IBM Injects Design Religion Into Software Development

David Aponovich

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.

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Get Bullish On Software: Three Data Points From Our Business And Software Decision-Maker Surveys

Kyle McNabb

I’m bullish on software — specifically design and engineering — and I’m starting to see that many of today’s business leaders share that opinion as they come to terms with digital disruption and the age of the customer’s impact on their competitive strategies. I hear this often as I travel to meet with both business and IT leaders, and I increasingly see it in the survey data we annually collect. What do I see in our most recent Forrsights Business Decision-Makers Survey, Q4 2012 and Forrsights Software Survey, Q4 2012 results? Software, from design through development, matters:

  • Business leaders have revenue growth first and foremost on their minds. On average, 70% of these business leaders place a high or critical priority on revenue growthcustomer acquisition and retention, and addressing rising customer experience expectations for 2013. Our data suggests business leaders are 50% more likely to identify these as critical initiatives than they do margin improvement or reducing operating costs. Growth and customer experience improvement take business priority.
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