“Nokia has transformed itself many times in its 150-year history, starting as a paper mill in Finland in 1865. (…) ‘In 2013,’ Nokia launched a dramatic, bet-the-company turnaround (…) ‘as’ a full-fledged network infrastructure provider, Nokia decided to retain its patent and technology licensing business in order to continue its legacy of innovation and reinvention (…) from the start of the turnaround through early 2017, the company turned over 99% of the employee base, 80% of the board, and all but one member of the executive team.” (Nokia: Reprogramming for Growth.)
“The Finnish giant has exited mobile phones and doubled down on its networking business. (…) Nokia is a paragon of corporate renewal (…) this corporate phoenix has reemerged as one of the world’s largest telecom network service providers. (…) The fact that it subsequently became a vibrant business just emphasizes the fantastic turnaround. (…) In the summer of 2012, Nokia’s market capitalization was $5 billion and (…) enterprise value was $1.5 billion. By the beginning of “2017,” (…) market capitalization was close to $40 billion and (…) enterprise value was about $30 billion. (…) Out of some 100,000 employees today, less than 1 percent had a Nokia badge three years ago.” (Nokia’s Next Chapter.)
Before I started to write this post I pre-ordered “Transforming Nokia” by Risto Siilasmaa, Nokia’s Chairman. His book is coming out this October, which I will add to my Kindle collection for Bell Labs and Nokia.
Interestingly enough, my LinkedIn profile shows what it looks like my 20 year-long career with Nokia. Though, I need to share that I am among the 99% of staff who did not have a Nokia badge just 3 years ago. I became a Nokia employee with the acquisition of Alcatel-Lucent in January of 2016.
My recollection is that LinkedIn does not show corporate logos for brands that are no longer in business. In my case, that happens to be the outcome of M&A (Merger & Acquisitions.)
Otherwise, LinkedIn would have featured the above four logos as part of my professional record. They happen to be part of different market conditions, job responsibilities, experiences and organizational cultures.
Year 1: 2016
Joining Nokia was very exciting from the get go. The company’s motto was “Expanding the Human Possibilities of Technology” and had recently ran a public relations program known as “Make Tech Human” in partnership with Wired Magazine.
All of that was music to the ears of those of us devoted to Human Factors Engineering (HFE.) Moreover, User Centered Design (UCD) was pioneered by Bell Labs all the way back to the mid 1940s. Bell Labs is a legendary industrial research and scientific institution that became part of Nokia in 2016.
“It’s hard to draw the line between traditional human factors and what we might call ‘user-experience’, aimed at human-centered design of interactive systems. Bell Labs was one of the pioneers in making this transition, starting with the first psychologist hired to design telephone systems in 1945: John E. Karlin. By the 1950s, Bell Labs definitely did UX work.” (A 100-Year View of User Experience.)
Back to 2016… our team at the Cloud Innovation Center (CIC) in Naperville, IL, worked tirelessly to create the system behind the LeanOps initiative showcased at Barcelona’s Mobile World Congress 2016 as one of Nokia’s flagship innovations. That premier industry event became the first chance for many of us to come together as one-Nokia-team.
About month later, I was interviewed and featured in an article for “My Life at Nokia,” a corporate initiative capturing what it feels to work at Nokia. That same year, I was invited to join the Steering Committee for our Technology Leadership Council, a silo-busting and grass-roots organization lead by Anne Lee, a Bell Labs Fellow.
Year 2: 2017
LeanOps’ latest was selected again as one of Nokia’s innovations for Mobile World Congress 2017. Thereafter, the demo running at Nokia HQ in Espoo, Finland, became the most visited station of the company’s Customer Experience Center.
A few months later, LeanOps was the recipient of Nokia’s First Prize in Product Innovation. We were made aware of the fact that there had been more than 500 submissions. One can only feel very fortunate and humble given the high-caliber work performed across the company.
Year -1: 2015
Digital innovation enables an impressive and unprecedented succession of emerging technologies and services. Some are improved versions of well understood staples, some are fluid and fast evolving, some other are yet to be invented and will rely on enabling capabilities to be in place… and there is such a thing as hybrid operational environments intermingling them all.
