Neesha Vakil

is an experience designer based in Austin (soon to be NYC). She designs meaningful and intuitive experiences that impact both big and small → Learn more

Project Calcify

Design Research, Visual & Experience Design
2018

In Collaboration with: Liam DeCoste, Madeline Goulet,
Tiasha Joardar, Jack Liu & Sean Redmond

In this semester-long collaboration with IBM Design Studios we were tasked to craft a solution that:

Allows IBM to easily visualize BlockChain-based transactional data.
Notifies product owners of updates within their BlockChain, share its value, and increase organizational transparency.
This project tackled 3rd party analytic integration via APIs, status interfaces, notifications and the ability to easily share relevant Blockchain business data with other associated individuals. Working alongside the rest of my team, stakeholders and team lead, I was tasked with spearheading the visual design and developing the final prototype.

In order to bridge BlockChain data with product owners, we designed a visual analytics platform/dashboard that would sit on top of IBM’s personal blockchain. The platform would notify across personal devices and allow product owners to get updates throughout a normal day or when a problem arises. The platform makes it easy for product owners to get quick day-to-day stats and monitor their ecosystem.

Background

What is Blockchain?

We looked towards the past starting at clay tablets, bookkeeping, old ledgers and Excel. We realized that the ledger system hasn't really changed. In a span of thousand years, variations of the ledger systems has come up but they come with drawbacks. They are:
InefficientOpaqueCompartmentalizedBlockchain eliminates the drawbacks of each of these legacy technologies by taking each of their strong suits and combining them into one technology.

As of now IBM's personal BlockChain (IBP) combines these 3 pillars but what about the last one?

Problem

To easily inform product owners of transactional data on a blockchain and to provide visualizations to increase organizational transparency.

After learning more about Blockchain, we decided upon a goal and exploratory questions to guide us:

  • What devices/software do they use the most? (e.g. iPad, laptop, etc.)
  • What platforms do they currently use?
  • What information is useful to product owners?
  • Does increased simplicity of consuming data and visualize create trust?
  • How do we visualize a blockchain?
  • Is there interest/need to use this service (added simplicity, visualization, transparency)?
  • What use cases do we need to support?

Research

In order to better grasp the concept of Blockchain and how analytics is used, we interviewed 11 different individuals within and outside of IBM. We decided to conduct interviews in 4 phases:

→ Phase 1

  • Gave us context into how product owners and managers use analytics tools to solve problems within their product lines.
  • Looked into a broad range of obstacles and inconveniences they face on a daily basis that slow down larger processes.

→ Phase 2

  • These interviews gave us insight into a broad range of obstacles and inconveniences they face on a daily basis that slow down larger processes.

→ Phase 3

  • We dug deeper into specific supply chain management issues that we needed to address.

→ Phase 4

  • Finally as we developed our solution, we went through a few rounds of user testing with a mix of industry professionals and academic experts.

Taken during our interview with Kevin G., a Chief Financial Officer

→ Insights

  • Many users don't use analytics tools to their fullest potential
  • Notifications of problems or extreme cases are helpful
  • Too much data can be overwhelming

→ Key Quotes

  • "In the companies I've worked for, there always seems to be a workaround.”
  • “[If an error] were to happen and someone didn’t tell us, and our views were to drop below a certain threshold, [a notification] would be helpful"
  • "Knowledge is good as long as it can be gathered efficiently. If it requires three more people to manage the information, I'm not interested."

Personas

To help draft a narrative and showcase how our solution would be used in a specific scenario, we created our persona Sandra. Sandra helps us to understand the needs, behaviors and goals of our target user group and we referred back to her when designing our prototype. We also mapped out as-is journeys for her normal work day and when a problem arises.

→ Pain Points

  • There is no easy, straightforward way for dealing with crises.
  • Difficulty juggling information between different platforms, tools, and databases.
  • Unable to effectively monitor and predict product line needs.

→ Hill

  • A product owner can be notified of an issue within the supply chain anywhere they are at any time.

→ Sub-Hill

  • A product owner should be able to see the root of an issue as soon as they log into the application.

"I think blockchain would be ideal in the product management industry… I could pinpoint what I need to do a recall.”

Chris B.
Supply Chain Manager
McCombs School of Business Lecturer

"Traceability and knowledge is good as long as it can be gathered efficiently."

Kevin G.
Chief Financial Officer
Wenzel Associates, Wenzel Associates

Storyboard sketch of To-Be Map

To-Be Map

Solution

After drafting our to-be map we decided to move towards concept development where we crafted an analytics platform.

→ Concept Development

For our analytics platform we wanted:

→ Seamless Integration

  • Buttons to pinned integrated software analytics
  • Visuals/text of user-set integrated software data w/ title from where it came from

→ Profiles on connected vendors/distributors/suppliers.etc

  • Historical data of specific "events" w/ filters for different events (i.e. deliveries, problems, etc.)

→ Automatic & Threshold Notification

  • When logging into system, a notification will pop up and give a description and present relevant data of the problem and provide contact list (emails, phone #s, etc.) for the supplier/distributor/etc.

→ User Interface

  • Minimal number of buttons and menu for ease of use and usability
  • Command buttons for pinning desired data

We started by sketches various kinds of graphs and visuals that would help convey the data.

Then sketched the user flow of how insights would be received.

We created medium-fidelity mockups to map out the content and get a look and feel for the platform.

The medium-fidelity mockups was a good start in creating our prototype as it:

  • Reflected what we wanted in terms of content development
  • Mapped out user flow
  • Showed setup and what a smart insight would look at

Moving forward, we needed to:

  • Implement IBM's current brand identity into the prototype
  • Craft the mobile version of the notifications
  • Showcase all the features of the platform and how they would work

Prototypes

Video showing the features of the platform and the initial setup.

Video showing the mobile notification of smart insights when it detects an issue.

Video showing the desktop view when a user logins and sees an issue detected by smart insights.

Reflection

The opportunity to take on this project and learn from IBM is an experience that I will take with me well into my career.

Coming from a design background, I usually don't get to collaborate on projects outside of my major—it was refreshing to learn and work with a diverse team who come from different backgrounds such as Mechanical Engineering and English.

This project helped me to understand more about Blockchain, take on a real-world problem, and effectively communicate with interviewees and stakeholders. Most of all, this project challenged me to implement design thinking in a new angle and learn more about user research.