IBM Enterprise Content Management (ECM - CMS) - Redesign

While at IBM Design Lab during the summer of 2013, I was tasked with completely reimagining the company’s Enterprise Content Management (ECM) system.

Why was this assigned? Employees at IBM have to use this internal content management system constantly for uploading and retrieving assets. At the time of my internship, ECM was a very powerful, yet complicated platform that for many users, left a lot to be desired.

As a result, I was given free reign to research, validate and design a completely new experience. This is the kind of task and overall problem solving that I love. 

First Step - Meet With The Users


As part of my research into the existing ECM platform, I met with a series of IBM employees whose jobs were centered on using ECM. From these meetings, I chronicled and prioritized the existing pain points:

What I heard was that ECM was:

  • Extraordinarily complicated, multi-layered interface without clear, intuitive calls to action. 
  • It was significantly difficult to search for content. Users had to supply long “syndication key codes” that corresponded with the content they search for. 
  • Search also had way too many filters based on necessities of core user need. 
  • Content creation was arduous and confusing with no clear hierarchy of priorities or common use cases. 
  • Limited to desktop use (mobile/tablet versions didn’t exist). Many employees need to interact with ECM away from their desk, so this created a delay in user's ability to quickly and easily use the platform away from the office. 

The front end of the experience felt very back end centric. It felt as if a user is building content from within a database as opposed to a client or user-facing, friendly environment.


Next Step - Build a Persona of The Everyday User

These pain points helped me to create a specific point of departure for the next generation ECM platform. Additionally, from this consolidated user research, I was able to create a persona of a typical user and their goals and needs.



Next Step - Research The Old ECM

After hearing the concerns and priorities of users and creating a persona to attribute to the ideal experience, it now was time to take in the current ECM. I began by looking into how content is created and distributed. My notes from this process are showcased below.


Next Step - Build a Sitemap for Next ECM-CMS

One of the first things I did after meeting with current users and taking an audit of the existing ECM CMS was to create a sitemap. This was essentially the bare minimum, most vital tasks that the ECM platform is intended to achieve. Through this, I detailed all of the most essential needs that a new content management system would entail.


Next Step - Start Sketching and Begin to Iterate on Design

Very rough, early sketches shown below


Redesign Contribute Section

After rounds of testing and validation from average users within the design lab, the following output was achieved. We simplified the experience dramatically and updated the experience to accommodate what people use the platform for the most on a daily basis. Our goal all along was to remove as many of the big pain points as possible while maintaining the power and sophistication that ECM provides. 

The screens below showcase how a user adds category specific content into IBM's ECM Content Management System from a tablet. 

Uploading Content

One of the insights I drew from the user research process was that very little of the content in the existing ECM platform felt visually intuitive. I kept thinking to myself, how can we create a system where we can add content in a physical, visually oriented, almost tactile way? This resulted in the manipulation of assets you see in the drag and drop functionality above.

The Related Content Section

One of the things that was incredibly exciting for users was the ability to retrieve assets in the cloud and inject them into the existing ECM platform. For a purely spec design, we used Google Drive and Dropbox, as these products are ubiquitous in modern application. Of course, IBM has it's own robust cloud capabilities, and we could easily be connecting with such a service here.

I want to emphasize again that we hoped this ECM platform would be so visually tangible, that users would understand the general size, shape and placement of their assets prior to selecting and publishing their content. As a result, much of my design process here began with example pages filled with the types of content ECM can generate. I kept asking what already exists? I then in turn work backwards so the user has a sense of the dimensions of their experience before even populating a single entry.


As you can see from the preview page, it was important that the end goal, what we wanted the output to be, was driving the process of content creation in a powerfully intuitive way.

Contribute - Via Smartphone

The same process and outcome as showcased above but distilled into core functions for a smartphone user. 

IBM Enterprise Content Management (ECM - CMS) - Redesign - Search

For the next component of the redesign, I again began with an audit of the current platform, which special attention paid to the search experience. This page below showcases my notes and analysis regarding the current state of the experience.

Start Sketching and Begin to Iterate on Design

Next Step - Iterate and Build

Search - Via Smartphone