“Argyle Executive Forum is bringing together senior digital & IT executives from a variety of industry verticals for our biannual CIO Chicago Forum. Throughout a full day of content and networking, we will focus on the most pressing issues facing IT executives with regards to leading the business through digital transformation, with an agenda geared specifically towards Chief Information officers, Chief Data Officers, Chief Digital Officers, as well as Data/ Analytics/MIS VPs, Directors, and Architects in a leading role.
It is worth noticing that this event featured partners who we work with such as HP Enterprise, Thought Leader Sponsor, and IBM, Breakout Session Sponsor.
That talks to the criticality of collaborative undertakings as Digital Transformation becomes a pressing objective across industries, academia, public service and government sectors.
What follows is my notes and personal insights. While all the sessions and discussions were quite relevant, I would like to highlight the opening keynote, which set the tone and narrative of the event.
James P. MacLennan, SVP & CIO at IDEX, discussed “The Five Components of a Great Digital Strategy,” which addressed the fact that “Design Thinking”, “Human Factors” and a collaborative culture involving interdisciplinary workstyles and “Great Teams” have become of the essence.
Moreover, he stated that “a Digital Business” will only succeed when it understands hot to connect with people.” The “human element” and, therefore, “people centered” strategies turn out to be critical success factors.
I would like to add that this entails engineering a continuum of (a) stakeholders, who are all human personas by definition, and to do so across (b) UX (user experience) and CX (customer experience) domains.
This job takes (c) a holistic understanding of customer facing (front end) and resource facing (back end) elements forming a coherent end-to-end system. Otherwise, operational fragmentation will take a toll and will deny the intended DX benefits.
James’ presentation displayed the convoluted UI (user interface) shown in this picture to illustrate the paradox of well intended yet counterproductive implementations that negate transformation initiatives.
Here is another valuable insight coming out of Argyle’s Executive Forum: information technologies (IT) and tech and processes for operations cannot longer be worlds apart, which demands superb cross-functional teamwork.
Cognitive overload, deficient information architecture, and poor usability translates into: human error, risk aversion, costly budget overruns, missing or deviating from goals, so on and so forth.
Any and all of these issues combined can be silently impacting quality or, simply, just lowering the bar for a business to get through noisy and cluttered operational environments. That is hardly the stuff that operational excellence calls for.
Obviously, in the context of CX, customer satisfaction becomes harder and harder to attain and, more specifically, to get that effectively done in a consistent fashion.
Predictability and consistency are key objectives for any Quality Management program. If that scenario alone wasn’t troublesome enough, Customer Delight (rather than just satisfying agreed upon requirements) is Design Thinking’s ultimate performance indicator, which commands a premium clearly beyond reach under those circumstances.
Quality management wise, “satisfaction” is the fulfilment of expected specifications while “delight” is about great pleasure, or great satisfaction if you will. “Satisfaction” can be rationalized and is the acceptance ticket to be in business. “Delight” accounts for human affects (emotions) and is a powerful source of differentiation. Those who think that’s just about splitting hairs should take a pause and think twice because DX is set to enable game changing experiences on all counts and fronts.
Thoughtout the forum and session after session, Jim’s “Design for Humans” principle gained more and more critical mass as presenters and panelists discussed the reasons why we should be mindful of the user journey and how to best improve all touch points along the way.
In one of the panel discussions this became even more evident when the question on aligning people, processes and technologies pointed to difficult prioritization exercises. Note that there was immediate consensus on the need for putting people first and humanizing technology and processes by applying Design Thinking, a human centered methodology that is corner stone to the job of creative technologists.
That means projects that are driven by clear missions and specific experiential outcomes and lifecycles (Goal Directed Design) rather than just an I/O approach. It also means rapid experience prototyping and A/B multivariate testing to explore possibilities since Design Thinking is a serial innovation engine.
Chicago’s NPR station aired a rerun of “The Power of Design” this past weekend. The discussion was centered on “How Can We Design For A Better Experience.”
By the way, TED’s acronym actually stands for the convergence of Technology, Entertainment and… Design.
Interview with Tony Fadell, one of the main designers of the iPod (Apple) and founder of Nest (Google).
“Design begins by also noticing all those little problems that many ignore (…) we we though our lives accepting these design flaws that actually don’t improve our lives.”
