Launching a new Business: ThinkSmart Hardware
2016 - 2021 | Lead Designer
One of Lenovo's strategic investment areas is Smart Collaboration. Building a new business takes time and a strategic approach to the market.
Over the last few years, I have led the UX of our ThinkSmart business, specifically Hub 500, View, and the newly announced Hub and Core devices.
Create the best-in-class user experience for our new collaboration devices to help set the business up for success.
Provide UX leadership and support to the Smart Collaboration business on UX hardware, UX software, and user research.
LAUNCHING A NEW BUSINESS
The ThinkSmart business was officially created in 2017 with the mission to disrupt the collaboration space.
As trends of huddle rooms and virtual meetings grew stronger, our team was focused on providing customers the right solutions to meet these new workplace demands. In order to do this successfully, we needed to launch a few products and adjust our portfolio based on how the market reacted.
THINKSMART HUB 500
We came out with our first product, ThinkSmart Hub 500 for Microsoft Teams Rooms in 2018. This was a monumental achievement for a brand new Business Unit and we only grew from there.
What made our products different from the competition was that we listened carefully to our customers and truly understood their meeting pain-points.
We understood that with a fixed display, only one user would have control over the meeting so we designed our auxiliary display to rotate so that we could democratize the meeting controls.
This was a game-changer.
Other features we included were a cylinder speaker system to provide 360 degrees of rich audio during meetings and ensuring the device microphones were always pointing up for the most effective audio-capturing position.
We heard that many users didn't know if they were muted or not, so we added bright LEDs around the cylinder to show the mic mute state. This allowed everyone around the room to quickly tell if the device was muted or not.
Bringing a dedicated meeting device to the room meant that no one had to sacrifice their PC to run the meeting anymore. Equipped with its own calendaring service, users could easily book rooms and know if the room was available by viewing its calendar at any time.
Hub 500 is changing the way people work, making them more productive and more engaged than ever before.
In 2019, we announced our product extension by offering a ThinkSmart Hub 500 Zoom Rooms edition.
Its unique form factor truly stands out from the competition. A fluid and sophisticated shape allows the device to be used in portrait or landscape mode offering incredible flexibility to our users.
Knowing the different use cases, we also positioned the camera to be in the proper spot as well as ensured the display angle was comfortable from various user heights and desk positions.
Finally, we kept hearing feedback around user privacy so we added in a built-in privacy camera shutter and a hardware mute mic button to address these concerns.
In the summer of 2020, we launched the ThinkSmart View, a personal meeting device that ran an exclusive version of Microsoft Teams.
Over the last couple of years, we've been working hard to bring this product to market, knowing that users demanded a dedicated personal meeting device to avoid overbearing their own PC.
Partnering closely with Microsoft, our team focused on the user experience to ensure we were delivering what our customers wanted.
Like with many products we support, I prepared numerous design specifications around the human factors requirements including ergonomics, usability, feature specs, and accessibility of the device and spent several months testing these features until we finally got it right.
Before I provided any design specifications, I ensured that I had the right user data to work with so I interviewed, surveyed, and met with several customers and users to truly understand their needs.
Then, it came down to knowing what devices were already in the market and how we would stack up to them. Leveraging competitor benchmarks is a key to understanding what works, what doesn't work, and what opportunities are there to do something completely different. Since no one else offered a personal meeting device, I had to get creative by observing adjacent markets like smart displays.
NEXT GENERATION IDEAS
For all of my specifications, I also include possible next-generation features or things we should consider to upgrade the device. This helps the team think about the long-term strategy of the business instead of being solely product-based.
Today, our ThinkSmart View is changing how people work, especially now as remote work becomes the new normal. We're actively leveraging this momentum and are already working on several follow-on devices to address this new way of working and collaborating.
We've had an incredible year of launching products in this business including the big announcement between Google and Lenovo to launch the Series One Room Kit.
Our team worked closely with the Google Development team as UX consultants on this project including conducting a few research activities to inform design directions.
With this partnership, we launched our third Unified Communications offering with Google Meet.
The newly announced (September 2020) ThinkSmart Hub is the successor to our ThinkSmart Hub 500 with extraordinary hardware improvements.
We've spent the last couple of years listening to our customers and doing extensive research around our platform. We're excited to share our newest solution that truly elevates the in-room meeting experience.
With Cortana integration, larger speakers, more mics, and brighter LEDs, this device will soon become our flagship product.
We started with basic improvements to hardware features like doubling the number of speakers from 2 to 4 and doubling the number of mics from 2 to 4. We also increased the column width to provide more volumetric audio output.
For the LEDs, we doubled the thickness and increased the lux output for better visibility.
Another area we focused a lot of attention on was airflow and thermal output. We know these devices stay on throughout the day so we wanted to find better solutions to cool them properly.
Finally, we added additional delight features to this upgrade such as a secondary LED on top to show mic mute status and a premium cable management solution that significantly reduces the complexity of setup for our IT managers. These updates propelled this device to the top of the collaboration industry.
I provided the team an in-depth design specification outlining the usability, ergonomics, hardware and design specifications for this device.
We're excited to announce these new offerings that will disrupt the collaboration space.
We're actively working on a number of new devices for collaboration including a suite of accessory devices for home and office that address our new way of working.
To become leaders in this space, we need to constantly listen to our customers. In 2020, we ran more than 10 user research projects around collaboration and the new work-from-anywhere model. These insights have directly impacted our future portfolio and have made our solutions much more desirable.
As of 2022, the Smart Collaboration business remains one of Lenovo's most successful new businesses. Many workplaces have purchased our solutions to revamp their offices before employees return. I was fortunate to help launch this business back in 2016 and remain a critical part of their future roadmap.