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On Becoming a Sponsor User

November 14, 2017

While attending the IBM Technical University last month I went to a session on the Cloud Management Console (CMC). One thing I highlighted when I first wrote about the CMC is how you get access to the product. You can pay $50 per frame per month, or, if you've purchase a C model, you receive access to the product for three years.

Another way to gain access to the service is to become a Sponsor User. Although the information here describes teams that are building products, I think it's a good overview for those interested in the CMC:

Sponsor Users are real-world users that regularly contribute their domain expertise to your team, helping you stay in touch with users’ real-world needs throughout the project.

Despite our best efforts, empathy has its limits. If you’re designing the cockpit of an airliner but you aren’t a pilot, you simply won’t know how it feels to land a plane. Without that first-hand experience, it’s easy to lose touch with our users’ reality and allow bias and personal preference to creep into our work.

Sponsor Users are real users or potential users who bring their experience and expertise to the team. They aren’t passive subjects––they’re active participants who work alongside you to deliver a great outcome. While they won’t completely replace formal design research and usability studies, Sponsor Users will help you break the empathy barrier and stay in touch with real-world needs throughout your project.

Anatomy of a Sponsor User
A good Sponsor User is representative of your intended user, they’re invested in the outcome, and they have the availability to regularly work with you and your team.

1) Are they representative of your target user? A good Sponsor User reflects the actual user you intend to serve. As enthusiastic as your client, customer, or economic buyers may be to help you, they are often not the user who will ultimately derive personal value from your offering.

2) Are they personally invested in the outcome? A good Sponsor User cares as much about your project’s outcome as you do. Look for candidates who have a particularly demanding use case––a Sponsor User who relies heavily on your offering to be successful will have a vested interest in your project’s success.

A word of caution: don’t mistake a demanding use case with an “extreme” use case. If you’re working on a Hill that concerns a family minivan, a race car driver is probably not a great candidate for a Sponsor User, no matter how interested they are in working with you.

3) Are they available to collaborate? A good Sponsor User is open and willing to share their expertise and experience with your team.
While being a Sponsor User isn’t a full-time job, it is a commitment. Set expectations, but be respectful of their time and be flexible around their schedule. What’s important is that their insights and ideas are heard.


If you' re interested in becoming a Sponsor User with the IBM Cognitive Systems team, contact cary-anne olsen-landis at caolsen (at) ibm dot com. She'll tell you more about the team and the products they're working on.

Posted November 14, 2017 | Permalink

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