How Automation and Intelligence Blend with Design Innovation to Enhance the Experience of Modern IT
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How Automation and Intelligence
Blend with Design Innovation to
Enhance the Experience of Modern IT
Transcript of a discussion on how advances in design enhance the total experience for IT
operators, making usability a key ingredient of modern hybrid IT systems.
Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes. Download the transcript. Sponsor: Hewlett
Dana Gardner: Hello, and welcome to the next edition of the BriefingsDirect Voice of
the Innovator podcast series. I’m Dana Gardner, Principal Analyst at Interarbor
Solutions, your host and moderator for this ongoing discussion on the latest in IT
Our next discussion focuses on how advances in design enhance the total experience
for IT operators. Stay with us now as we hear about the general philosophy,
modernization of design, and how new discrete best practices are making usability a key
ingredient of modern hybrid IT systems.
To learn how, please join me now in welcoming Bryan Jacquot, Vice President and Chief
Design Officer at Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE). Welcome, Bryan.
Bryan Jacquot: Thank you, Dana. It’s my pleasure to be here.
Gardner: Bryan, what are the drivers requiring change and innovation when it comes to
the design of IT systems?
Design for speed
Jacquot: If I go back 15 to 20 years, people were
deeply steeped in their given technology, whether it
happened to be servers, networking, or storage. They
would spend a lot of time in training, get certified, and
have a specialized role.
What we are seeing much more frequently now is,
number one, the skill set of our people in IT is raising up
to higher levels in the infrastructure. We are not so much
concerned with the lower-level details. Instead, it’s about
solving business needs and helping customers, usually
in the lines of business (LOBs). IT must help theirJacquot
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customers do things faster, because the pace and the speed of change in every
business today continues to accelerate.
With design, we are attempting to understand and embrace our customers where they
are, but also, we want to help enable them to achieve their business needs and deliver
the IT services that their customers are requiring in a more efficient, agile, and
Gardner: Bryan, because the addressable audience is expanding beyond pure IT
administrators, what needs to happen to design now that we have more people
Know your user
Jacquot: The first thing you have to do is know who your user is. If you don’t know that,
then any design work is going to fall short. And now the design work that systems at IT
companies are delivering is not only delivered toward IT but also different contingents
within their businesses. It might be developers who are in a LOB trying to create the next
service or business application that enables their business to be successful.
Again, if we look back, the CIO or leaders in IT in the past would have chosen a given
platform, whether a database to standardize on or an application server. Nowadays,
that’s not what happens. Instead, the LOBs have choices. If they want to consume an
open source project or use a service that someone else created, they have that choice.
Now IT is in the position of having to provide a service that is on par, able to move
quickly and efficiently, and meets the needs of developers and LOBs. And that’s why it’s
so important for design to expand the users we are targeting.
IT can no longer just be the people who
used to do the maintaining of IT
infrastructure; it now includes a
secondary set of users who are
consuming the resources and ultimately
becoming the decision-makers.
In fact, recent IDC research talks about IT budgets and who controls more of the budget.
In the last year or two, the pendulum has swung to the point where the LOBs are
controlling the majority of the spend, even if IT is ultimately the one procuring resources
or assets. The decision-making has shifted over to LOBs in many companies. And so, it
becomes more and more imperative for IT to have solutions in place to meet those
If we are going to serve that market as designers, we have to be aware of that, know
who the ultimate users are, and make sure they are satisfied and able to do what they
have to do to deliver what their businesses need.
IT now includes a secondary set of
users who are consuming the
resources and ultimately becoming the
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Gardner: It wasn’t that long ago that IT was only competing with the previous version of
whatever it is that they provided to their end users. But now, IT competes with the cloud
offerings, Software as a service (SaaS) offerings, and open source solutions. You could
also say that IT competes with the experience that consumers get in their homes, and so
there are heightened expectations on usability.
Jacquot: Yes, it really has raised expectations, and
that’s a good thing. IT is now looking around and
saying, “Okay, for the LOBs we used to serve, it
used to be, ‘Here is what you get, and don’t throw a
fit.’” But that doesn’t really work anymore. Now IT
has to provide business value to those LOBs, or
they will vote with their dollars and choose
Just as we’ve seen in the consumer space -- where things are getting more-and-more
centered around the experience of the service -- that same thinking is moving into the
enterprise. It raises what the enterprise traditionally does to a new level of the
experience of what developers and LOBs really need. But the same could apply to
researchers or other sets of users. These are the people trying to find the next cure for
Alzheimer’s or enabling genetic testing of new medicines. These are not IT people --
they just need a simple infrastructure experience to run their experiments.
