|A Book Excerpt
excerpt from a book: How Cisco
uses Breakthrough Usability to deliver exceptional eSupport
Rocket Fuel for an Industry Leader
Provided 189 deliverables during Cisco's industry-leading breakaway from $6B to $22B in size. Assisted Cisco teams throughout the company to reach market leading positions. Contributed to several generations of customer-centered innovations and improvements to many teams.
A typical deliverable is 75 to
100 pages with recommendations that range from high-level strategy to detailed product and feature improvements. To date,
about 20,000 pages of recommendations have been delivered to Cisco to
improve many areas of its products, Web sites, Intranet and Web-based
applications -- primarily for critical path, fast-time-to-market teams.
This page includes a summary of major
contributions, followed by specific areas of contributions:
of Major Contributions (FY 1996 - 2003)
Usability Leadership, Multiple Business Units (July 1996
The only usability consultant contracted to provide
high-volume usability research by multiple Cisco LOBs (Lines of Business)
and business units. With about 190 studies run, made breakthrough-level
contributions to businesses, products and areas that produce $ billions
in revenues and cost savings per year in Cisco's highest growth markets
and core operations.
Value is clear since work is funded on a per study
basis by each individual team, to assist each product or service. A strategic
"wave" of advances is constructed by assembling high-value improvements
in multiple critical path areas. Here are some example usability breakthroughs
that have increased revenues, lowered costs and improved company-wide
- Provided the usability throughout the design and
development of two ease of use tools, Fast Step(TM) and ConfigMaker,
which helped Cisco's Small/Medium Business products grow from
$250 million in revenue to a run rate of over $6 billion in a recent
quarter (24X in 6 years).
- The usability specialist on cross-BU (business
unit) "ease of use task forces" that produced
multiple breakthrough-level improvements in user task paths and customer
- Installing ISDN SOHO routers was reduced from
days to about 20 minutes for novice-level customers
- Installing small/medium business Access Servers
was reduced from days to about 40 minutes for LAN managers and PC
- These solutions have been rolled into many
Cisco products, contributing to major market share gains that combined
to produce market leadership.
- Provided over 90 studies that have made numerous
contributions to Cisco.com, Cisco's Web site, repeatedly rated the world's
#1 E-commerce Web site. Cisco.com provides many contributions
to Cisco, in addition to Web-based revenues that account for most of
Cisco's annual revenues. Studies for Cisco.com include improving user
performance across multiple areas of the Web site; new opportunities
from new designs, frameworks and architectures; and comparative performance
with competitors' Web sites.
- Started and lead global online usability
testing that lets Cisco improve customer success worldwide,
and accelerate its improvement. Introduced testing frameworks that drive
advances across broad fronts. Built 5 global online usability
- A consistent
company-wide color-coded cabling system that lets customers
install and cable any Cisco product in minutes, using company-wide standard
colored cables and matching colored back panels. This simultaneously
increased customer learning, accuracy, speed and satisfaction while
lowering corporate-wide support costs.
- Competitive assessment
product tests to measure ease-of-use differences with competitors'
products, determine competitive advantages/needs and help prioritize
Web site): Over 90 studies
Cisco's Web site includes over millions of pages of
content if printed on paper. It also includes over 150 major Web business
applications and over 1,500 minor ones (including various calculators,
Was the only usability specialist to work with Cisco's
Web team to improve Cisco's Web site, and build its new Web site.
- Most Cisco.com usability tests include a focused
set of high-value tasks where a targeted set of real users needs to
succeed (navigating, searching, selecting products, finding solutions,
buying, installing, troubleshooting, support, etc.).
- Most tests include a cross-section of resellers,
customers and target prospects (from a variety of markets such as Enterprise,
SMB and Service Providers).
- While most tests focus on a specific part of Cisco.com,
participants use all of Cisco.com in the same ways they normally do.
- Test methods include both in-person
tests and global online tests. Lead Cisco's adoption and use of global
online usability testing.
- Test stages include baseline studies
of current sites and applications, paper prototypes, alpha builds, nearly
finished applications, and summative evaluations of launched Web sites
User Performance on Cisco's Web Site
Multiple user performance studies and improvements
have been made in areas such as:
- Selecting Products (Cisco adds products from a
large number of acquisitions per year, plus new technologies that are
integrated across its product lines)
- E-Commerce (online purchasing applications; Cisco
receives about 90% of its revenues from sales made over the Web)
- Support and numerous support tools, applications,
download processes, etc. (Cisco delivers nearly 80% of its support online,
with the highest customer satisfaction ratings in the networking industry)
- SMB – Small/Medium Business
- Partners & Resellers
- Service Providers
- Jobs at Cisco
- Education, Training
& Certifications (includes the emergence of global e-learning)
- Cisco Resource Networks (Customers and Resellers)
- Marketplace (usability of multiple Web site stores
for Cisco merchandise, publications, subscriptions, etc.)
Overall Site Design, Navigation and Architecture
- Cisco.com Home Page
- Site Navigation
- New Section Home Pages, navigation and local content
(such as Support, Solutions, Products, Technologies, Jobs, Training
& Certifications, etc.)
