Multi-Layered Design Stories

Storytelling for Leading Enterprise Design

Kevin McBride
May 1, 2019 · 8 min read

Storytelling is a key tool of design. At its simplest, a story is people doing stuff to achieve goals. For example, a classic storyline is boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl back. The boy and the girl are the people, the stuff they do is meet, break-up, and get back together. And the goal is finding true love. In enterprise design, stories are often not so simple.

Basic elements of a design story

Enterprise design stories

Stories like a layer cake — yum!

We start with the customer story — the organizational level story with stakeholders seeking to create value for their company. It is here that goals and pain points are driving the search for a solution. It’s like the buttercream filling that holds the user and technology layers together.

The customer story layers

What’s the recipe?

The multi-layer story creation process

Customer goals — the buttercream filling

Example of stakeholder goals and pain points

The hands-on users are tasked with identifying and building the solution. The IT Architect starts with the organizational goals while also listening to the pain points of the hands-on users. The Virtual Infrastructure Admin spends too much time upgrading on-premise software. The Security Admin needs new technologies to address modern security threats. The Developer just wants access to a Kubernetes cluster and does not care where the infrastructure is running. All of these hands-on user concerns need to be part of the solution.

Example of hands-on user goals and pain points

Measuring success

One more layer — the market story

The VMware market story layer

Aligning our market and customer stories

VMware is the dominant virtualization platform for on-premise applications, but VMware wants to expand their market to the public cloud. The VMware vision is for a hybrid cloud where customers can easily move workloads back and forth from on-premise to the public cloud. Customers can provision new infrastructure in the cloud in minutes while maintaining operational consistency with on-premise applications. They can do this with seamless networking that is private and secure. In this market story, VMware’s interests and the customer’s interests are perfectly aligned.

Everybody gets a slice!

Write the script

The following shows the outline of a script for VMware Cloud on AWS Outposts — a new service offering combining VMware software on AWS hardware delivered on-premises.

Example of scenes in a storyboard script

Visualize the script in a storyboard

Example of a storyboard visualization

Embody the story in an interactive prototype

Example of an interactive prototype

Judging the cake — “Yum?”

The answer is not always “Yum!” Every level of these stories is likely to be iterated — from the target stakeholders and their goals, to the possible technology, to the marketing messages, to the hands-on users and their interactions. We try to make the story real so we can eventually reach alignment, but the chefs do a lot of experimenting to make a delicious story cake.

Multi-disciplinary story team

Multi-disciplinary story team

The last crumbs — leading with design

We’re hiring!

VMware Design

The VMware Design team | Transforming enterprise user experience and design

Kevin McBride

Written by

Design Leader, Coach, and Architect @VMware. Inventor and Entrepreneur. Murder Mysteries, Film, History. Cake!

VMware Design

The VMware Design team | Transforming enterprise user experience and design

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