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To do that they are going to choose a service that enables them to be as quick and
efficient with their research as they possibly can be. It doesn’t matter for them if it’s in a
big public cloud or if it’s in local IT -- as long as they are able to do it with the least
amount of effort on their part. That’s a trend that we are certainly seeing. IT has to
deliver services that meet the needs of those users where ever they are.
Gardner: Bryan, tell us about yourself. What does it take in terms of background, skills,
and general understanding to be a Chief Design Officer in this new day and age, given
these new requirements?
Drawn by design, to design
Jacquot: There is a wide variety of backgrounds for people who have a similar title and
role. In my particular case, I began as a software engineer; my undergraduate degree is
in computer science. I began at HP working on the UNIX operating system (OS), down
in the kernel of all things, about as far as you can get from where I am now.
IT has to provide business
value to those lines of
business, or they will vote
with their dollars and choose
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One of the first projects I worked on at HP was deployment and OS installation
mechanisms. We had gotten a bunch of errors and warnings during that process. I was
just a kid out of college; I didn’t know what was going on. I kept asking questions: “Why
do we have so many errors and warnings?” They were like, “Oh, that’s just the way it
works.” I was like, “Well, why is that okay? Why are we doing it that way?”
The next OS release was the first one in ages
that had no errors and warnings. I didn’t realize
it at the time, but that’s where I started this
passion for doing the right thing for the user and
making sure that a user is able to understand
what’s going on and how to be successful with
That progressed through the years, and I ended up continuing my passion for delivering
on what our users’ needs are and how we can best enable them. Basically, that means
not trying to jump too quickly to a solution, but first making sure that we understand the
problems our users have. Then we can focus on innovating to deliver higher value to
them, with a better understanding of what they need.
At that point, then I went back and earned my graduate degree in human-computer
interaction with a focus on psychology, understanding human factors and how people
think. That includes understanding how they use their working memory and how they
process information, so we can build solutions that best align to how people naturally
That’s one of the key things I found from my original background and then the most
recent training. The best solutions we can build are the ones that fit as seamlessly as
possible into the user’s hands, whether they are working with something digitally or
For me, that was the combination that led to where I am now and being able to have
successful delivery of various products and solutions -- offerings that are really focused
on meeting the customers’ needs.
Agility arrives with speed
Gardner: As an advocate for the user, and broadening the definition of who that user is
when it comes to core IT services, what are the top challenges that those users now
have? Are we dealing with complexity, with interfaces, and with logic? All the above?
What are the latest problems that we are trying to solve?
Jacquot: It certainly can be both logic and complexity. Systems are getting more
Doing the right thing for the
user [is] making sure that a
user is able to understand
what’s going on and how to be
successful with their systems.
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But, number one, from the customers I have talked to, the consistent overriding theme is
they are under threat of being disrupted by somebody. And if they are not being
disrupted by someone else, they are trying to disrupt themselves to prevent someone
else from disrupting them. This is the case across all customers and across every
And so, if they are in the mode where they
have to be constantly pushing themselves --
pushing the boundaries and having to move
fast -- then the overarching themes I am
hearing about are speed and agility. That
means removing as much work from what IT
has to do as possible. Then they can focus
their time and energy on the business
problems, not on the IT scaffolding,
foundation, and structure to support what
they are trying to do.
Whether it’s in hospitals, where they are trying to deliver better patient care using
medical records, or it’s in the finance industry, where they are trying to get the next trade
done faster -- whatever the work happens to be, the focus is always about speed and
And so, anything that we can build (application or user experience (UX)) for those users
to help them be more efficient, are the things the drive the greatest degree of success.
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Gardner: Given that design emphasis, it sounds a lot like the design of applications.
But these aren’t necessarily applications. These are systems, platforms, and support
products that may have even come together from mergers and acquisitions.
What’s the difference between designing an application, as a software developer, and
designing an IT system or platform that often can come from the integration of multiple
Design to meet users’ needs
Jacquot: I would argue that in the design process, the techniques, capabilities, and
skills needed to solve the problems are actually the same, regardless of the type of
product. The things that tend to change are who the users are and what they need.
Those are the two key variables in the equation that are going to vary.
IT can focus their time and energy
on the business problems, not on
the IT scaffolding, foundation, and
structure to support what they are
trying to do … whatever the work
happens to be, the focus is always
about speed and agility.
