I worked with the Microsoft Volume Licensing team over several years to help refine and modernize the experience commercial customers, field agents, and partners had with Microsoft. In this time I worked across the portfolio with several different user groups leading several design efforts. One of the larger projects involved a significant reimagining of the relationship with their commercial customers.
Microsoft has multiple channels to purchase and manage software, products, and services. This can be confusing and time consuming for users who need to manage these purchases. There are instances where a commercial customer does not fully understand everything that they own or the licensing agreements that govern the software. Many companies are not able to see the value they have from the products.
Our team provided a simple, transparent, and trust-building experience that allows commercial customers to effectively manage users, purchases, and data. Providing this experience begins to transform our customers’ relationship with Microsoft. It creates a world where they understand what they own and how to use it to be more productive.
Over the course of this project I filled many roles. During the Discovery Phase I lead a team of several agency designers and researchers to help define the problem, map out a project plan, create bedrock research documentation, craft core scenarios, and design initial wireframes.
Once we had the go-ahead from our Vice President the team began working very closely with our internal Microsoft counterparts to help generate a multi-year UX roadmap, ideate on the initial wireframes, establish visual design rules, and map out a responsive strategy for the site. I worked directly with our design lead to create UX deliverables and manage the flow of work to our agency team.
Part 1: Discovery
The first part of the project was a one month discovery phase. For this portion of the project we broke down the work into five tasks.
Audit and Task Matrix
To solve the problem of managing software we needed to first understand how it was managed in existing experiences, where those experiences shined, and where they needed to be refined or in some cases created. Over the course of the first week our design team catalogued over 125 tasks in 4 different portals, rating them with on a three tiered scale from “Great Experience”, “Could Use Refinement” and “Poor Experience.”
This would give us the lay of the land and empower the team to focus on the scenarios that were the most impactful for the customers.
While the designers worked on auditing the existing experiences our researchers did guerilla studies with IT managers to find out where their current pain points were and what tasks they found to be simple. This work would be critical in the scenario generation portion of the discovery phase.
Based on the combined information gleaned from those two processes, we took a more in-depth look at three specific tasks that represented frequently performed activities.
To quickly communicate the length and complexity of each task across all the portals we summarized the tasks in simple flows that show the number of steps being performed, and the actors performing them. In many cases, there were multiple ways to complete a task in a given portal.
After determining which tasks were the most important to our users, and most in need of redesign through inquiry and audit we honed our scope down to the key scenarios to show our executive level stakeholders to convince them of the value of the project.
With those scenarios in mind we created a presentation illustrating the research and audit findings, along with our early ideation on how to make the experience better for our users. Because of the nature of our stakeholders and the tasks at hand we focused on the desktop experience, but kept our eyes open to how these would work in tablet and phone views.
At this point the project was given the green light and we began working on the next phases over the next five months.
Part 2: Ideation
With the project now official we began to work on the ideation through production phases. During the ideation phase continued to explore the scenarios that we had generated during discovery, add more scenarios to the design backlog, and create a multi-year UX road map.
Object Oriented UX
Early in this phase we utilized a design methodology called Object Oriented UX to help define our short and long term goals for the site. This process involves breaking out the objects, content, linked objects and actions into defined groups. It can be an invaluable tool for building a scalable information architecture.
Going through this exercise helped us in several ways. First, we determined a wide scope of actions that we wanted the users to do in the MVP and beyond. Second, it highlighted the objects and actions we thought were most important and was crucial as we negotiated scope with our stakeholders. Third, we worked with our development partners so that they would understand how the data in the site needed to work together.
The above image shows a blurred version of our object map with various sections highlighted in orange to illustrate various strategies and phases to approach the long-term project. By creating these deliverables we were able to both help determine the scope of the project and define our information architecture.
Scenario Generation: Part 2
After we determined our objects and their relationship to one another we were quickly able to articulate additional scenarios and de-prioritize scenarios that were no longer in scope for release one.
Wireframes: Part 2
These wireframes expanded on what was learned from the discovery phase, refining where necessary, and creating initial designs for the new scenarios that were defined.
These activities enabled us to create a UX roadmap that illustrated how a phased approach could be achieved. In the immediate term it helped us define the scope for release one. We then began assigning scenarios and user stories to designers for work in the production phase. Armed with the knowledge and documentation that was created up until this point we worked with our eyes not only on all device sizes, but with designs that kept in mind future releases of the site.
Part 3: Production
Scenarios and requirements were now in place and scope had been agreed to by our stakeholders. The other designers and I began to create the wireframes that would be used to develop the final site. Through critique (a process I helped reimagine) and stakeholder review ideas put together in earlier phases were refined and approved for production.
As the wireframes were created we also worked to define the visual design of the site. This was a combination of using the existing One Microsoft Design language and defining components and pieces that broke new ground.
Part 4: The Live Site
Our team provided a simple, transparent, and trust-building experience that allows commercial customers to effectively manage users, purchases, and data. In the past commercial customers had to keep manual spreadsheets of what they had purchased, now they could easily browse software and see what had been purchase. Earlier experiences gave them little clue as to what users had access to software, now they could see that AND assign software to additional users if necessary. In short, it was the beginning of a transformation of the customers’ relationships with Microsoft. One where they better understand what they own and how to use it to be more productive.
A commercial customer could see not only the software they owned, but the users to which it was assigned. New users could be assigned from this screen.
Searching for new software was made easier through robust filtering.