IBM Design kicks off the New Year with Three Spark Design Awards

Arin Bhowmick
5 min readJan 12, 2022

I’m so thrilled to ring in the new year with a design award announcement- three of our design teams have been awarded a 2021 Spark Award. IBM SPSS Statistics earned a Platinum, IBM Maximo Monitor earned a Gold, and IBM Maximo Mobile also earned a Gold. All three products won under the digital design category.

Our products competed with hundreds of top brands in the industry including Google, FitBit, SamSung, and HP. The competition was judged by a panel of industry professionals who specialize in specific design disciplines. The Spark Design Awards panel evaluates entries based on their ability to “‘Spark,’ i.e., innovate, change the game, and in some way help humanity or the environment we live in.”

This year’s competition had a record number of submissions, making it even more exciting to earn these awards. There were only five total entries which were recognized in the digital design category, including IBM’s three awards. I’m so proud of all the hard work our design teams have put into these products. Their continued commitment to innovation is inspiring and I’m so happy they’re able to receive this recognition.

Discover the next generation of IBM SPSS Statistics with Project NX

IBM SPSS Statistics is one of the most widely used statistical software across any industry yet its user interface had remained almost unchanged since 2000. While the tool is appreciated by its many long-term power users, the user research found that many new entry-level users were seeking a more approachable solution. The design team recognized it was time for a revolution. After multiple workshops and user interviews, the team was able to use their insights to develop a unique,guided solution which would support all users across their end-to-end experience.

Welcome and onboarding experience in IBM SPSS Statistics

A visually welcoming getting started experience invites new users into the product. Quick guides are readily available across the application to help familiarize the user with basic statistical concepts as they discover the new UI. The team designed a new analysis catalog which allows users to easily explore the vast library of SPSS’s capabilities. This enables new users to understand the purpose of each analysis and find the right fit for their research goal.

IBM SPSS Statistics accelerates decision making and helps beginners be more productive with guided experiences and interactive ways to explore data

After testing these additions to the user experience over the course of last year, there is an increased NPS (net promoter score) of 400% compared to the classic offering. This update not only improves the tool for existing customers but also opens up the product’s capabilities to more people than ever before.

IBM Maximo Mobile brings big data and AI directly to your pocket

Field technicians and inspectors work in very unique environments, using specialized equipment in some of the most extreme conditions every day. The design team at IBM Maximo Mobile created a solution enabling these users to benefit from the power of AI technology no matter where they are. Whether working in a factory, on top of a cell tower, or in the middle of a train tunnel, Maximo Mobile brings big data and AI-powered features right to their pockets.

IBM Maximo Mobile delivers work order work flows and AI-powered diagnostic tools in a unique mobile experience.

The design team was guided by extensive user research. Their study revealed the rugged and unpredictable conditions field workers face as they attempt to interact with mobile technology. These insights led the team to craft unique features like large tappable buttons which are easily accessible with a gloved finger. Data presented in mini-dashboards illustrates critical information at a glance — helping the technician easily understand their time-sensitive work. A straightforward, mobile-first design virtually eliminates the need for traditional help support. Instead, a user-enabled help mode presents context-sensitive information only when needed.

The team leveraged AI technologies to increase a field worker’s productivity. AI image analysis helps technicians identify and diagnose any number of complex problems without forcing them to leave their location. They can even open a collaborate session with a expert technician who can make augmented reality notes in real time. These features completely change the way users will do their work.

The Spark Awards jury saw the potential this product has to change the experience for this user, noting their approval with their comments. “With this app, workers will be able to get help or assistance safely even in harsh environments.” The design team’s relentless commitment to understanding their user’s needs enabled them to create this exceptional user experience.

IBM Maximo Monitor improves reliability of the entire operational process

IBM Maximo Monitor has the potential to impact a range of industries- from manufacturing, to public infrastructure, to even healthcare. Each of these industries requires a high level of accuracy which means monitoring the functionality of their critical assets will be crucial for their success. However, these assets generate millions of data points every single day. User interviews indicated that monitoring these assets remotely was becoming nearly impossible for just one operator.

Operators monitor critical, geographically dispersed assets from centralized, configurable dashboards, focusing on the right assets, the right time, and the right information.

The design team took this insight and crafted a solution which uses machine learning algorithms to detect patterns in data and make predictions. The models learn what is normal behavior for assets and alert the user when something abnormal happens. The design team prioritized readability and ease-of-use when designing the interface to highlight anomalies and make sure the user knows right away that something needs their attention. Users can now understand their data through easily digested tables, images, charts, and graphs which are all stored on a customizable dashboard. This feature saves the operator time by allowing them to focus on the right assets and take immediate actions to fix the problem at hand.

The design team has ensured the benefits of Maximo Monitor are within everyone’s grasp. Increasing the reliability of these essential assets saves the user critical time and energy, allowing them to problem solve and focus on more important tasks at hand.

Congratulations to our winning design teams, and by extension the broader product teams.

IBM Maximo Monitor: Karen Gosciminski, Cynthia Zhang, Luaithrenn Dempsey, Amy Millett, Cindy Hoang & Mats Gothe

IBM Maximo Mobile: Darrell Estabrook, Yvette Harrington, Jodi Rajaniemi, Venus Chai, Nina Shahriaree & Ivan Bachev

IBM SPSS Statistics: Florian Niethammer, Eva Cochet-Weinandt, Dimitri Hoffmann, Jan Hassel, Huifei Jin, Jaehee Lee, Katharina Schippert, Christian Fritsche

Arin Bhowmick (@arinbhowmick) is Vice President and Chief Design Officer, IBM Software Products, based in San Francisco, California. The above article is personal and does not necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.



Arin Bhowmick

Chief Design Officer, @SAP | ex CDO @IBM |Cloud, AI and Apps I UX Leadership| UX Strategy| Usability & User Research| Product Design