Transforming an acquired technology into a fully integrated product.
In 2014, Citrix acquired a company called ScaleXtreme, as part of our expansion into the world of enterprise SaaS solutions. ScaleXtreme was a powerful tool for automating delivery and management of IT services, and my design team was asked to redesign it to fit in with our existing products.
At the same time, we had to find a way to integrate the new product into an entirely new platform – Citrix Workspace Cloud — that was still being developed.
This was a multi-dimensional challenge — one that many companies have to deal with. Success is far from guaranteed and there are many potential pitfalls. It helps to have a clear strategy, early customer input, and most importantly teams who all work together to find the right solution.
Today, Lifecycle Management is an essential service in Citrix Workspace Cloud.
I’d like to tell you how we did it, from the point of view of the design team that I manage. I think it will give you an interesting and hopefully valuable perspective on how we transformed an acquired technology into a shipping product in less than one year. And I’ll share some “lessons learned” along the way.
Designers Craft the Vision for the Experience
Look, design teams don’t create products; product teams create products, and design teams are part of that process. As designers, we do our job when we craft a vision for the experience of the product, along with the product manager. We shepherd the product vision and help carry the team towards that vision.
First, we had to build relationships among our teams.There has to be a healthy and dynamic tension between design, product management and engineering, and that only comes when there is both a shared vision, and a strong sense of trust. Perhaps most importantly, engineering and product management had to have a sense of confidence that the design team will deliver on the vision.
To build our vision and sense of trust, we applied a process to transform it all into a solution, a process that we refer to by the acronym PICTI.
The Design Principles of PICTI
PICTI stands for:
- Identify the Problem(s) we are trying to solve
- Collect Insights from users and customers
- Prototype Concepts based on insights and hypothesis. Validate and iterate
- Apply Tactical validated design solutions to product
- Measure Impact
Each of these components came into play as we worked our way through the challenges of transforming ScaleXtreme into an integral part of Citrix Workspace Cloud.
Using PICTI principles, we were able to focus on each task as needed, test, evaluate, refine, and then move on to the next task quickly.
A New Cloud-Based Service to Automate Our Solutions
Citrix Workspace Cloud is a set of cloud-based services that securely provide the apps, documents and collaboration that Citrix customers rely on. We acquired ScaleXtreme because we needed a way to automate the design, deployment, and management of Citrix solutions; the product needed to be purpose-built for these tasks.
The ScaleXtreme acquisition was announced in May, just before our annual Synergy Conference for customers and partners. Our design team got involved very early, even before the acquisition was complete. We wanted to scope out the product we were going to create, and engage with Synergy attendees to hear what they thought about this new type of product: a SaaS-based enterprise management service. There had never been anything like this from Citrix, so early customer and partner input would be important.
Lesson #1: Share Early Prototype with Target User Base
We decided to start with a prototype, which we built in a very short period of time – about two weeks. Working with the product managers and engineers, we created a design and a workflow, based on our hypothesis of who the customer might be, and how they might want to use this product. The plan was to show this to customers and partners and gather feedback. We could then fold these insights into the initial product design.
Then something unexpected happened: when we showed our vision to senior management, they decided to demo our new, rough design at Synergy. We had to scramble to get the design ready enough to show an audience of 5,000 customers and partners, as well as the entire world at large. Talk about pressure to deliver!
While the presentation went well, our early design and promotion of the still-unfinished product created several concerns. For example, some long-time customers – not yet knowing what this product would be – used their imaginations to fill in the details. Some attendees actually told us, “This could be a threat to my job.” Others on seeing the demo expressed disbelief: “This seems like it’s too good to be true; it will never work.”
And my favorite: “It’s like magic.”
This feedback told us that there was enormous demand for this kind of automated solution. And yet there was also skepticism that Citrix could make it both bulletproof and easy to use. We had to find a way to inspire confidence that it would really work, while reassuring customers as well as partners that we were going to help them do their jobs, not take their jobs away.
Lesson #2: Conduct User Testing to Get Early Feedback on the Concept
While we prepared the demo, we also prepared a research session at Synergy to better understand how our users might integrate the product into their current processes and sales motion. Also, we wanted to get a clearer idea of which stakeholders would be involved and where the hand-offs might occur.
We also created a journey map to share possible use cases with the Synergy attendees. We gathered feedback from several target audiences, including system engineers, system architects, and even application designers – many of whom were not typical Citrix customers.
What we found was that once they learned the intention, they were very receptive to the product purpose and design. It helped to show them what we were talking about.
We expected that the majority of the customers might be stand-offish about a cloud-based solution to manage their infrastructure, and indeed some expressed a need for an on-premise solution. Many people still think that the Cloud equals “not secure.” We took this opportunity to educate our users on how Citrix offers solutions that are highly secure.
We were off to a good start. With the research and user testing from Synergy, we began designing Citrix Lifecycle Management.
Lesson #3: Let the User Complete an Initial Task
Our research taught us some things we weren’t expecting. We initally thought that a main feature of Lifecycle Management would be the way it helps automate deployment.
But users told us that deployment wasn’t the main issue: as one user said, “Deploying itself is not much of a timesaver. I still have to integrate all the applications across different versions.”
What became a priority was defining a Minimally Viable Product (MVP), such as a Proof of Concept for deploying XenDesktop. This PoC is a full installation that shows that the process works, but without adding full workloads. It gives the user a sense of accomplishing an essential and entire task, end to end, to validate that the product works as promised.
Engineering created the XD PoC and we began testing it with users. We found it was a much more productive way to learn about their needs, barriers and expectations. Over time, we improved the PoC to the point where customers with minimal help could deploy successfully and repeatedly.
Lesson #4: Keep PICTI Design Principles in the Forefront
To keep the design process on track, we constantly returned to basic questions:
- What are the problems we are trying to solve? We had an established set of problems that we were tenaciously determined to solve.
- How can we make Citrix Workspace Cloud more successful by using Lifecycle Management? We kept refining the experience and enhancing the ease of completing each step.
- How can we make our enterprise customers and partners more successful with this product? We continue to iterate with our partners and customers to improve their experience with Lifecycle Management.
To reach these objectives, you have to understand what is going on at a deep technical level. To design for complexity, you first have to understand the complexity. Our job is to abstract complexity but not hide things. We expose the things that need to be exposed at the right time: the information the user needs when it’s relevant, and in the right way.
Citrix Lifecycle Management is now a shipping product. We feel we found a way of taking pre-existing techology and creating an entirely new experience that puts users and customers on a path to success in deploying Citrix solutions.
Next Steps from Here
Like all new products, Lifecycle Management is far from done. Next steps begin with learning more from actual users, of course. But in many ways, we’ve come full circle, from a notion to a shipping product.
And we’ll be applying these same principles to other Converged Infrastructure products. So there is lots more to come from the Converged Infrastructure Design team. Stay tuned.
Director of Product Design for Converged Infrastructure, Citrix Systems, Inc.