From Customer to Partner

3 min read

Insider access into IBM's User Experience Program.

When you use a product, do you ever think about the design behind the user experience? The user experience is all about making products easy to use. To get an inside look at someone who has been working with our user experience team to provide feedback, we interviewed Ben, a data science supervisor at a health insurance company. He has been a partner of the IBM User Experience Program for four years.

User experience groups — you speak, they listen 

In Ben’s opinion, the most powerful part of working with the IBM User Experience Program enables him to make suggestions that become implemented and become part of the product development process. 

"I have a design mindset," Ben said. "So being part of the User Experience Program scratches that itch for me. Being part of the design aspects of IBM has helped me understand my design stuff and contribute that way."

In the past four years, Ben has been regularly involved in sessions with the design team, where he looks at future ideas for the product and gives feedback on them. He's also been part of design-thinking planning workshops, where they mapped future ideas for the product. 

"I'm very much a user-centric person," he said. "So having my voice heard and being part of the design team is really cool."

By working with the design team, Ben saw his product suggestions go into development. "I remember the nodes in [IBM] SPSS Modeler being really slow and frustrating," Ben recalled. "I wanted a way to connect those quickly, so I suggested they add templates." Later, the team implemented templates into the product. 

"I'm not sure it was only my idea," he said. "But it was exciting to see something I asked for get added to the product." 

Ben would recommend the User Experience Program to anyone. "If you're using a product, but it's not meeting your needs, this is a place where your voice can be heard. You get an avenue for expressing your frustrations and concerns. You can contribute to design changes," he shared. "You can be part of the design flow where ideas become actual things." His advice for making the most of the program? "Don't be afraid to be critical of what's going on in the product." 

Leveraging the user experience to optimize solution development and deployment

Ben’s User Experience Program participation increased his confidence in the products he uses.  He started using IBM products in 2017 to address a specific business need to provide data analytics that they didn't have the capability for onsite. His teammates wanted to run a specific financial optimization to ingest past claims data and derive projections for the future. Since they're a health insurance company, this would help them optimize their benefits design and enable their products to be more valuable. 

However, there was an infrastructure problem that made doing this kind of optimization difficult. Deploying Spark through IBM Watson® Studio gave them the computing power they needed to run powerful data analytics through the cloud. It helped him and his team to be free to experiment in data science projects without using valuable internal IT resources.

"For me, Watson Studio is like IT in a box," Ben said. "It allows me to experiment and build things quickly without frustrating business owners." 

Now, they use a full IBM cloud-deployed analytics suite of products such as IBM Cloud Pak® for Data as a Service, with IBM Watson Knowledge Catalog, Watson Studio, Watson Machine Learning, IBM Decision Optimization, IBM Cognos® Analytics and IBM SPSS® Statistical software (the product user experience group in which he participated). They pair this with relational databases like IBM Db2® and PostgreSQL.

Through their analytics deployments, Ben's company has found valuable insights that help with the rising healthcare costs, help identify operational efficiencies that save time and build new dashboards in faster time to market to business stakeholders. Moreover, they've decreased downtime from service tickets to decrease time spent internally and externally on these:

Join the IBM User Experience Program

Imagine how exciting it would be to have an active role in shaping the products you use every day.

If you're an IBM product user, apply to the IBM User Experience Program.

Don't use IBM products? No worries, you can sign up for our IBM Research Participant Panel.

The future of your favorite products is waiting for you, so sign up today.

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