Helping 3rd party solution sellers gain real value in selling in IBM's Ecosystem.
Duration: 7 weeks
Teammates: 3 UX Designers, 1 Visual Designer, 1 Researcher & 2 Project managers
My Role: UX Research, UX Design
IBM is a large company, with its teams spread out all over the world, often pursuing similar initiatives in different ways. One of these is the effort to provide a platform for IBM's users to buy 3rd party solutions. With the complex ecosystem of multiple "marketplaces", our task was to help 3rd party sellers discover and learn how to sell with IBM. Through research, we expanded our scope to also tackle the core problem of helping 3rd party sellers gain long term value by selling with IBM.
Through mapping out the problem space as a team, we identified 3 types of key stakeholders: the 3rd party product provider, the customers who buy IBM & 3rd party products, and IBM. To find out more about the expectations, process and outcome of selling and buying from IBM, we interviewed 12 people within these roles.
After each interview, i'd extract key findings by mapping them out in the linear process that each seller/buyer went through. While not every vendor went through the same exact steps, this helped give our team a holistic view of the experience and identify the painpoints.
OUR USERS & THEIR PAINPOINTS
At the core, IBM sales reps are not incentivized to sell 3rd party solutions. The complex IBM system confuses vendors who are unsure of which storefront to put their solution. As time goes on, it's unclear whether their target audience is being reached, since no additional sales have been made through IBM. For buyers, they're not ready to sign contracts with 3rd party vendors without trying them out first - sometimes finding out too late that they don't have scalable solutions, flexible pricing models, or meet data / privacy standards.
I get grumpy when we have a sense of urgency on a business idea, and then the IBM team is unable to get it to a customer. Initiatives have started and don’t go anywhere. - Vendor
We want more info about their roadmap and enterprise readiness but don't get that till we build a stronger relationship with them, sign contracts, and get a customer success team… it really takes a while. - Buyer
I end up having to be a navigator… and can’t focus on what I want to do, which is to tell our vendor’s story. - IBM Ecosystem Enablement Manager
As a group we came up with different concepts including:
- Tracking the process and leads in a dashboard for vendors
- Creating a single storefront that fits the needs of all the existing marketplaces
- I proposed taking a buyer centered approach where buyers tell IBM what kind of problem they're looking to solve, and IBM comes back with a bundle of IBM + 3pv services that work together well.
- Sherpa style guidance to show vendors where to sell
Our final solution was a combination of pairing IBM + 3pv suggestions and sherpa guide. We tested low fi and mid fi solutions with users to make sure we were addressing their needs. I personally worked primarily on the buyer flow.
To measure success, we crafted 3 guiding hills for our solution:
- A 3PV can understand the cost and benefits of selling with IBM and be ushered to a product portfolio that compliments their needs, in a single environment.
- A 3PV with an enterprise-ready offering can market and sell with IBM to reach large enterprise customers.
- A buyer can find a solution to their problem, regardless of where they are in the purchasing funnel.
On all IBM storefronts, the "Sell with IBM" CTA ensures that 3rd party sellers can onboard regardless of which front door they enter the ecosystem. The "Sell with IBM" page clearly states what steps are expected, and has case studies that show results. The first step to sell with IBM is to take the "Seller fit guide".
The "Seller fit guide" helps guide sellers to the IBM storefront that most suits their product. With just a bit of input, we scan the offering and show IBM already really understands their industry and company.
- The seller fit guide asks for the 3pvs target audience to show that IBM has their interest in mind, and pairs them with an IBM offering that reaches that audience.
- Based on the enterprise readiness criteria we defined with users, the offering gets sorted to a platform based on its maturity.
- By bundling 3pv products with IBM products, the 3pv benefits from IBM's existing traffic, and IBM benefits by selling a more valuable solution to buyers. (This was 1 of my personal contributions)
A good IBM product pair is found! Questions specific to the industry + pairing will help IBM determine if this 3pv compliments their offering, and also fill out the listing.
Instead of waiting, we now provide 3pvs with immediate feedback, and email notifications.
Buyers can browse solutions that pair with IBM products they're already using, or get sold a bundle at the get-go. Success stories of 3pvs + IBM solving enterprise problems reassure the buyer that the solution is scalable and effective.
Buyers can reach out to 3pvs, who get real leads (and traffic data) out of selling with IBM.
Additional projects and images will be shown once they're shipped. Thanks for stopping by! :)
My other projects and responsibilities include:
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