AT A GLANCE
ROLE: Lead product designer at Redgate Software
WORKING WITH: Product managers | Product marketing | Engineers | Customer success
DURATION: 1 month
ACTIVITIES: Design strategy | Storyboarding | Prototyping | User journey mapping | Design principles
SQL Monitor, an enterprise database monitoring tool is Redgate’s most important product, contributing a significant portion of the annual revenue for the company. As the lead product designer for the monitoring group within Redgate (leading a group of 4 product designers working across 4 cross-functional agile teams) I defined, agreed, shared and actioned a long-term design strategy for Redgate’s monitoring solution. The design strategy included a diagnosis of the current challenges in relation to the long-term business goals, a design vision for what the monitoring solution could be in 3-5 years time and a set of guiding principles and actions to put the strategy into practice.
Redgate is moving from a software company offering perpetual license solutions for SQL Server databases (i.e. an upfront purchase) to one offering subscription based solutions for multiple database types. By 2026 Redgate wants to have 100,000 servers being monitored using Redgate products as part of the company mission to make ingeniously simple software that helps teams get the most value out of any database, on any platform, anywhere.
As a well-established product (shown below), with a growing customer base SQL Monitor is well place to achieve these goals. However, the product has been designed to only monitor SQL Server databases and has historically been geared towards small to medium sized businesses, rather than enterprise customers.
Identifying the challenges
Working with the monitor leadership group, along with the SQL Monitor product teams I identified and agreed the key challenges the design strategy should address. This was done through a combination of conversations with key stakeholders and workshops. The key challenges were identified as:
- Moving beyond SQL Server
- Addressing product debt.
- Tracking and driving customer value.
- Scaling Monitor without harming the UX.
Moving beyond SQL Server
SQL Monitor has been designed with only SQL Server in mind. Moving beyond SQL Server will require re-evaluating the conceptual design of the product to ensure that concepts, terminology, user flows, design patterns and the information architecture can support other database types, such as Postgres, Oracle and MySQL.
Addressing product debt
SQL Monitor has built-up significant product debt as the product has grown organically over the last 14 years (the first version of SQL Monitor was released in 2008). The strategy should outline how to address this product debt, including better utilising Honeycomb – Redgate’s design system.
Tracking and driving customer experience
As Redgate moves to a subscription business model it will be increasingly important to actively track and drive the customer experience and resulting customer success. Due to a lack of analytics and customer experience (CX) tracking this has historically been a challenge.
Scaling Monitor without harming the UX
As Monitor scales to support cross-database and to better support enterprise customers with large, complex environments there is the risk that this will have a detrimental effect on the user experience (UX) of the product. Adding new capabilities without adding unnecessary complexity is always a challenge.
Defining the design vision
Like the fabled North star, a design vision helps to establish a shared understanding of where to take a product. It offers a glimpse into a potential future offering for customers.
Working with the monitor designers, along with the leadership group and product teams I led the creation of the monitor design vision. This outlined what Redgate’s monitoring solution could offer customers in 4-5 years time. The vision was explored and discussed through a number of workshops and then captured through a set of storyboards shown below.
I created storyboards outlining the desired customer experience.
In addition to the storyboards, I led the creation of a prototype showcasing some of the key concepts outlined in the storyboards.
Measuring the customer experience
Working with other internal stakeholders, such as customer success and support I identified key metrics and feedback mechanisms for measuring the customer experience.
Sharing the vision
Whilst creating and agreeing the design vision was very much a collective effort, it’s important to share it with those who were not involved in the process.
In order to do this, I created internal comms in the form of a blog post outlining the vision and rationale behind it, along with a short summary video for those who would rather watch than read. I also presented the vision to key stakeholders, such as product teams and sales representatives. Once again I focused on the rationale and reasons behind the vision, rather than simply outlining what the vision is.
Actioning the vision
A brilliant design vision is no use if it can’t be put into action. Working with the product managers within the monitoring group I identified initiatives that could be incorporated into the product team roadmaps.
I agreed a set of guiding design principles (shown below) to help inform design decisions and initiated further projects across teams to drive key actions, such as putting in mechanisms to better track customer experience metrics.
Defining, agreeing and communicating the design vision for a key product like SQL Monitor was always going to be challenge because of the importance of the product, the number of stakeholders involved and the tendency for organisations to focus on the short-term, rather than long-term.
By taking a co-design approach I was able to explore different possibilities, get buy-in from key stakeholders and create a vision that really helps to inform the long term design thinking. The work has already helped establish a shared understanding of the design vision for Redgate’s monitoring solution and initiated many of the activities that will be required to get there.