Elastic Grid

Employer: Elastic Grid
Role:CX Team Lead | Lead UX Designer

Elastic Grid was an enterprise channel marketing demand automation platform. Customers included large IT manufacturers and service providers such as VMware, Veritas, Atlassian, F5, RedHat, Brocade and Google. Elastic Grid applications allowed those vendors to give their re-sellers (partners) executable digital marketing campaigns and collateral to leverage in their own marketing efforts. All leads generated campaigns hosted on Elastic Grid were tracked end-to-end and allowed for clear ROI reporting. Elastic Grid was acquired by Zift Solutions and rolled into their product suite in late 2017.

As the Head of Product my core responsibility was the end-to-end customer experience. I managed the visual identity, marketing, UX/UI design of the platform, and support assets and initiatives. The role was critical for addressing the changing needs of channel marketers and their partners from 2012.

The process

This section details the work involved in designing the Elastic Grid channel marketing marketplace including:

The opportunity

Elastic Digital faced declining interest in its core proposition as a creative agency for big IT channel marketing teams. Speed-to-market and budget constraints post-GFC required simplification of its creative process as margins began to decrease. The company was able to pivot to a product-oriented position, thanks to an existing marketing engine, The Grid, which enabled the execution of co-branded campaigns by its clients' Channel Partners.

The idea to re-imagine the product as "Elastic Grid" was born. The company refocused on Creative and Marketing services to Vendors. It simplified and directed efforts around a campaign marketplace that was open to all Channel Partners and offered access to all the resources they needed from a variety of Vendors. This change required a considered end-to-end customer experience.

Reimagining the software

"The Grid" had traditionally been distributed by duplication. Based on the idea that Channel Partners were unique accross all Vendors, individual vendor "Grids" where built and bespoke change requests were serviced. This was not efficiant, nor scalable and the rigidity became a barrier to new features and ideas. Additionaly, many Channel Partners were utilising multiple campaigns across different Vendors. This created a less that ideal user experience for Channel Partners who managed campaigns across multiple platforms and logins.

Elastic Grid Duplication Diagram Elastic Digital vendor Grids were rolled out one-by-one with endless duplication

The fundamental change

"The Grid" needed to become a centralised application, open to all Channel Partners and 'Elastic' in nature. Elastic Grid would allow for a single Partner accounts to access all the Vendor campaigns and marketing assets they partnered with. This shift to a user-centric model, directed focus to improving the overall product for partners rather than constantly reacting to vendor requests.

Elastic Grid Centralised Elastic Grid focused its vendors on adding content to the platform and allowed partners to access it all in the one place

The new eco-system

The Elastic Grid eco-system become more cohesive; Vendor Channel Marketers managed their content rather than the platform. Their Partners (Re-Sellers) and their End Customers were managed centrally. The system began to acknowledge the needs of all players and benefited all of them by enabling Partners. The user-centred approach increased usage of the platform and provided more clarity about behaviours, which informed constant improvement.

Elastic Grid Service Map A map of the Elastic Grid eco-system surrounding the platform

The once agency/client relationship became an end-to-end customer experience:

  • Marketing: targeted Channel Marketers and Partners. Both were invited to join the marketplace, either as Vendors, or Partners. We invited sign-up and offered generic lead gen and follow up campaigns that any one could leverage to get started immediately.
  • Sales and Account Management facilitated the on-boarding of Vendors.
  • Creative Services worked with Vendors on new campaigns and collateral.
  • Partner Advisors on-boarded and supported Partners and their marketing efforts.
  • Support Administrators: provided documentation, learning tools and second level support to all users.

Designing the software for a new approach

Re-imaging Elastic Grid to facilitate the new direction required planning, design and development of the interface, but also its data structure, information architecture, and authentication and authorisation flows, including the support of third-party single-sign-on integrations.

The architecture

The platform was re-architected completely and split across five key applications:

  • Portals: Each Vendor had a portal (or store front) to showcase their channel marketing assets.
  • Campaign Launcher: The marketing automation tool which hosted campaigns, contact management and execution tools for co-branding sites and scheduling email and social-media campaigns.
  • Analytics: Used by Partners to review campaign performance and by channel marketers to view aggregated channel performance for campaign activity as well as collateral use.
  • Blueprints: The Elastic Grid content management tool for Vendors to create and edit campaign.
  • Admin: Used by Elastic Grid staff to manage vendors, users and campaigns.

