From tech support to customer heroes.

March 2018

Splunk named Indianapolis-based Kinney Group its No. 1 national partner in the public sector and ranked it No. 2 in terms of the number of certified Splunk consultants it employs globally. It’s a relationship seven years in the making, built partly on what Kinney Group’s Sundaresh Ramanathan calls their commitment to being a “frictionless partner” and offering solutions like the new Splunkbot.


Founded in 2003, Splunk is a $1 billion company that enables customers to use machine data to solve problems. When a company grows fast, like Splunk has, its customers’ pain points also grow.

In 2016, the challenge at hand was the time it took Splunk technicians to resolve customers’ issues — it was too long with too much room for error. They asked Kinney Group to help them get faster.

Ramanathan and his team got to work and completed a proof of concept that could detect problems based on diagnostic files the customer was able to capture using the new tool. Kinney Group presented the concept to Splunk leaders in late 2016. We love it they said. Keep moving forward, they implored.


To bring the idea to life, Ramanathan looked for a partner who understood not only UI (user interface) but also UX (user experience). He talked to different firms, who asked a lot of the right questions, and then he met Josh Mitchell and Joel Smith at Design On Tap in June 2017.

“They wanted to understand what I didn’t understand, which is what the user wants,” Ramanath says. Design On Tap was ready to find out what Splunk users need and how they behave, and integrate that into the solution.

The problem was unusual. Consider this conundrum: Splunk is a platform used by customers to troubleshoot problems. To come up with a solution to troubleshoot the platform that troubleshoots problem is a unique opportunity.

“Kinney Group wanted to wow the pants off Splunk. No one here had heard of or used Splunk. That was scary, but we were up for the challenge.”

— Joel Smith

The Design On Tap team talked to programmers, support technicians and service implementation Splunk experts at Kinney Group — really smart people whose language is code, Python and JavaScript. During an early meeting, when a designer began to sketch a user interface, eyes glazed over.

“But by the end of that session, it started to all come together. As we progressed through the group design session, it was like a therapy,” Ramanathan says.

The Design On Tap team made itself at home in the Kinney Group world, learning how customer support does its job around the Splunk product. They asked engineers questions about what they were looking at to find out if these were even the right things to be looking at.


One of the criteria set for Design On Tap was to create a UI so intuitive it would cut down on training time. With that in mind, designers worked not to understand the complexity of the product, but rather to make sense of the behavior of the people using it. They learned how to talk about the software and design for it while having an appreciation for the engineering constraints they would face. Everyone shared a sense of urgency and desire to get it right.

“They didn’t treat Kinney Group like a customer. We were more like a team — a really large dysfunctional team that got amazing results,”

— Sundaresh Ramanathan

Kinney Group released the resulting Splunkbot in beta in November 2017. But would it work?

Original Image
Original Image

A control group of untrained Splunk support technicians received the beta version of Splunkbot in January 2018. Training typically takes 8-12 weeks. Within just a matter of hours, these new users were able to troubleshoot customer cases using Splunkbot. The tool went to production at the end of February 2018. The goal is to roll it out to 400 users in 2018.


Design On Tap helped Kinney Group deliver on its commitment to being a frictionless partner to Splunk, to offering solutions in every phase of the product lifecycle. And it was a good time!

“Design On Tap is a fun, smart group of people who definitely know what they’re doing. The experience working with them was different. I’ve done this several years and I’ve never come across any group of people who are so passionate and good at what they do,” Ramanathan says. “They treated this problem like their problem, not a Kinney Group problem.”

Date January 2018
Project Kinney Group Splunkbot
Team Joel Smith Founder Ben Huddleston Director of Engineering Daris Strickland Lead Developer Krista Ward Lead Interactive Designer Angela McElroy Client Operations Manager