecasting to fully understand all costs
- Business success guarantee for those who are not sure about the advisability of investing in design
- Free access and exchange of new tools and the best works using your favorite tools
- Track the progress of introducing new tools in the company through Zenhub
- Learning to interact with our legal, procurement, license management, IT risk management and new tool vendor partners at IBM
The new IBM Design Toolbox digital interface is powered by the awesome docsify site documentation generator. All content is created with cost savings in mind, which means anyone can make changes to the site. As an administrator, I only need to approve the proposed changes.
So far, the IBM Design Toolbox has had an unconditional success. Users browse the site every day, sometimes there are requests to extract information for use in creating content. I also work with some users to develop and add new additional tools to our system.
Having told all this, I understand the complexity of the functioning of this sphere. Working with a risk management team in IT, legal, procurement and license management is challenging and demanding. The relationship with these areas is vital to the successful testing and release of new tools. But sometimes, there are many misunderstandings and difficulties in cooperation with third-party areas of work. The main thing that I understood is that you need to ask a million questions and involve people in fulfilling their obligations. Then success awaits you, but get ready, it will take a lot of effort.
Forward and upward
The success of tools in software design is directly related to how exciting and new this space is. Organizations seeking the best possible design output will need to equip their employees with top-tier design tools. Organizations that ignore this condition will, at best, create a mediocre user experience, and at worst, lose their best employees, because many competing companies are willing to invest in projects for a quality result.
Implementing SaaS tools in an enterprise environment is difficult. We still have a lot of work to do to facilitate the consumer experience in large organizations like IBM. But I think we are on the right track. We are working to build a community of practitioners across business units and regions, bringing them together to find, acquire and use the best design tools.