Back in 2015, I was deeply involved in a global primary research effort, whose outcome put the emphasis on execution and, therefore, Operational Excellence. Running highly effective and efficient ops is a critical success factor and top priority for Nokia’s customers, these are Digital Service Providers (DSP.)
No Service Provider would like to like be a victim of their own success. Briefly and in terms of leading (cause) and lagging (effect) indicators… that actually happens when demand grows exponentially, but systems fail to adapt and scale at speed. Lagging indicators then show subpar quality of customer experiences and dreaded churn kicks in to offset and even undermine early gains.
Digital Operation Centers designed for highly dynamic and complex systems should adhere to ‘Lean’ design principles for the purpose of executing system-wide lifecycle events at scale and speed anytime, and to do so in compliance with Service Level Agreements (SLA,) which are contractual obligations.
Most importantly, operational excellence calls for optimizing both users’ experiences and resource utilization levels, which entails financial considerations and business modeling. Note that ‘end-users’ applies to Business to Consumer (B2C,) and Business to Business (B2B) markets.
Back to Year 1: 2016
My focus is on (a) advanced visualization coupled with (b) cybernetics for workforce automation at high performance Control Centers, which happens to be a decisive source of innovative system requirements.
The fact is that nimbler operations teams are asked to be responsible for greater scope, scale and speed than ever before. This prompts a pressing need for equipping agile and interdisciplinary teams with next generation tools that set them up for success. So, no surprise that Human Centered Design is of the essence, and that any self-service capabilities happen to reinforce that point as ‘making sophisticated operations effortless’ is a must.
About this time last year, my work in Decision Support Systems (DSS,) was shortlisted among the top 10 concepts for the first phase of Nokia Applications & Analytics’ (A&A’s) ‘Intra’-preneurial Program, which processed hundreds of submissions involving a wide range of applications and technologies.
After the “hacking phase” the panel’s evaluation recommended taking further steps in the context of the existing product portfolio. By the way, Nokia’s former A&A is now known as Nokia Software Group (NSG) and DSS is my current area of work.
Year 2+: 2018
Admittedly, things got even more exciting for me with the turn of the year by being promoted to a Senior Studio Director position reporting to the VP of Solutions Engineering. This is an entrepreneurial department tasked with complex end-to-end systems and chartered to deliver the superior value of the whole.
More recently, I became a Bell Labs DMTS, Distinguished Member of Technical Staff, which I am very proud of. Anecdotally, just a few weeks ago I ended up in Cloude Shannon‘s Bell Labs 1940s office in Murray Hill, New Jersey. Shannon was the father of Information Theory. I couldn’t help taking a picture with his lifesize cardboard cutout : )
The photograph on the extreme left shows Telstar, the first communications satellite and commercial payload in space. The one on the extreme right was taken at the anechoic chamber, which held the Guinness record for the quietest place for some 30-40 years. That space was instrumental in the invention of the microphone. It is a bit hard to tell in that picture, but I was standing on a fairly thin net that is set way above the ground, which makes one feel like floating in mid air.
Nokia also allows a fairly active life beyond the company’s conventional business. Some examples are my current participation in the Advisory Boards for MIT’s institute of Data, Systems & Society, and the Design Thinking conference for the events held in 2017 and 2018 in Austin, TX. I would also like to highlight Nokia’s own HFE (Human Factors Engineering Conference) that I am honored to co-chair.
Last year I spoke at Service Design Week 2017 in Boston and also received Chicago Public Schools’ Science Fair plaque for my five years of service as a judge. My focus was high school projects in the areas of Computer and Behavioral Sciences. Chicago’s Science Fairs were held at an incredibly engaging venue: the Museum of Science & Industry (MSI.)
Earlier this year I was invited to speak at IEEE Emerging Technologies Reliability Roundtable (IEEE ETR-R) and I also joined a panel discussion at IEEE’s Communications Quality & Reliability (IEEE CQR,) both held in Austin, TX.
Interacting in industry and academia turns out to be a highly gratifying ‘give & take’ exercise. By sharing and helping others a healthy feedback-loop develops. That experience takes the shape of a virtuous circle neutralizing negative ‘echo chamber effects’ while exposing and promoting diverse optics: a re-energizing effect and a source of personal growth.
