A lot of my recent research – about SaaS/PaaS, Agile tools, requirements tools, and innovating with your channel – share a common conclusion: successful technology vendors see integration as more than just a necessary evil. Here's why.
Business problems drive technology adoption You can see this principle in action in the requirements tools market, which in the last decade has grown larger and more complex. Teams use these tools to address more than one type of requirements-related challenge, so it's easy to see why the tools themselves are now as diverse as as Micro Focus (née Borland) Calibre, Atlassian JIRA, Ravenflow RAVEN, and VersionOne's Ideas Management module. If your problem is, "People don't like using our product," you might look at a visualization tool like iRise to shorten the feedback loop, leading to better design decisions. If, instead, your problem is, "We don't have a good business justification for what we build," you might look at IBM Rational DOORS to evaluate the pros and cons of alternative scenarios for what goes into the next release.
Over the last few years, I think most would agree that leading product development organizations have gotten much savvier about designers collaborating with internal stakeholders – such as manufacturing, sales, and marketing – to harness contributions and feedback from more business perspectives, get the product right the first time, and ultimately better transform technical inventions into market-relevant innovations. What’s really interesting is that, over this same period, the social Web – which Forrester calls Social Computing and includes peer-to-peer activities like social networking sites, blogging, user review sites, wikis, podcasts, and other user-generated content – has steadily grown in popularity among consumers as well as expanded its presence among manufacturing enterprises. The question is, will these new technologies and corresponding social trends make their way into product development organizations and – once again – transform the way leading product development teams collaborate to bring great products into the marketplace?
In short, I think so. The fact is, the increased prevalence of Social Computing presents product development with some compelling new capabilities:
In the tech industry, the "tell me a story" approach to product requirements – personas, user stories, use cases, visualizations, etc. – has made a bigger impact than many people may realize. Not only has this new type of content resolved many problems that existed with requirements, but it has led to a brand new way of looking at requirements. By thinking of requirements as stories, it's easier to figure out what kinds of requirements we need, and why we need them.
A tale of two mini-series
The fundamental question when writing any kind of story is, "What are you trying to convey?" I was thinking of exactly that question while I was watching the HBO mini-series The Pacific. I probably wasn't the only person to expect The Pacific to be the same kind of story as Band Of Brothers, just transplanted from the European to the Pacific theater of operations. I was wrong.
As it turns out, the new series has a very different kind of story to tell. Band Of Brothers depicted the experience of combat, in (literally) gory detail. While The Pacific does have more than enough battle scenes, it also tries to show military life beyond the battlefield. For example, one episode focused on the painful romantic choices that young people stationed in faraway lands have to make. Another episode depicted something rarely seen in war movies, the psychiatric casualties of war. Far more than Band Of Brothers, The Pacific shows more of the atrocious things that young men under brutal, terrifying conditions are capable of doing.