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I worked on one of Google's internal products called GRM, or Google Relationship Manager. The closest software analogy outside the company is Salesforce. Google's sales employees use GRM in many different ways to manage their customers.
I worked on four major projects for the GRM team: a time-saving popup window, a Chrome extension, a sales contest leaderboard, and personas.
Before I started designing anything, I spent some time acclimating myself to the product and its users. One of the major problems I identified was the fact that some of the functionality in GRM was hard or slow to access.
GRM contains many objects, and many of them are linked to customers, like Goals, Tasks, Meetings, and Notes. Unfortunately, performing a simple action like looking at the goals for a customer and then creating a new goal could take 12 or more clicks from the home page. Because of this, many users chose not to use the built-in functionality, instead relying on external documents to manage their customers.
I designed a series of popup boxes that appear when a user hovers their mouse over the name of a customer object (like a company, account, etc.). The popup boxes display vital information about that customer, as well as several buttons to associated objects (like Goals, Tasks, etc.). Clicking one of the buttons, for example Goals, opens a modal window that allows the user to instantly see all the Goals for that customer, as well as instantly create and edit Goals. Instead of 12 clicks, it's a hover and one click.
The popup went through many iterations to arrive at its finished state. I made 11 major revisions, with numerous smaller revisions along the way. I also constantly checked in with users, including face-to-face initial inquiries, surveys, provisional usability tests, and presentations. Reactions from users, the project manager I worked with, and the engineering team were overwhelmingly positive.
While working on the popups, I realized that one major organizational problem is the fact that many users store important customer information in Google Docs, Google Spreadsheets, Google Sites, and other links. These links are not catalogued anywhere, and are not associated with the customers in any database. This means that if a team changes or a team member leaves, it is possible that information about customers could be lost (though never made public, all of these links are internal to Google only).
In order to extend the idea behind the popups (fast access to important information and actions), I mocked up a Chrome extension. This extension would offer the same fast access that the popups did, but from anywhere on the web, not just within GRM. In addition, it would offer the ability for users to attach links to a customer. If they were working on a Google Doc, for example they could open the Chrome extension, type the company name, and then Attach that Google Doc to that company. This would quickly build up a database of associations, ensuring that no data is ever lost.
Additionally, by showing lists of associated docs and other links alongside existing GRM tools that duplicate the docs' functionality, like Meetings and Notes, the hope is that users will be encouraged to use the tools inside GRM, and one day the docs might be phased out altogether, which would be a huge win for data organization.
My next large project was designing game mechanics for GRM. I initially explored game mechanics in one of my graduate school classes, when I designed and built the Moodtivities iPhone app. GRM was an opportunity to use game mechanics in a real workplace. Specifically, I believe that game mechanics could be a powerful motivating factor for sales employees, encouraging them to perform their tasks faster and more efficiently, while also giving them higher job satisfaction.
After doing initial user inquiries, I discovered that sales contests are a common occurrence inside Google already, but that they are currently being run with a combination of whiteboards, emails, and Google Docs. In other words, they're disorganized, low-tech (a sin at a technology company like Google), and hard to use. One user told me a story about a time that someone erased a whiteboard at night and an entire two-week sales contest was lost.
I designed a leaderboard for GRM, integrating homepage notifications, a miniature version of the leaderboard for the homepage, a full leaderboard tab, and a system of badges that are tied to real world and virtual rewards. Sales employees will be able to use these tools to create and participate in sales contests. The leaderboard incorporates fun team names and team icons, and will be an easy introduction of game mechanics. The leaderboard is specifically designed to be extensible, so that additional motivating game mechanics can be added in later, depending on the success of the leaderboard.
The Keynote presentation contains the same content as the embedded presentation below, but at a higher resolution and with more animations showing interactions such as status message fades.
I became involved in a time-sensitive project on GRM that aimed to revolutionize the way that assignment of objects to teams works within GRM (e.g. assigning a new member to a team, assigning an account to a team). The project was having a problem defining and understanding its users. The Google sales force is thousands strong, and there are many different job roles within it, some of them differentiated by very subtle but important differences.
I started working on creating user personas for GRM with the aim of organizing and prioritizing the work on this time-sensitive project. I led a series of meetings with project stakeholders, including an initial meeting with four project managers, all of whom had to be introduced to the idea of personas and convinced that personas were a good idea.
The personas were immediately and wildly successful. In the initial meetings, several problems were solved merely through the act of defining one persona. I created large posters, which were hung in high-traffic areas in the development team's workspace, and some team members even started identifying with personas and commenting on their personalities. They became an instantly valuable tool that helped project leaders and my fellow designers prioritize changes and figure out the business logic necessary to move forward with the project.