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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:


Global Online Testing Frameworks (Cisco's Web site)
Cisco's Intranet and Extranet
Internal and External Web-based E-Learning

Router / Access Server Configuration
Task Forces
Company-wide Cabling Solution
Many Product Areas
  In most areas multiple tests are run in each area, covering several generations of improvements.
In addition, other usability services are provided.

Summary of Major Contributions (FY 1996 - 2003)

Usability Leadership, Multiple Business Units (July 1996 - 2003)

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 operations:

  • 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 satisfaction:
    • 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 technicians
    • 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's Web site, repeatedly rated the world's #1 E-commerce Web site. provides many contributions to Cisco, in addition to Web-based revenues that account for most of Cisco's annual revenues. Studies for 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 testing frameworks.
  • 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 product improvements.


      (Cisco's 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, forms, etc.)

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 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, participants use all of 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 and applications.

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
  • Enterprise
  • 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

  • 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)
  • User Registration and Profiling
  • Personalization (all stages of evolution into a customizable, personalized Web site)
  • 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 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's Metadata Framework and Searching Advisory Board

  • Facilitated, analyzed and reported the data from four major Advisory Board meetings in Cisco's major theaters:
  • Americas (North America, Central and South America)
  • EMEA (Europe, Middle-East and Africa)
  • Asia/Pacific
  • 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 Web)
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 partners.

External Networking Professionals Communities
Usability testing of Cisco's online worldwide Web-based communities for networking professionals.




Global Online Usability Testing Frameworks

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:

  1. E-Sales Global Usability Framework:
    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.
  2. -- Cisco's Web site:
    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.
  3. Internet Commerce Usability Framework:
    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.
  4. Support: TAC TSA (Troubleshooting Assistant) Framework:
    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.
  5. DMR (Internet Marketing) framework:
    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 Initiatives

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.

CEC (Cisco 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 functions.

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.

FELC (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 Group)
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 Specialist

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 achieved.
  • 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.

Configuration Express
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 Solution
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 ConfigMaker)
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

Network Security

  • 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.


Breakthrough Usability