Refreshing Performance Management at IBM   

IBM Checkpoint

Introduce IBM’s new performance management program through an engaging discovery and first use experience.

  • UX Designer
  • Fall 2015
  • Wireframing, Content Strategy, Research

The Checkpoint website final landing page.


In fall of 2015 as part of my on-boarding experience for IBM Design I participated in a twelve week design bootcamp. For the last eight weeks I was part of a team dedicated to designing the discovery and first use experience for IBM’s new performance management tool.

My Role

I was on a team with one user researcher, one visual designer, a front end developer, and another UX designer. I defined the information architecture, drafted the wireframes for the website, generated content for the email campaign, and participated in user research.


Our primary stakeholder was the Human Resources department at IBM, and our secondary stakeholders were all IBM employees who would eventually engage with our solution.


Technology and culture were our biggest constraints. The HR team had already selected the software platform IBMers would use to conduct their performance management goals and reviews. Our team could not change the software but only prepare the user to engage with the software. As we conducted our research we discovered our second constraint, culture. There was a long history of dissatisfaction with the previous performance management system and many users were skeptical of this new program. We had to overcome this bias in order to deliver a meaningful experience to our users.

Design Process

Our design process followed the IBM Design iterative loop of observe, reflect, and make. We cycled through these steps revising our design based on user and stakeholder feedback.

Observe: Design Research

Research Questions

To make an engaging first use and discovery experience, we needed to understand our users and their needs. These research questions shaped our investigation:

  • How will our primary user find out about the program?
  • How can we illustrate the value of the new program for our user?
  • How can our user adopt the practices?

User Interviews

The HR team had conducted user interviews about the previous performance management system, “PBC”, and discovered a number of pain points. Our user interviews aimed to validate those pain points and determine what made IBMers excited to come work each day.

“I want to be an agent in my own career development.”

IBM Employee

Interview Insights

We synthesized our user interviews drawing connections between the topics that were of concern to our users.

  • Users want immediate and regular feedback about their performance, not annual reviews.
  • Users need to feel empowered to shape their own careers
  • Users want to set meaningful goals that reflect their work environment and skills


To better understand our users we created personas based on the user interviews. Our primary personas were a manager and non-manager user.

Reflect: Research Insights

From our research we determined a couple of things:

  • Users were very skeptical of performance management at IBM
  • We needed a delivery method that could reach IBMers all over the world

Make: First Concept

Reaching all IBMers

We entertained a number of different ways to create a positive discovery and first use of the new performance management system, Checkpoint, from a workshop to a pizza party but ultimately decided a website would be the best way to reach all IBMers.

Engaging Content

I took the framework of the Checkpoint program and wrote content for the website that would give a clear overview of the new program and a call to action. We drafted email messages that would serve as the entry point to the website. We knew we had to provide clear communication and convince IBMers this was not the same old performance management program.


Based on that content, I drafted the wireframes for the desktop website. I designed it to be a full page website that was easy to scan.

Communicating with stakeholders

Our team was feeling confident about our work, but soon realized that designing a solution is only part of the job—we needed to support our design decisions and bring the HR team onboard.

We convinced the team that part of the discovery and first use experience had to be to win the confidence of the user, so language and framing was very important.

Observe: User Testing

We were lucky that our users we abundant. Anyone at IBM could test our website and provide feedback. We got some great questions:

  • How is this different from the previous system?
  • Why did it change?
  • Where do I click to get started?

Reflect: Revisions

Feedback from our users convinced us that we needed to revise our website to connect better with users, and provide a consistent experience from the entry point to the point where users access the performance management tool. To make a more seamless experience we delivered more than just a coded website, we delivered an animated introduction video, a style guide, an email campaign, and language guidelines.

Make: Second Concept

We revised the website to include a rotation of inspirational goals from current IBMers to make the new performance management system friendlier.

Brand Guidelines

We helped the HR department articulate their empathy for the user through brand guidelines and email marketing templates.

And we revised the website to have multiple exit points so the user wouldn’t have to scroll all the way to the bottom to get started using the new performance management system.

Final Reflections

We accomplished a lot over eight weeks and handed off a package to the HR team that we believed would set them up for future success beyond the initial campaign launch. If we had more time to continue working on the project I would have liked to pursue these avenues:

  • Establish a website with a living style guide that could be updated as the voice and tone developed.
  • Collect metrics on email click-thru rate and website statistics to see where users were engaging and where they were just ignoring content.
  • Solicit feedback from the community on what worked well and what didn’t for the website.
  • Revise the website after the initial first use and discovery period to provide relevant information as IBMers grew accustomed to the new program.

This project was a great introduction to IBM and an opportunity to meet new colleagues and learn how to navigate a large company.