Microsoft Service Manager

IT service management, integrated and faster

When starting this project, Microsoft already had IT management offerings that handled monitoring of data center systems, configuration of servers, and user desktop deployments. However, data center management required multiple tools, roles and hand-offs — mostly done manually — in order to complete even the simplest of tasks. Microsoft wanted a unified solution that allowed for collaboration of roles, shared objects and common views. To address this issue, we created Service Manager, a solution to manage change, assets, and incidents in an organization’s environment.

We led design and research to deliver design patterns and instantiate top user scenarios across the desktop, web and mobile solutions. For the second release of the product, we created and led a team of design integrators who delivered UI code directly to the development teams. Further, our design integration team delivered control libraries that ended up being used across all of the System Center suite of products.

For our users, this meant consistent patterns, which guaranteed continuity and learning transfer across applications. We also project that it reduced ROI for our customers by reducing training time, increasing knowledge transfer, and facilitating communications.

IT services and assets in one unified tool

We designed an integrated ticketing tool that sped up the delivery of services to IT environments and knowledge workers.

Designing for roles and for speed

The existing framework only allowed the user to see objects of the same type in a given view. Since our research showed that users typically dealt with objects of more than one type, we wanted to allow for heterogeneous views of the objects which matter the most for a specific role. Additionally, we allowed tasks to be performed inline, in order to keep the user in their work flow and avoid pop-ups, wizards, or any other distracting elements. This allows the user to perform the tasks as fast as possible and remain focused on the goals.

Designing for relationships

Since IT analysts find the root cause of problems by inspecting relationships, it was essential to find a way to navigate based on relationships instead of siloed object types.

Data-driven designs

In order to come up with the best data-driven designs, we performed a mix of ethnography, card sorts, focus groups and iterative usability studies. Ethnography consisted of site visits on enterprise-level organizations to define workflows, information architecture, user roles, habits and practices. The research included shadowing, interviews and gap analysis. Card sorts were later performed in response to the ethnography research that showed that the current information architecture of the product didn’t match the users’ mental model. Focus groups involved discussion of issues and ideas uncovered through ethnography and card sort work. We also did collaborative design exercises with our users at an IT Management conference. Finally, the designs were refined with a series of iterative usability studies.