Designing a simplified workflow for System Time Management
Role:User Experience Designer
Skills:User Experience, Wireframing, Rapid Prototyping, Scenario Mapping, User Testing
On July 17, 2017, IBM released the z14, the newest generation mainframe for IBM Z, enabling massive encrypted data transactions and better user experience for system administrators.
In 2015, the Hardware Management Console (HMC) team from IBM Z launched an ambitious project to modernize the HMC. Part of the effort included redesigning the System Sysplex Time task, an essential but complicated operation that synchronizes systems and coupling facilities to a network called the Coordinated Timing Network. I was brought on the team as the User Experience Designer to lead the design of new workflows that improve the way mainframe operators ensure rapid data sharing and synchronization between multiple systems. I led the project in alleviating user's pain points regarding configuring and repairing coordinated timing networks.
The old System Sysplex Time task is infamous for its complexity, uncertainty and its capability to shut down a mainframe. According to a user we interviewed:
"I try to stay out of [System Sysplex Time]. It's the easiest way to take down the data center with one click of a mouse."
— Hardware Engineer VP
There have been real-world examples of companies accidentally taking their mainframe offline because of the lack of understanding of System Sysplex Time. In order to begin understanding the operation, system administrators read over 1000 pages of official IBM documentation. In addition, the task is typically operated by users who have decades of experience with the HMC. As more millennials enter the market to become system administrators, it's inevitable that they will struggle with the outdated, unintuitive task in its current form. The console needed to evolve to embrace the next generation of mainframe operators. My goal over the next two years was to improve the user experience to make the task more intuitive and less intimidating.
My redesign, known as Manage System Time, replaced the old System Sysplex Time on the HMC. The Manage System Time is a single point of system time management for multiple systems and provides a real-time, interactive visual topology of the STP network, previews that surface configuration errors, and new intuitive workflows.
This project's design details are password protected. I'd be happy to discuss my process and experience in confidence.
The old, discrete panels for System Sysplex Time.
The new redesign is a single launch point for all of system time management and features improvements such as a visual topology and wizards.
I partnered with the User Researcher to uncover user behaviors, motivations, pain points and other insights. I acted as the design subject matter expert to help conduct user interviews and testing. These insights were translated into solutions to address the user's needs.
Through design workshops, prototyping and user testing, I developed design principles to help define the project's wider vision. In addition, I helped evangelize the agile framework through sprint planning, daily and bi-weekly playbacks to drive alignment with the engineering and management team on the strategy.
As the user experience designer, I delivered wireframes, journey maps, prototypes, and design specs to the wider team for development.
Working with the engineering and management team, I ideated, prioritized and defined features for future release.