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If you look at many of the startups out there today, they are delivering SaaS capabilities,
whether it’s Uber and making transportation different, or Airbnb remaking the lodging
experience to be simpler, easier, and more flexible. They are completely software based.
But there are also startups like Square, where they are making business transactions
easier for startups. They also have hardware devices for enabling the card and chip
readers for conducting transactions.
At the end of the day, the things that we build are
just a byproduct of, “Okay, we have an
understanding of the user. We know what we need
to build to make them successful. Let’s figure out
the right widget or gadget to meet that need.”
That can be a hardware system, like HPE Synergy, where we identified a need to be
more flexible to compose and recompose IT resources on-demand. That platform didn’t
exist two and a half years ago. If we could have done it only with software, we would
have, but the software needed a new hardware platform to run on, so we created both.
Looking under the covers of Synergy, the HPE OneView platform and the Composer
Card is what actually drives a lot of the innovation and makes composability possible,
and it’s based on software. These are all good examples of where we identified the
business needs to make users more efficient. Now they no longer have to wait weeks or
months to get access to a resource, with HPE Synergy they can access and consume
those resources immediately. That’s an example of an integrated system we have
developed in order to deliver on a customer need.
Gardner: A lot of what goes on with composability and contextually aware applications
nowadays uses data to develop inference, to anticipate the needs of a user, and provide
them with the right information, not overload, so they can innovate and be creative.
How do you create a proper balance between context and overload? It seems to me
that’s a very difficult sweet spot to get to.
Getting to know you, all about you
Jacquot: It definitely is. This is a challenge we have been attempting to address in my
group for years. How do you get just the right amount of data without becoming
overwhelming? That’s actually a really hard problem because it turns out our systems
are incredibly complex. They have a lot of information. But knowing exactly what a given
user is going to need at any point in time -- and not giving them anything more -- is a
hard problem to solve.
As users are looking at screens, if you put too much information up there, then they can
get overloaded. The visual search time that they will spend to find the information they
care about, creates more chance of making an error.
We know what we need
to build to make [the user]
successful. Let’s figure
out the right widget or
gadget to meet that need.
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Striking the right balance comes down to a
couple of things. Number one, there is the
initiative that folks in my group have begun
driving that we talk about as Know Me,
which means we know the user. What I
mean by that is, not just that we
understand the user, but when a user
accesses our system, the system knows
who they are; it knows them.
So, it knows the things that they tend to use more often. It knows the environment that
they have, what constitutes the scale they are using, and what constitutes the depth of
information they tend to go to. And using that along with machine learning (ML) to
enhance the information we are providing them -- to make their experience richer -- is
going to be the thing to pursue to make our systems even better.
And again, it’s not just knowing who they are. In the background, when we were
designing the system, it’s more than just taking their preferences into account. I am
talking about when they log in, the system knows it was “Dana”, for example, that once
logged in. It knows that these are the things that are important to Dana, and it makes
that experience richer because of that background and information we have.
Gardner: You have been doing this for a long time, and you have seen a lot of the
psychology around innovation. But what have you personally learned about innovation?
How do you even define innovation? It might be different than most other people.
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Jacquot: Yes, it might be. In the places I have seen innovation the most, it is not like
just having an epiphany. All of a sudden, I have the answer, it’s there in front of me, and
we just need to go build it. I wish that were the case, but that doesn’t happen for me.
For me, it requires taking the time to understand the customer very well, as I mentioned
earlier -- to the point of being able to empathize with them, where is the pain that they
experience -- or the joy that they experience – it becomes something that I feel as well.
If you look at the definition of empathy, that’s what it means. It’s not just a fancy word of
being empathetic and understanding. But it’s actually feeling the pain and the joy of the
person you are empathizing with.
Once that is established, then comes the creativity, with the ability to explore ideas, try
things, throw them out, and try again. You can start down that path to share ideas with
your prospective users and get feedback on it.
It’s not just that we understand the
user, but when a user accesses our
system, the system knows who they
are; it knows them.
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First the mess, then the masterpiece
I don’t get it right the first time. In fact, I expect to get a bunch of this wrong before I get
If you were to do a Google search on “design” or “design thinking” and look at the
pictures that come up, a lot of them look very orderly, and very orthodox. Depending on
which one you see, you will ask some initial questions, do ideating and prototyping, and
synthesis and gathering feedback, and so on.
But there is one thing that all those pictures miss; and that is as you are going through
this process, and you get a better understanding, you take turns that you didn’t expect.
You have to be willing to take those turns to get to the nugget of what’s possible, to get
to the core of the potential of a solution you are innovating. So, it can get messy.
