Rackspace Cloud Monitoring Tool

summary

Project: Enterprise web application
Target User: Support admins working internally
Goal: Simplify the workflow for support admins handling technical issues over phone for consumers.
Role: Interaction Design, Research

Rackspace’s support admins had to go through a lot of hoops before diagnosing a complaint from their cloud customers. After some contextual inquiry, I observed the different points where their workflow could be simplified, saving them plenty of hours on support call every week. Our team came up with a solution that helped support admins easily monitor issues on a customer’s server and access them faster.


Case Study and Process

Cloud Monitoring is one of the products in a suite of products in Rackspace's new admin-facing 'Encore Cloud'. 


Process

Overview of my process

Understanding the requirements

I worked closely with the product manager to understand the business goal – Rackspace was building a new set of cloud support tools in order to empower their support technicians to serve cloud customers faster. I also understood the fine nuances of the technical possibilities by speaking to lead developers in the team. 


Early sketch before the initial focus group session

Early sketch before the initial focus group session

Research

User groups

Based on a focus group session where we passed our initial sketches around combined with past research findings, it was clear that

  • Support technicians at Rackspace were using a myriad of tools during support calls.
  • There were 2 major types of users with different workflows.

I did some contextual inquiry to thoroughly understand the user's needs. Since not all support rackers made use of visual tools that we were designing, our team decided that it was important to focus on users who could benefit from viewing and diagnosing cloud monitoring information. We identified users from major kinds of support technicians to focus on – called the Managed infrastructure team and Managed operations team. I created quick personas and worked on optimizing their workflow through the new design.

Workflow Type 1

Workflow Type 1

Workflow Type 2

Workflow Type 2

Rapid testing and iteration

Paper prototypes

I constantly sketched ideas while also simultaneously doing research. I made use of paper prototypes in order to quickly test and validate my assumptions. For the landing screen in the cloud monitoring dashboard, testing helped me prioritize the right information hence avoiding clutter. For example, I tested 2 different ideas for the landing screen using paper prototypes and incorporated some of the best elements from both into my digital prototype. I also worked with the product manager to conduct user feedback sessions in order to constantly iterate and improve the product by assessing user needs.

As we worked further, we identified 2 major goals – to provide glanceable information and create a simpler workflow through easy access to important pages and actions.

Iteration of a row item in the entity information table

Iteration of a row item in the entity information table

Creating prototypes for production

With these major goals in mind, I simultaneously created visual mockups and created clickable prototypes in Axure and invision. The latter was more for business analysts and managers to easily go through the flow and leave comments. Even though they were being iterated rapidly, the prototypes were at a place where the developers could start working on it. The challenge was to create a first version of the product that was broad and not incremental for our target user group. Even if there wasn't much support for creation of monitoring information, we made sure that the viewing and  diagnosis of existing monitoring information was simple for the target group.

Reflection

Goals for individual pages in the dashboard

The internship was a great experience for me as I understood the importance of thorough testing. Coming to a new domain (cloud computing), I had to test and validate a lot of assumptions. I listed down the goals for each page that was designed in order to be focused. I also used storytelling effectively to communicate to managers and analysts, while I used prototypes to communicate my ideas to developers.