Long story short… my first 2+ years at Nokia have been packed with a number of good and even thrilling experiences.
I have been given the opportunity to be involved in the kind of high visibility projects that I happen to enjoy. As a Human Factors practitioner, I value Nokia’s Intellectual Capital above a number of other considerations because commonplace work ethics and working with and learing from exceptional and thoughtful professionals makes all the difference.
“[They] lost their quality leadership to new, aggressive competition. The most obvious consequence was lost of market share (…) [due to] quality features that were perceived as better meeting customer needs [and] they did not fail in service as often.”
“Loss of market share is not the only reason behind [it] (…) a second major force has been the phenomenon of life behind the quality dikes. We have learned that living in a technological society puts us at the mercy of the continuing operation of the goods and services that make a society possible (…) without such quality we have failure of all sorts (…) at the least these failures involve annoyances and minor costs. At their worst they are terrifying.”
“A third major force has been the gathering awareness by companies that they have been enduring excessive costs due to chronic quality-related wastes (…) about a third of what we do consists of redoing work previously done (…) lacking expertise in the quality disciplines, they are amateurs in the best sense of that word.”
J.M. Juran’s assessment on Quality issues in the 1960s-70s.
What follows are some of the insights driving the work that I’m doing on reviewing, leveraging and updating QbD (Quality by Design) in the context of today’s fast growing and all-encompassing digitalization.
I am dusting off my research from 2010 on the 3Q Model. Back then I was a senior manager at Alcatel-Lucent’s Solutions & Technology Introduction Department. My current role is Senior Studio Director at Nokia Software’s Solutions Engineering. Note that the scope is End-to-End Solutions. These are holistic system-wide (cross-sectional and longitudinal) undertakings intersecting different domains to deliver the higher value of the whole. I have discussed QbD for Digital Transformation projects at the Design Thinking 2018 event and at the IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) conference on CQR (Communications Quality and Reliability) back in April and May of this year. Interestingly enough, both events were held in Austin, Texas.
QbD was first coined by Juran, a renown pioneer of quality practices, whose work on that specific topic started in the mid 80s. He linked Quality to customer satisfaction and reliability as the two dimensions to focus on:
“Features” were defined as “quality characteristics,” which meant properties intended to satisfy specific customer needs. That would also include “promptness of delivery,” “ease of maintenance,” and “courtesy of service” to name some examples. “The better the features, the higher the quality in the eyes of customers.”
As far as reliability and, therefore, replicability and consistent performance, “freedom from deficiencies” conveyed the fact that “the fewer the deficiencies the better the quality in the eyes of customers.” A “deficiency” is a failure that triggers dissatisfaction, which calls for incurring higher costs to redo prior work.
“Fitness for use” was mentioned as an attempt to capture the above two together. The so-called Juran Trilogy entails Quality Planning, Quality Control, and Quality Improvement.
More than three decades have passed since Juran started to work on “New Steps for Planning Quality into Goods and Services.” Let’s decompose QbD’s acronym at face value and distill its essence.
As a designer, my belief & practice system focuses on “serial innovation” consistently delivering superior value. This is achieved by means of purposeful and elegant solutions equipped with capability models and optimal functionality leading to Quality Experiences.
Customer Delight, rather than just satisfaction, being the sought after outcome. This applies to both small and large undertakings, and as A. Kay, a pioneer in graphical user interfaces, best put it, “simple things should be simple, complex should be possible.”
Following that train of thought, “Designing Quality into Solutions” should become center stage to: (a) collaborative and iterative ideation, (b) agile development, (c) continuous delivery and (d) the dynamic diffusion of (e) new and mass-customizable digital services for consumer and enterprise markets, as well as no-for-profit. Overall, QoB is key to Operational Excellence.
In a world where “Continuous Improvement” leads to incremental and breakthrough innovations, Quality’s critical KPI, Key Performance Indicator, can be expressed in terms of measurable advances in QoUX, the Quality of the Users’ Experiences. These are lagging (outcome) metrics that are far from static because they evolve within and over lifecycles. Therefore, reliability is not just applied to production operations, but also to the solution’s consistent performance and serviceability over time and under changing scenarios and events.
