IBM is a multinational technology and consulting company with more than 350,000 employees serving clients in 170 countries. It reported more than $77 billion in revenue in 2019.
In a 1973 lecture at the University of Pennsylvania, IBM’s much-heralded CEO Thomas Watson Jr., famously said that “good design is good business.” Since 2012, the global technology and consulting company has renewed its focus on user-centered design as a strategic initiative to better understand and meet consumer needs.
Today, the company runs over 3,000 sessions per year with UserTesting to understand:
- Are the user experiences moving in the right direction?
- Which features will increase user satisfaction?
- What interactions are causing task failure?
- How does an experience make someone feel?
- How long do some of their key tasks take?
- Which factors encourage or prevent purchases and adoption?
Eric Mahlstedt is the head of user research for the cloud data and AI business units at IBM. He leads IBM’s 80+ user researchers leveraging UserTesting to conduct unmoderated and moderated research studies that support product development.
“A few of the things that we do to ensure that our data turns into direction—that our insights are championed all the way through implementation—are we involve our stakeholders in the research,” Eric said. “We share videos with them. We workshop with them. We bring the users back into the company, and we rigorously track those insights in our research repositories.”
One way they’ve done that is creating what they call Usability Theater, where they show UserTesting video recordings that stakeholders can watch.
“So those videos and images were cherished by our stakeholders because they represented opportunities for them to go watch their creations out in the wild and then address the issues and friction points within those experiences,” Eric said. “What we do is we provide templates and documentation and office hours that enable these work partners to make decisions that benefit our end users.”
Mahlstedt said UserTesting has helped his teams establish a reliable, repeatable, scalable usability benchmarking program.
“A lot of people think that user research is about obsessing over users, and it is, but I think one thing that's made my organization successful is we obsess over business results.”
He said the fast feedback means they’ve decreased lead time on research cycles, so his team stays ahead of design sprints. And they have also been able to use UserTesting to do brand blind studies that would cost more through other vendors.
“When we're able to increase the velocity of customer insights through the development lifecycle, we can build leverage and influence,” Eric said. “Everything we do as a company is the result of a team of people investing in a shared goal. So when a company makes a commitment to acting on customer insights and investment in user research, over time, what we do is we increase the probability of our success.”
Eric MahlstedtHead of User Research for Cloud, Data, and AI business units at IBM
“We ask a lot of questions. UserTesting helps us turn our assumptions into evidence and each of those experiments helps the business move forward with more confidence.”