“Steve Jobs challenged us to see our products through the eyes of the customer, the new customer, the one that has fears and possible frustrations, and hopes and exhilaration that the new technology can work straight away for them. He called it “staying beginners” and wanted to make sure that we focused on those tiny little details to make things work faster and seamless for the new customers.”
“There is this positive emotional momentum that builds on itself at each step of the process (…) when you hit a brick wall you loose all the momentum (…) and though away an entire great experience.”
“There are to halves to design, just as there are two halves to your brain, the emotional part and the rational part. If you want people to truly adopt your product it has to have an emotional component, something that grabs you (…) that unlocks your curiosity, it also needs to rationally work (…) because people see value beyond the sexiness.”
Interview with Joe Gebbia, Airbnb cofounder.
“Any time that you see duct tape in the world, that’s a design opportunity (…) it’s an indicator that something is broken, that something did not perform the way it was design to and that there is an opportunity to improve it.”
“Design is the key to (Airbnb) success (…) and as a competitive advantage, design is thing that can separate you (…) the next thing that can differentiate you. All things being equal, two comparable products side by side with the same technical features and components… you will be crazy to choose the one that is harder to use.”
“Airbnb’s design decisions not only made the service easy to use but it helped millions of complete estrangers trust each other (…) and open their homes (…) design is more than the look and feel of something, it is the whole experience.”
“Coopetition replaces competition as telcos aim to cut costs and grow revenue streams (…) in the face of changing consumer trends, operators must try to preserve their EBITDA (earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization) margins and thus are looking to reduce spending and maximize their profit (…) there will continue to be more cooperation and collaboration between telcos and other players at every stage of the value chain.” – “Coopetition Replaces Competition…” by Sylwia Boguszewska at Pyramid Research.
Some of you have already guessed that “coopetition in the cloud age (1)” hints that cloud and telco economics could have more things in common than they happen to be different. Telcos used to advance “walled gardens” and, therefore, systems formed by black boxes and closed ecosystems, but coopetition became an unquestionable fact at the turn of the century and is now taking place in full force.
I created the above chart just to structure my thoughts and to help visualize a continuum, one which can be completed with known real life examples.
I started working in the telecomm industry in the late nineties, soon after the deregulation of that market in the United States. Prior to that, so-called PTTs (Post, Telegraph and Telephone) dominated this sector in their respective home countries, most were stated owned monopolies. While there were success stories regarding teledensity and standardization, the thinking was that marker forces would help drive a new wave of innovation and accelerate the shift from analog to digital technologies. As a matter of fact, there are studies that correlate the quality and availability of digital infrastructure with a country’s productivity and wealth creation.
Just a few years later, hyper-competition arose in some areas as a number of players sought to challenge and displace the incumbents. New value and business models kicked in. Conventional power players felt des-intermediated as fast growing assets such as “content” and innovative online services stole the spotlight. “Access” and “data transport” risked to be “commoditized” to a point at which sophisticated networking technologies and capital intensive gear and services were dismissed as mere “dumb pipes.” Since, the shadow of tacit collusion on either side has been a concern for regulators.
My thinking is that a healthy mix of competition and coopetion, which also includes partnerships with academia, creates the most value in absolute terms. Given that benchmark, any other model undermines market potential and value creation. One other thought, hyper-competition is likely to correct itself while collusion and monopoly behaviors might not. So, erring on the left side of the chart can cause less overall damage than falling on the right side, which might read counter intuitive to some benevolent industry veterans.
Now that we are advancing the cloud age, executive decisions on “when and where to compete or cooperate” are becoming only more frequent. As an example, there are competitive advantages to be gained when advancing a “de-facto standard” based on proprietary technologies. Speed to market, risk taking and seamless integration fully justify that… why wait. However, communities driving open source initiatives and standards are thriving too. When successful, they can also drive speed to market by de-risking investments and allowing for loosely coupled systems to work by means of APIs, application programmable interfaces and platforms.
So, what path to follow is one of today’s most pressing innovator dilemmas. My experience in product management is that what works well in some situations might not necessarily do the job on some other occasions. Moreover, statistically speaking, business recipes that seem to succeed over and over might fail expectations when taking things to new levels or under changing conditions, as well as when market entry barriers have been lowered and a one trick pony does not longer help differentiate.
What makes us smart is figuring out what answer applies to what objective and in what context. Going through the journey of prototyping and experimenting helps most of us: “if we knew what it was we were doing, it would not be called research, would it?” – Albert Einstein.
Hope that this topic is of interest. Another article will follow.