Given Quality’s unequivocal narrative around the “experiential” paradigm and, therefore, human-centric-optics, QbD’s best work should optimize for user “delight,” which is defined as superior “satisfaction,” rather than just aiming for requirements compliance.
It is very tempting to rally around core competencies within comfort zones that exist, and then settling on just aiming for “customer satisfaction” around “must-meet” baseline requirements. Though, that might not suffice given the necessity to innovate and better compete by leveraging unique sources of sustainable differentiation.
Let’s now state the obvious: “designing” Quality Experiences into digital solutions is best addressed by means of Human-Centered methodologies that optimize for (f) users’ “acceptance criteria” and (g) the kind of “adoption levels” that foster user base growth.
The opposite approach would risk the adverse effects (and hidden costs) that can be incurred when technical myopia leads the way. A. Cooper’s “The Inmates are Running the Asylum” captures that very well. His book is referenced below.
Just for the record, the year is 2018 and we are gearing for a pervasive digital world dominated by software defined systems. The 4th Industrial Revolution’s floodgates are set wide-open.
Low and high tech perform best when playing a supporting role. Technology enables “Services” which justify it, otherwise the so-called Chasm and Valley of Death wait around the corner. It pays to emphasize that “Services” are defined by “Use Cases.” So, it shouldn’t take much effort to see that “Use(case)ability” (“usability” being the proper term) is a CSF, Critical Success Factor. “Fitness for use” in other words.
Let’s take that further and couple “usability” with designing for usefulness,” “utility,” “consumability & serviceablity” as well as “affectivity” because perception and human affects orient satisfaction and dissatisfaction levels.
QbD cannot be put to work without adequately addressing Human Dynamics, which entails psychological (e.g. cognitive models, information architecture) physiological (e.g. device form factor, workstation ergonomics) and social dimensions (e.g. network effects increasing value for users.) That happens to be the SoW (Scope of Work) of HFE’s (Human Factors Engineering) interdisciplinary teams in Design Studios… and the topic of my next post on QbD’s Intellectual Capital.
A few more thoughts…
In spite of one’s day-to-day work and/or belief system being either closer to or removed from the kinds of jobs and tasks that make tech human, it makes sense to engage in meaningful outcome oriented and goal driven practices by applying HCD, Human-Centered-Design. The purpose is delivering quality and achieving customer acceptance and delight, given that customers are human beings. That is the reason why Design Thinking has outgrown the field of industry design and is applied to a wide variety of domains and disciplines nowadays.
Tech’s roller-coaster industry is packed with well intended technologies that fail. We all know that this is a fiercely competitive environment in constant change. Though, it is also true that, in many of those cases, UX, User Experience, professionals were not engaged at any part of the process, or were purposely involved at the back-end, or were called to come to the rescue in the eleventh hour. That leaves no room for Design to make a difference. Superficial changes just amount to bells-and-whistles and shiny-objects to disguise the underlying quality issues that are likely to re-surface at some point.
QbD’s top objective should be excelling at effectively & efficiently addressing our customers’ acceptance and adoption criteria. That remains true even in the context of full automation. Humans still get promoted and demoted (or fired) based on those system’s performance. D. Newman’s recent article on Forbes magazine rightly states that “you cannot run your business without people (…) you cannot operate technology without people (…) research have shown that people are a critical component for digital transformation.”
Today’s best practice calls for “reverse engineering” solutions by working from that human-centered understanding around Human Machine Systems (HMS.) That is substantially different from only relying on a far riskier “if you build it, they will come” model and its costlier brute-force mindset.
When dealing with challenging, intractable and complex projects, overlooking that fact typically results in exponential project risk and plenty of the, otherwise, avoidable zig-zagging course corrections ahead (e.g. opportunity costs in financial analysis and hidden and latency costs in systems engineering.)
Agile’s iterative development and ability to pivot shouldn’t be a refuge for either subpar or no design effort, but a vehicle to best implement QbD and augment development capacity while minimizing technical debt. This is why this revision of QbD for today’s tech industry calls for Design Sprints to lead the way.
Last but not least, before dismissing this QbD revision as a philanthropic and humanistic only endeavor, I suggest deep thinking around its (1) business criticality and (2) contribution to risk mitigation.
