At a recent software summit for industry analysts in Stamford, CT, IBM made a big point of showing off some of its newest employees. They’re not computer scientists from top engineering schools like MIT or Carnegie Mellon, but visual designers, interaction pros and user experience experts from design schools like Rhode Island School of Design and Pratt -- urban hipsters in a sea of button-down IBM’ers.
This is part of IBM’s growing effort to embed “design thinking” into software development across its portfolio. Central to the effort is the new IBM Design Studio in Austin, TX, led by design general manager Phil Gilbert. The group is recruiting design-minded professionals by the hundreds to help inject human-centered design principles into next-generation business software. They work closely with software teams to rethink interaction models and influence what’s coming out next.
The facility has also hosted dozens of high ranking execs from across IBM in “design camp” events aimed at teaching the relevance and importance of design-centered thinking across the company.
“We are attacking this transformation from the bottom, top, and (everywhere) in between,” said Gilbert.
This isn’t just an effort to make software look good. Software vendors are realizing that to be competitive, software products must have powerful capabilities, function smoothly, streamline complexity and be usable across a spectrum of people, regardless of their technical skill.
As I write this, I am in seat 1A of United flight 1607 from Philly to Houston. playing on the screen in front of me is CNBC. I make no secret of my disdain for much of the so called "news media" so I won't launch into my usual rant there (there are some superb journalists out there, but Murrow and Cronkite must be rolling in their graves!). I am bristling over the coverage right now that is focused on the 787's latest woes. As usual, the talking heads are clueless and painting a doomsday scenario for Boeing! It's a bunch of finance people who don't understand the engineering realities. They're smart bean counters, but not engineers. I am an old engineer, so let me shed light on what the Wall Street mouths don't know. There is an important lesson here for I&O leaders!
Cosmopolitan magazine certainly doesn't publish articles such as "Seven Hairstyles That Will Make Your Man Yawn." Wildly desirable is more like it. And so too, is it with great software. If you want your applications to be successful, you better make them wildly desirable.
My latest published research has identified seven key qualities that all applications must exhibit to be wildly desirable, with our choices based on research and inquiries on software design and architecture; assessment advisories with clients; and interviews with leading experts, including both practitioners and academics.
Forrester defines the seven qualities of software as:
The common requirements that all software applications must satisfy to be successful: user experience, availability, performance, scalability, adaptability, security, and economy.
All seven qualities are important, but if you get the user experience (UX) wrong, nothing else matters.
The UX is the part of your application that your employees and/or customers see and use daily. You can do an exceptional job on project management, requirements gathering, data management, testing, and coding, but if the user experience is poor, your results still be mediocre — or even a complete failure.