We don’t go in straight line. It’s curvy, it’s a squiggly line all over the place. We start by
finding good places where things are resonating, and we continue to refine and iterate
until we get to the point when we’ve got a foundation. Then we will go build and deliver
on that -- and then the next squiggly, messy area starts up again in a continuous cycle
that never ends.
Innovation looks messy and uncoordinated. It requires
a lot of listening and understanding. And then the
creative side comes in. We can brainstorm and
explore. I really enjoy that side of it. But it has to start
with understanding, and of not trying to be too rigid. [If
you’re too rigid,] I think you would miss out on the
opportunities that are there, but not as easy to spot.
Gardner: I love that idea of the journey from messiness to clarity and then productivity.
Do you have any examples, Bryan, that would show a use-case that demonstrates that
journey? Where at HPE have you made that journey?
Jacquot: I led the design team, and I was a chief technologist for HPE OneView during
its early incubation, of getting it into a product and then releasing it to the market. There
was one customer I remember specifically at a financial firm, and he was describing one
of the tasks he had to do at 2 a.m. because that was the window in which he could make
a change to the infrastructure without disrupting the business.
To hear him talk through that and knowing from the cognitive side that someone in that
situation, if they are low on sleep, they are probably not very happy about being there,
they are also going to be more prone to making errors. Their judgment is not going to be
as clear. You put these factors together, and it was a miserable experience for him.
We went back and said, “Okay, we can make the system be able to perform these
operations where it doesn’t require being offline and done in the middle of the night.”
Innovation looks messy
and uncoordinated. It
requires a lot of listening
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That was an example of, through discovery of a pain point and hearing the things a
customer is having to go through. As a result, we made a pretty dramatic change in the
way we were addressing this issue for a particular user. But as we discussed it with
other customers, he wasn’t the only one. This scenario wasn’t an anomaly; this was a
pretty consistent thing.
Even though the clarity that he described in his situation was easy for us to grab a hold
of, it was a common thing. The solution ended up being one of the key capabilities that
we delivered as part of that platform, and it continues to expand today.
And that non-disruptive update feature was grounded in early-on research. It’s just one
example of going from a squiggly to something that’s been very well-received.
Place process before products
Another example came about differently, and with a different timescale, but it was also
pretty impactful in HPE’s transformation. A few years ago, we were going through some
separations, with the HPE software group and DXC, for example.
At the time, we didn’t have an offering in the hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI)
market. HPE knew this was a place we needed to tackle. It was a big growth opportunity.
So, a small team was put together to identify ways we could provide an HCI solution.
And so, with the research we had done, we knew it was a better opportunity if we
provided something that was simple and would appeal to the LOBs we talked about
Those LOBs might be a developer or a researcher, but they would want access to
infrastructure quickly, without waiting for IT. They would want a self-service interface that
enabled a simple way to get access to resources.
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So, we started on this project. The senior leaders at the time gave us three months to
build a solution. We rapidly took assets we had and began assembling them together
into a good solution. It ultimately took us five months, not three, to introduce what was
the HPE Hyper Converged 380 platform.
Now, if you go look on hpe.com, that’s not a solution you are going to find today because
we ultimately acquired SimpliVity, and that’s the product that is filling that need and that
business area for us. The one that we made, the 380, was a short-term activity we did to
get into the market.
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Some of these projects that we engage in can include long research; we spend a couple
of years understanding the users and refining, and prototyping and iterating. Other ones
can be done on the shorter scale. You’ve got a few months to get something into market
and start getting feedback, getting customers using it. Then you start iterating and
driving from there, and that’s the one [HPE Hyper Converged 380 platform] was a really
And we won several different innovation awards with that platform, even though it was
created in a very tight timeline. The usability of it was really strong, and we got some
good feedback as our entryway into the hyperconverged market.
Gardner: And other than awards, which are fantastic of course, what are some other
metrics or indicators that you did it right? When people do design, and people use really
good design, what do they get for it? How do you know it?
Get it right, true to your values
Jacquot: Number one, it’s hugely important that if you aren’t getting business results,
then something is wrong. If you design the right product and deliver it to the market, then
good business results should follow.
The other part of it is we use various metrics internally. We are constantly following our
products, and we can access the user success rates, the retention rates. If they are
experiencing errors, we know what the ratios are. All those kinds of metrics and analytics
are important, but those aren’t the number one thing that I would look at. The number
one is the business results.
