Software’s Defining Age
I am on my way to Mobile World Congress and last night I had the opportunity to speak at DevMynd’s “Agile Software in a Hardware World.” That panel discussion featured BMW Technology Corporation (BMW, Mini, Rolls-Royce,) Monsanto’s “The Climate Corporation,” and Nokia Software Group, which I was proud to represent. The venue, 1KFulton, is a century-old and former cold storage building in the Fulton Market neighborhood, home to Google’s Chicago campus.
Reflecting on that panel discussion, small group conversations and one-on-one chats before and after the event, I think that it is fair to state the following:
(A) software is undergoing a defining moment while re-shaping industries. “Software defined instruments and systems” have superseded capabilities of hardware-centric deployments.
In other words, economic value and profitability are migrating from conventional products to software dominated environments that control tools, systems, and processes.
In this new context, (B) collaborative undertakings (co-creation, open source,) platforms, modularization and mashups are paving the way for rapid experimentation and for a wide-range of services to surface.
Back to economics… a venture capital firm operating in the Silicon Valley shared with me that when comparing current investments with equivalent old-school ones, they experienced x3 times time-to-market speed at 1/3 of the investment, which allows them to better diversify risk and fund more start-ups in the process.
Moreover, we are now operating at (C) unprecedented speed, scale and scope. For that reason alone, software should improve our ability to “pivot” and dynamically adapt to changing circumstances.
Most plans don’t survive first contact and many start-ups and emerging technologies don’t survive the so-called “crossing-the-chasm” or “Valley of Death.” So, remaining lean and embracing continuous/iterative improvement are of the essence. That’s a quality mantra rather than an excuse for forgoing best quality practices.
Back to economics again: quality management’s definition of “customer satisfaction” is now table-stakes and compliance in that area drives low-cost commoditization. “Customer delight” is the higher benchmark that commands a premium and the kind of margins enabling us to re-invest to further innovate.
Let’s now state the obvious, “customers” are human beings, aren’t they? Interestingly enough, the more sophistication and diversification, the higher the need for (D) humanizing technology so that we can better create, consume, use and democratize any digital services. In turn, this has fostered (E) Design Thinking as a leading innovation practice that intersects art and science. Design Thinking addresses HMS, Human-Machine-Systems, by prioritizing HCD, Human-Centered-Design.
In terms of economic effectiveness and efficiency, that means outcome-oriented system-sizing, rather than over-engineering waste. It also means the definition of meaningful and purposeful requirements: some are designed to meet customer satisfaction metrics, while others are explicitly thought out to exceed that baseline and, hence, to actually deliver the X-Factor prompting customer delight. All key to customer acceptance and adoption growth.
Better yet, one of the event’s participants volunteered the fact that “good design” factoring intuitive interaction, advanced dataviz (data visualization) and effortless controls was proven to shrink the sales cycle by literally half: not only customers perceived and experienced the service’s tangible value early, the sales team was also able to approach more customers in that timeframe. Innovative Human-Computer-Interaction based on information design, value based tasks, streamlined processes, intuitive data visualization, effortless controls and overall UX, User Experience, double as compelling demonstration tools.
This is a side note: that has already become a critical success factor in Artificial Intelligence’s new developments, AI being software’s top transformational exponent as DSS, Decision Support Systems for humans and/or machines become quintessential. I will detail that in another post.
One last thought… (F) software’s pervasiveness has also brought along Agile development practices. These include “user stories” borrowing a Design Thinking technique by which application features are defined by synthesizing human optics (persona/outcome/rationale) to put technical myopia at bay.
After all, we should all be in the business of making tech human. Otherwise, what would negating or ignoring that say about each of us and our collective culture?