UX Sets the Foundation for a 5 Year Vision

Tivoli Storage Manager (TSM) is an enterprise data protection solution offered by IBM. Over the history of the product, there were several attempts to build a user interface (UI) so operators didn’t have to rely on the command line interface. Each attempt was universally disliked because the UI’s didn’t support user needs, required deep domain knowledge, and wasn’t easy to use. Customer trust was eroding. The TSM organization had to create an easy to use solution, requiring less specialized skills, immediately.

Brenton joined IBM in 2012. His mission was to lead the design of a solution that would delight existing and new IBM customers, in four short months!


Month 1 – Deep Dive With Customers and Users

The key to understanding user and doing meaningful research is to ask the right questions and plan for success.

  • What do we need to know?
  • What UX methods should we use to understand and get answers?
  • What are the workflows we find in organizations?
  • How do people share data protection problems and solutions?
  • What are the top data protection pain points?
  • What best practices enable users to be more productive and happy?

In answering these core questions, we begin collecting data to understand the users (and customers) wants, needs, workflows, and desires. Brenton immediately got the architecture team out to customer offices to conduct ethnographic style field research. This research was critical to understand the complicated environments of the real world.

Field Research


Through the research we saw users are performing many tasks manually and tracking things in paper notebooks. For the new solution (later named the Operations Center) to be successful, our team had to automate basic tasks, integrate into daily workflows, provide easier ways to setup backups, and simplify everything.

User Group


User group feedback was another invaluable method for quickly understanding the users and their needs.


During one user group meeting with over 50 participants, we broke out  into small working sessions. Brenton ran a pain points session where the users prioritized topics by frequency and severity.

We ended the first month with a deep understanding of our users and initial categories for our user personas.


Month 2 – ‘The Vision’ in a Design Thinking Workshop


In the second month, Brenton setup a week long face to face design workshop for our team of architects, developers, and stakeholders. The goal was to create a shared understanding, synthesize customer and user requirements, reconcile the technology capabilities, and meet business objectives. We did workshops on pain points, competition & gap analysis (enterprise and consumer), brainstormed, and wrote preliminary user experience scenarios. 



Within a couple of days, we had this wireframe to drive the 5 point vision,
based on persona types.


Relationship Diagram – Mapping out the Experience EcoSystem

Spectrum Protect System Model and User Model

Even more strategic was our relationship diagram. We used it to understand all parts of the user experience, understand customer’s business needs, user’s conceptual models (called mental models), and how we could evolve our offerings as services. (A final version of the diagram is shown.)


Month 3 – Refinement and More User Participation


Brenton leveraged his deep experience in UX research and design methods to teach the team how to build great solutions.  He showed the team how to conduct both paper and online card sorts, to construct an information architecture for the operations center.



The online card sort data indicated a more traditional task based architeture is best to suport the existing customer base. Customers also gave us other types of valuable feedback in IBM’s early access programs.


Month 4 – Concepts

Because we are developing in an agile environment with 4 week cycles, we had to quickly close on concepts and designs. We created different concepts for different personas such as the Senior Solution Architect, a Systems Operator, and a Business Partner.


clients_to_do_11A business partner dashboard would need to provide an overview of multiple clients (know as tenants) and the ability to investigate specific clients easily. For the business partner’s clients, an iPhone app could assign ‘to do’ items to users so they can take ownership of their environment, without neededing to know internal complexities of TSM.



Brenton was an accessibility visionary at Cisco. He co-lead the formation of Cisco’s accessibility program. He brought this inclusive stewardship to IBM.  Accessibility was designed into all concepts. The top half image above the red line, shows what the screen would look like to someone with green-yellow-red deficiency (Deuteranopia). The bottom half, shows the ‘normal’ perception.



We collaboratively designed task flows, setup wizards, and finalized concept directions for major tasks and hit our deadline.


Fantastic! This usability is amazing!

– Eric Sheppard, Research Director, Storage Software, IDC


To understand the solution evolution, see Design “Thrills” Customers and “Amazes” Analysts.
Solution Name: Tivoli Storage Manager Operations Center
IBMers can see details on the internal TSM Release Blueprint.