- Information Architecture (site-wide) and Content
Architecture (specific areas of the site)
- Content Design and Document Design
- Metadata Framework (identified need, testing naming
architecture and "rules" to develop user-friendly structures)
- Product Pages / Product Selection
- Application Framework (usability of a consistent
framework for 150+ major Web-based applications on the site)
- Cisco.com User Registration and Profiling
- Personalization (all stages of evolution into a
customizable, personalized Web site)
- Cisco.com Publishing Guide for internal site, content
and application developers
- Numerous exploratory studies of new ideas and concepts
for redesigning all or portions of Cisco's Web site
User Performance with Search
- Search usability tests
- Throughout 1998 a portion of most Cisco.com studies
included Search tasks as a special and separate component.
- Search / Browsing integration
- Search design reviews
- Search Learning Plan
- Usability studies of the integration between Cisco.com's
Metadata Framework and Searching
Cisco.com Advisory Board
- Facilitated, analyzed
and reported the data from four major Cisco.com Advisory Board meetings
in Cisco's major theaters:
- Americas (North America, Central and South America)
- EMEA (Europe, Middle-East and Africa)
- Each region's Advisory Board meets for two days.
Leading Cisco customers, partners and resellers provide feedback and
guidance on their needs, and review current plans and projects, to help
direct the design and development of Cisco's Web site.
Additional User Research
- User and task analyses
that categorize and classify Cisco's main types of users worldwide,
by Roles / Tasks / Steps performed on Cisco's Web site.
- A Global Online Survey of 5,000 users of Cisco's
Web site. Based on the Roles / Tasks / Steps structure, to determine
user perceptions of importance, successes and gaps relative to their
goals and actual outcomes from using the Web site.
Cisco's Extranet (private external
Usability testing for Cisco's main private Web
strategy, including the Web sites, content and applications that support
Cisco's primary customers and its global alliances with its largest business
External Networking Professionals Communities
Usability testing of Cisco's online worldwide
Web-based communities for networking professionals.
Global Online Usability Testing
Provided all of Cisco's first year of online usability
testing, using Vividence's online tools. Lead the decision to switch to
NetRaker's online tools, developed their use at Cisco and ran large numbers
of online tests using them.
Built 5 global
online testing "frameworks" at Cisco, including:
- E-Sales Global Usability
A complete usability testing and reporting framework for the internal
Web applications and tools Cisco's worldwide sales force uses to sell
and generate Cisco's revenues.
- Cisco.com -- Cisco's
Designed consistent metrics, test flow and reporting that were used
for the Beta test of 9 areas of Cisco's new Web site. These are being
rolled forward as the start of a measurement framework for user performance
on Cisco's Web site.
- Internet Commerce
A usability testing framework for the suite of online Web applications
used to configure and place orders for Cisco's products and services.
These are the applications that produce 90% of Cisco's revenues.
- Support: TAC TSA (Troubleshooting
A usability framework for one of the core online tools that provides
Support for Cisco's customers, on TAC Web (Technical Assistance Center
Web). This framework systematically tracks this tool's user performance
during its rebuilding, launch and future development.
- DMR (Internet Marketing)
A re-usable online framework for this SMB Internet Marketing program.
This framework measured their initial build and launch, and provided
improvement guidance for their build-out to other countries. Re-usable
online tests provide consistent metrics during each build out phase
to provide consistent measurements and scalable improvements.
High-Value Internal Cisco Systems
Though usability services are primarily focused on
high-value customer-facing interfaces, they are also applied to some of
Cisco's highest value internal programs.
Employee Connection): Cisco's Intranet (internal Web)
CEC is the worldwide platform by which Cisco operates, and the and toolset
its employees use to do their work. It is also the main internal communications
media for its LoB's (Lines of Business), BU's (Business Units) and business
Provided the usability services for a major redesign
of CEC's home page, navigation and core information architecture. Services
included usability planning, assistance with user surveys, monthly usability
tests during the redesign and development stage, etc.
(Field E-Learning Connection)
Usability testing for the first and forthcoming second generations of
a major internal e-learning initiative, by which Cisco keeps over 10,000
field employees up to speed on its constantly expanding range of products,
technologies, solutions and strategies.
Online research study of the next generation Pilot
for Cisco's company-wide field e-learning program and resources.
IBSG (Internet Business Solutions
Usability of IBSG's internal Web site for Cisco's global field sales force.
Provides support, tools and resources for those who work with Cisco's
largest and most valuable customer accounts worldwide.
DID (Distributed Information Development)
Usability for the main Web-based tool that is used to manage the development
and migration of Cisco's content on to its Web site.
Task Forces Usability
Cross-BU Ease-of-Use Task Force
This task force produced simultaneous product
improvements in packaging, cabling, installation, software configuration,
documentation and troubleshooting -- and dramatic increases in sales.
- This and the Fast Step™ task forces jointly
transformed SMB sales, which had been stuck at $250 million/year for
years. Sales increased to $1 billion within 18 months, then doubled
to $2 billion the year after that. Cisco's SMB products currently produce
$6+ billion in sales/year.