Information and user flows

The first layer of design was determining the new page flows across the application suite.

Elastic Grid Service Map The site map spanned the entire applications suite

Data relationships

Key data associations across the platform suite were mapped out to determine the changes needed to be made in order to enable the many-to-many relationships approach of the new system. This included understanding and mapping the links between vendors, partners, campaigns, co-branded campaigns, campaign executions and contact relationship data.

Elastic Grid Service Map A basic data relationships diagram outlined how various properties within the information archetecture connected accross the database.

Access flows

One of the more complex aspects of the Elastic Grid platform was assigning the various user roles, access levels for administration and permissible authentication and authorisation via third-party single-sign-on. The access pathway map demonstrates the flows and access to applications and resources for the various user roles.

Elastic Grid Service Map A diagram of access requirements for apps and resources

Repositioning and re-branding

It wasn't enough to simply re-build the software. Elastic Grid was part of a broader company repositioning. Therefore, the brand, style and tone which accompanied the customer experience required a new set of standards. Working with our marketing team and copywriters, I developed a new visual identity which set the standard for all documentation, campaigns and the platform's design system.

Elastic Grid Logo The new logo paid homage to the Elastic Digital legacy Elastic Grid Standards Manuel Example pages from the Elastic Grid Standards Manual

The website

The Elastic Grid website was an important lead generation mechanism. The content and layout was continually iterated to maximise goal conversion. Focus was placed on the platform's ease of use, flexibility and power across different user needs, and the results it delivered both Vendors and their Channel Partners. It encouraged sign-up as opposed to demo requests.

Elastic Grid Website Webite homepage

A user-first platform

The user experience of the platform was centred on a principle of "one thing at a time". The key usability concern was the complex nature of executing long-running lead-nurture campaigns, as well as the associated stress for time-poor and often non-marketer users from smaller re-sellers. In response, each screen on the platform focused on one key action and invited advanced options for those who needed them. The goal was achieving the ability to launch a co-branded campaign with ten clicks from start to finish if a partner chose to run with defaults.

Elastic Grid Vendor Portal Home Vendor Portal: Each vendor had a storefront to showcase marketing and education options to their partner community. Juniper Networks exampled here. Elastic Grid Vendor Collateral Library Vendor Collateral Library. Elastic Grid's own exampled here. Elastic Grid Campaign Launcher Dashboard Campaign Launcher Dashboard: The user's main hub from which they are prompted to run campaigns, manage contacts or analyse their reports. Elastic Grid Contact Management Contact Management: A light CRM for contact lists to be organised and manage campaign leads. Elastic Grid Lead Profile Contact lead profile: A detail screen which included specific details about a customer's campaign engagement. Elastic Grid Campaign List The Campaign List: And index which showed campaign availables from all Vendors a user had partnered with (and had regional access to). Elastic Grid Campaign Details Screen Campaign Details Screen: Demonstrated the purpose of the campaign and allowed partners to preview it (in all languages available) as well as setup their own co-brand version and begin a campaign execution. Elastic Grid Campaign Launch Pad Campaign Launch Pad: Aggregated all partner campaign executions. Elastic Grid Campaign Launch Scheduling Campaign Launch Scheduling: The complex multi-touch and cross channel campaign scheduling was simplified by showing users only as much as they needed at any given time. It then enabled them to dive into advanced functionality once the context has been set. Elastic Grid Campaign Launch Email Edit Campaign site co-branding, emails and social-posts could be editing in-line through modal windows. Elastic Grid Campaign Launch Contacts Campaign Launch Contact Lists could be managed as the campaign was being setup and the user was given an warning or information about the list.

Vendor enablement features

Vendor level users were given more functionality to help manage their channel. This included the ability to build campaigns within the platform and see the overall performance of their campaigns at a channel level.

Elastic Grid Campaign Site Analytics Channel Analytics: Included simple, data visualisation and powerful drill down to help channel marketers to understand how their campaigns were performing globally. Elastic Grid Campaign Site Builder Blueprints: A campaign site builder application with inline editing which made generating Elastic Grid intergrated co-brandable campaigns for partners. Elastic Grid Campaign Site Builder Blueprints: A campaign site builder application with inline editing which made generating Elastic Grid intergrated co-brandable campaigns for partners.

—Further reading on my Elastic Grid experiences...