J. de Francisco
Bell Labs, Distinguished Member of Technical Staff
Nokia Software, Senior Studio Director @ Solutions Engineering
A. Cooper. The Inmates are Running the Asylum. Why High-Tech Products Drive Us Crazy and How to Restore the Sanity, Sams Publishing, 2004.
D. Newman. 3 Reasons People are Critical for Digital Transformation Success. Forbes, June 2018.
J. de Francisco. IEEE ETR 2018, Emerging Technologies Reliablity Roundtable – Human Factors Session (2). Innovarista: Innovation at Work, July 2018 innovarista.org
J. de Francisco. IEEE ETR 2018, Emerging Technologies – Human Factors Session. Innovarista: Innovation at Work. May 2018 innovarista.org
J.M. Juran. Juran on Quality by Design: the New Steps for Planning Quality into Goods and Services, The Free Press, 1992.
Following up on my last post about IEEE ERT 2018, here are a couple of charts for my “discussion brief,” which include a Human-Machine-System Capability Mapping chart (above) and concept illustrations of the Experiential Decision Support System (below.) The charts’ text conveys context setting remarks, which I am also providing here.
The goal of furthering machine intelligence is to make humans more able and smarter: the opposite engineering approach typically becomes a source of self-defeating technical myopia waiting to happen and missed opportunities. This simple mapping exercise can be customized to assess and roadmap capability levels.
The more sophisticated automation becomes, the more obvious the criticality of the human factor in both consumer and enterprise environments… rather than less. And, in any case, customer acceptance and adoption criteria remain Quality’s litmus test for emerging technologies.
Digitalization is fostering (a) XaaS, (b) Self-Service, (c) the Shared Economy and the (d) Maker Movement. All elevate human involvement and drive the push for opening and democratizing technologies. These make (e) citizen science and citizen developers shape the next generation prosumers at mass market scale.
Digital Transformation initiatives embracing the above allow (f) nimbler enterprise teams to operate at far greater scale, scope and speed, and shift focus from routine operations to dynamic value creation coupled with extreme efficiencies.
This entails (g) interdisciplinary workstyles and collaborative organizational behaviors that include (h) customer co-creation models. In this new context, humans remain (i) the ultimate critical element in system reliability and safety. Left shifting Quality by Design (QbD) prioritizes Human-Centered-Design tools and processes to deliver high performance workforce automation systems.
Cost-effective Lean Ops systems intertwine analytics, automation, programmability and flexible systems integration. All optimized for dynamic behaviors given Soft System’s perpetual motion. This means designing “for-ever” rapid and seamless reconfigurability instead of just engineering “day 1” implementations.
Operational Excellence dictates system-wide as well as subsystem level visualization, and a combination of centralized & distributed closed loop controls under user friendly operational modes. Cognitive models involve Situational Awareness (SA,) Sense Making (SM,) Root Cause Analysis (RCA,) Scenario Planning (SP,) and ROA (Real Options Analysis.)
The Experiential element is not just about programming known rules and policies but, most importantly, it grows by assimilating iterative learning in the context of cyclical automation: routine decisions and manual operations can be streamlined and collapsed, then switching to “exception” based management for that particular event.
Productivity calls for streamlining operations so that (a) waste can be eliminated & prevented, and (b) value based tasks can be performed effortlessly, in less steps, at speed & without error. High performance behaviors and sustainable competitiveness also call for the ability to (c) experiment and create new capabilities, as well as leveraging (d) process mining for customer journeys & value stream mapping (CJM & VSM) to continuously optimize them and guarantee service levels.
Service Operations Centers (SOC) should be equipped with Experiential Decision Support Systems (DSS) featuring (d) collaborative filtering, (e) actionable data stories conveying hindsight, insight & foresight and (f) adaptive cybernetics. Advanced visualization for both (f) intuitive & highly abstracted infographics and (g) scientific views is of the essence.
Quality is best addressed as a human experience, which determines (d) meaning and, therefore, the degree to which a system is lean vs. over-engineered or subpar (both being defective and carrying obvious and hidden costs.) A new take on QbD for Soft Systems, which are inherently fluid by definition, emphasizes acceptance testing probing for: usefulness & utility, usability & affectivity, consumability & serviceability and safety thru use cases and lifecycle events.