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VII.2 March-April 2000
Page: 47
Digital Citation

Design brief: Nortel Networks

Mike Atyeo, Arnold Campbell

back to top  About Nortel Networks

Employing more than 70,000 people worldwide, Nortel Networks is a leading global supplier of telephony and IP-based data, wireline, and wireless networking solutions.

back to top  Philosophy of Design

At Design Interpretive, our role is to generate product concepts derived from an understanding of human behavior that reduce time to profitability for Nortel Networks customers. We work in partnership with Nortel Networks business and development groups, co-investing money and effort in design and evaluation activities to turn those concepts into high-value customer solutions. To do this, we integrate our understanding and observation of human behavior with business and technology opportunities. Our product concepts also help guide Nortel Networks technological research and assist in communicating product strategy to our customers. To maximize product impact, our designers must develop strong domain knowledge in the four main business areas that form the focus of our work:

  • Building and deploying the network. We ensure that network infrastructure solutions bring immediate usability and productivity, reduce the time and effort of planning, installation, operations, and maintenance, and improve the human experience of these tasks.
  • Managing the network. We apply our knowledge of cognitive issues to the design of network management graphical user interfaces, from the individual elements of a consistent graphic vocabulary to the entire management task structure.
  • Business communications. Through prototypes and simulations, we bring behavioral implications to bear on the development of eCommerce network transaction services.
  • Personal communications. We envision IP access devices and applications that deliver new revenue opportunities for customers, reduce barriers to service adoption, and generate increased usage.

Design Interpretive's overall challenge is to design the human experience for all Nortel Networks products so that the new Internet is simple for people to use.

back to top  Design Process

We begin each design project by articulating key human needs and values, using primary and secondary research, interviews, and observation. We then qualify our value hypotheses with customers and users, involving them in a number of design iterations to measure and observe their reactions. We make the concepts and their contexts of use tangible through prototypes and storyboards.

Having validated our design concepts, we produce a product road map that provides a migration path for technical development and a "value path" for interim product releases.

Finally, we work with our partners to develop the product and bring it to market. Transfer of the design rationale is critical since the development team will have to make further design trade-offs during evolution of the product.

back to top  Design Process Example

bullet.gif Integrated Network Management

We apply our knowledge of perception, attention, and task structure to the design of network management graphical user interfaces (GUIs). Our strategic challenge is to improve the cost-effectiveness of network management applications while taking into account the rapidly changing network infrastructure, ensuring consistency across Nortel Network's network management products, and delivering our learning to development groups in the company.

Recognizing that network operators have common concerns¬óderived from business requirements and network performance attributes¬ówe developed a graphic vocabulary with redundant perceptual coding to represent network elements, links, and alarm states. The graphic vocabulary builds consistency across our products, saving users time when moving from one Nortel Networks management application to another.

We have also developed a consistent navigational structural and functional user interface architecture. To deliver our learning quickly to the rest of the organization, we have placed guidelines for network management GUIs on our Intranet (Figure 1).

We are exploring longer-term solutions that allow operators to drill into component performance analysis while maintaining the contextual view of the overall network's performance. We are also investigating data visualization techniques for presenting trend-based predictions of potential faults, allowing operators to carry out preventive diagnosis.

back to top  Authors

Mike Atyeo
Information Architect
Nortel Networks Design Interpretive

Arnold Campbell
Director, Design Leadership Development
Nortel Networks Design Interpretive

back to top  Figures

F1Figure 1. Some graphic elements of the Networker Management GUI

UF1Figure. Mike Atyeo

UF2Figure. Arnold Campbell

back to top  Sidebar: Company Snapshot

Job Titles for Design and Usability Positions
User Needs Researcher, Graphical User Interface Designer, Visual Interaction Designer, Information Architect, Rapid Prototyper, Industrial Designer, Mechanical Designer, and Product Design Manager.

Job Qualifications
Usually a postgraduate degree in a related subject area, such as human factors, industrial design, psychology, computer science, or business. Our mandatory requirements are adherence to a strong design process and tangible evidence of innovation and complex problem solving. We look for "systems-thinkers," and our designers come from rich and diverse backgrounds spanning such areas as animation, museum exhibit design, architectural acoustics, and English literature, as well as psychology, graphic design, industrial design, statistics, and computer science.

Number Employed in Design and Usability
Approximately 100 (85 in Ottawa, Canada, 15 in Harlow, UK).

Breadth of Project Teams
Design Interpretive teams typically range from three to six people, and projects last from six weeks to one year. Working in partnership with business groups in Nortel Networks means that we are always part of larger development teams.

back to top  Sidebar: Practitioner's Workbench

Favorite Publications
The Innovator's Dilemma, by Clayton Christensen
The Experience Economy, by Joseph Pine et al
Usability Engineering, by Jakob Nielsen
The Media Equation, by Byron Reeves and Clifford Nass

Prototyping: Paper & pencil; Macromedia Director; Dream Weaver; MetaCard; Visual Basic; and Flash, Shockwave.

Tools for Thought
De Bono's "6 Hats," Synectics, scenarios, storyboards, and use cases.

Sources of Inspiration
Donald Norman, Mark Weiser, and Arnold Wasserman.

back to top 

©2000 ACM  1072-5220/00/0200  $5.00

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