After a while, you can track things like brand loyalty, brand favorability, and net promoter
What I have been attracted to more-and-more recently,
however, is the HPE values. We state that our mission
is to improve the way people live and work. l will be
honest, when we first started talking about that, I felt we
were accomplishing a lot of great things but wasn’t
exactly sure if they aligned to our mission.
Now, I look at how some of these examples are coming through, and what HPE
customers are achieving – things like helping to combat human trafficking by finding
pictures of people on the dark web and matching them with missing person cases using
artificial intelligence (AI) and ML. There’s also the Alzheimer’s study and how we are
enabling that massive study to try and find a cure for Alzheimer’s.
Those are some really positive things that are becoming metrics that I care a lot about. I
love seeing those stories and being a part of the team and the company that’s making
those things possible. Because ultimately, if we are going to spend our time and energy
Our [HPE] vision is to
improve the way people
live and work.
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designing great solutions, the outcome should affect all of those areas including doing
good for the world.
Gardner: In closing out, let’s look to the future. You mentioned AI. It seems to me that
we’re trying to find another balance here in letting the machines do what they do best --
and then delegating to the people what they do best, which is what machines can’t do. Is
part of what you see in your design role at HPE going down that path of finding that
balance? How will AI impact the way products are used and people interact with them in
Expand what’s humanly possible
Jacquot: So, the ethics of design, I think, is a really rich topic. That’s a discussion all of
itself. But I think the question specifically around AI and ML, is that there are things that
you look at that could be possible. Some have experimented by putting bots that watch
traffic on Twitter, and they start responding. And they often degenerate to a pretty bad
The whole AI and ML field is one where ethics are involved and require putting the right
guardrails in place. That’s something we as an industry and as a population are going to
have to watch closely, because it’s clear that just by nature, not everything goes in a
And I think we are trying to use it in a way to make the humans better in what we are
doing and making us more efficient.
One example I like to use is the autonomous vehicle, which is interesting to me because
if you look at it from a human behind the wheel, we can see straight ahead. Or we can
look in the rear-view mirror or the side mirrors, but we can basically see in one direction
with a little bit of peripheral vision.
We can hear things in auditory, we can hear in omni-direction, but our senses are
limited. On the other hand, an autonomous vehicle can look in 360 degrees, it’s
empowered with it, it can use things like ultrasound and infrared to detect beyond what
humans can see at night, for example, seeing animals on the side roads.
AI and ML in a vehicle are
much more capable, and they
don’t fatigue, they don’t get
distracted. They don’t get angry
and don’t get road rage. So,
there are a lot of benefits that
we as the users of those
vehicles can benefit from, as
long as we put the right guardrails in place that will actually make humans better at what
they are doing and safer than when we are actually in charge behind the wheel.
There are a lot of benefits that we as the
users of [autonomous] vehicles can benefit
from, as long as we put the right guardrails in
place that will actually make humans better
at what they are doing and safer than when
we are actually in charge behind the wheel.
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We will use ML and AI to empower our users, whether it be developers, or admin to see
better what’s happening. I think a great example of that is what we are doing with HPE
When we are ingesting massive amounts of data from our system and then using that to
make better predictions and ensure making things happen when it needs to happen and
making sure that if there is something that’s going wrong – it can be detected and
addressed before it even becomes a problem and impacts business continuity. And
that’s just one of the ways that we are using AI and ML. But I would say the big
overriding thing with AI and ML is using it in a way to augment what we can do and
making sure that ethics are first and foremost considered because it’s clear, just left on
their own, things could go in directions that we probably don’t want them to.
Gardner: I’m afraid we will have to leave it there. We have been exploring how
advances in design are enhancing the total experience for IT operators and more and
more people inside of enterprises. And we’ve learned how the general philosophy and
some best practices are making usability a key ingredient of modern hybrid IT systems.
So please join me in thanking our guest, Bryan Jacquot, Vice President and Chief
Design Officer at HPE. Thank you so much, Bryan.
Jacquot: Thank you, Dana. It’s been my pleasure.
Gardner: And a big thank you as well to our audience for joining this BriefingsDirect
Voice of the Innovator interview. I’m Dana Gardner, Principal Analyst at Interarbor
Solutions, your host for this ongoing series of Hewlett Packard Enterprise-sponsored
Thanks again for listening, please pass this along to your IT community, and don’t forget
to come back next time.
Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes. Download the transcript. Sponsor: Hewlett
Transcript of a discussion on how advances in design enhance the total experience for IT
operators, making usability a key ingredient of modern hybrid IT systems. Copyright Interarbor
Solutions, LLC, 2005-2019. All rights reserved.
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