- Provided usability expertise, services and testing
to this cross-BU task force set up to advance ease-of-use across Access
/ SMB (Small and Medium Business) products.
- Targeted and produced simultaneous ease-of-use
improvements in packaging, cabling, installation, software configuration,
documentation and troubleshooting.
- The usability specialist on this ease-of-use product
design/development SWAT team.
Cisco Fast Step™
The largest selling routers and switches in
the company's history are the products that included this and its related
usability improvements (from the Cross-BU Ease-of-Use Task Force).
- Outcome: Within a short time,
targeted Cisco products leapfrogged competitors in ease of use in two
product categories (small router configuration / small access server
configuration), including two different SMB markets with two different
types of users.
- This solution has since been rolled into a wide
and growing range of Cisco products.
- Helped change core Cisco cultural goals for this
task force: This project's FCS (First Customer Ship) was based on customer
success metrics, not an early calendar date. Development was finished
on time, with both customer success goals and fast-time-to-market goals
- Served as the sole usability specialist on this
ease-of-use product design/development SWAT team.
- Helped select outsourced engineering services,
provided usability expertise and services at all stages of planning,
design and development.
Router and Access Server Configuration
Numerous studies contributed improvements to a wide
variety of installation and configuration tools, interfaces, documentation,
product packaging, software tools, etc.
Usability of a next-generation Web applications
for configuring large numbers of routers online, including having the
pre-configured routers shipped directly to customer homes and offices.
This gives large Service Providers plug-and-play installation of tens
of thousands of DSL and cable modems into homes and small office per month.
Fast Step™ Configuration Software
Reduced small router and Access Server installation
and setup from days to 20 minutes for novice router users, and 40 minutes
for Access Server users. This task force produced major advances in customer
performance, speed, accuracy and satisfaction. This solution has been
rolled into a large number of Cisco product development teams. Some of
its usability testing included:
- Competitive Usability Studies / Analyses
- User and Task Analysis
- Fast Step version 1 on the 700 (SOHO ISDN router
configuration by end-users)
- Fast Step ver. 1 on the 2511 (Access Server Configuration
by small business LAN Administrators and PC Techs)
- Fast Step version 2 on the 1600 (complex router
configuration by router novice and intermediate users)
Access Server Configuration (includes Access Path Manager)
- Competitive Usability Studies
- Access Path Manager: Carrier Class Access Server
Configuration (eg, systems with 25,000 access ports and larger)
- Fax Dial-Out Configuration
ClickStart Embedded Web Server Configuration Software
Usability testing of ClickStart 700, 1600 and
"Next Generation", a configuration tool that is part of an embedded
Web server inside Cisco routers, accessed via a browser.
Other Product Areas and Contributions
Cisco's Company-wide Cabling
Identified user needs for improved cabling solutions
during numerous tests with a variety of products. Planned and ran the
tests that identified and designed the cabling solution adopted (matched
color-coded cabling and product back panels, with parallel labeling and
a color-coded job aid). A high rate of user cabling errors was nearly
totally eliminated, even with complex cabling setups. Helped produce a
company-wide shift to this solution.
Network Design, Configuration and Management (includes
Usability testing of network design and configuration
software. Includes ConfigMaker, the first and only product that uses a
graphical interface to design and configure small corporate networks.
- ConfigMaker versions 1 and 2
- Reseller's Toolset (both CD-ROM and Web-based applications)
- User and Task Analysis: 3600 Series Modular Router
- NetFlow Manager Software
- Cisco Secure ACS versions 2 and 3
- Cisco Secure Easy ACS version 1
- Firewall Products User and Task Analysis (user
research interview route)
Two Usability Test-Based Design Guides (Web-based delivery)
Created two usability test-based design guides
to assist larger numbers of Web and product teams:
- Web usability design guide: Based on findings from
about 35 usability tests.
- SMB (Small/Medium Business) usability design guide:
Based on findings from about 20 usability tests. Included Web design
and implementation process.
Internal Presentations / Education
Internal presentations to numerous design, marketing,
engineering, field sales teams, internal task forces, managers, etc. Presentations
have included usability findings, activities, scope, schedule, processes,
results, broad reviews, recommendations, workshops, etc.
Voice over IP (VoIP)
Assisted with user research for, and provided
usability test of, Cisco Voice Manager (VoIP configuration software).
CNO Stack (Cisco Networked Office) Product Line
Comparative usability testing of CNO, including
an in-depth focus on Cisco's solution, along with comparative testing
of competitors' products and solutions.
Usability review of DSL central office configuration
software (for provisioning home DSL customers).
Global Web-based Training in new Cisco products
User and task analysis and usability testing for
internal Web-based CBT to provide online field training that supports
Cisco employees as new Cisco products and features are rapidly introduced.
Cisco Documentation CD-ROM
Usability tested the installation and Search-based
navigation of Cisco's "2 CD-ROM set" that includes over 10,000
pages of product documentation.