Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Surface takes precedence over Structure!

One of the prominent consequences of Apple iPhone phenomenon is the shift in technology buyers' focus towards Industrial Design and User Experience. This trend has caught up with every aspect of Technology - be it Consumer Technology or Enterprise Technology.

Whatsoever be the application of Technology, Consumers have started to ask - Does it activate my senses beyond just being passive and functional? - Evokes positive / Feel good emotions when you use the product, Its simple and doesn't make you think, It is asthetically designed in every little detail that I feel proud about it and talk to my social/professional circle about the technology?. Aesthatics/Meticulous design also implicitly states that the supplier has taken every effort to produce a great product.

Last but not the least, Apple also demonstrated outstanding marketing when it launched all its new generation devices. Remember, Palm has been the innovative company both in touch phones and App ecosystem long ago. Despite that fact, people queued up in hours to buy iPhones.

How does this factor influence the Architecture practice - especially Enterprise Architecture.

I should say quite a lot. It has generated a significant inequality in terms of IT investments. Earlier, the mandate to enterprise architecture was 'Show me the money'. We filled the gap with Business cases.Today, its not just 'Show me the money' but 'Show me how cool it is/Show me how it works in when it comes alive'. If a strategic initiative doesn't meet either of the criterion, its doomed for failure.

Traditionally, be it Software Architecture or Enterprise IT Architecture focused all their energies toward setting standards/specifications towards the structure of the system. The structure usually signify the skeletal framework of the system (be it a single application or the entire Enterprise IT) that defines the internal organization of the components and their evolution.

Software/Enterprise IT Architecture has it roots from Software Engineering and hence it focused more on Technology and its Quality of Service. Structure of the systems are implicit characteristics and they can be only measured by overt mechanisms like Human X-Rays.

I do want to mention the fact that these X-Ray are gaining prominence in the Software Architecture space in the last couple of years.I have personally used tools like Sonar Technical Debt that can scan the software codebase and report the health of internal structure. Result - its not just developers, the management stakeholders were able to appreciate the metrics.

The implicit structures don't manifest themselves upfront and it requires a lot of effort to understand and appreciate the Architecture. And that becomes a biggest challenge for Architecture adoption in this time-starved generation.

The challenge facing practising Enterprise Architects is - How do we make Enterprise Architecture visibly manifest its great qualities?

We have all banked upon Architecture Tools, Excels, PowerPoints Visios and Analytics/Metrics to backup. Going forward, all these tools are definitely required. However, We need a new breed of tools/techniques that takes lessons from Industrial Design and User Experience and make Enterprise Architect successful and much more productive!

The new Tools/Techniques could include - Visual Models for industry verticals, Simulations, Animated Models & Gamification. All these are interactive techniques that could help in powerful storyboarding of the strategic initiatives.

The point is - What you see on the surface makes the first impression and sometimes it takes the precedence over the internal structure of the system. The challenge is to keep the balance between both and not compromising either of the aspect. While too much of focus on surface will end up in a frothy/weak product,too much of structural focus will end up having no takers.

Have been reading 'Experience Economy' and its quite interesting though the book was written few years ago, the paradigm is more relevant in today's times than ever.

The takeaway from this book resonates with this post - Every business is turning to be an experience/show business. Hence ability to put up a good show in orchestrating various themes/elements is the key towards creating highly profitable/growing businesses.

In my view, this message applies to corporate workforce as well - Every profesison within the corporate workforce need to not only deliver but innovatively market its offerings to its stakeholders to survive and grow!

1 comment:

Venky said...

Interesting thoughts. To your question:How do we make Enterprise Architecture visibly manifest its great qualities? My POV would be we might want to relook at that question. I wouldn't include the word visibly in ur question, probably. Let me tell where I am coming from. It concurs with your observations around Implicit structures. Few months back I came across a video by Jonathan Ive where he talks about his Zen philosophy of design at Apple. What he said intrigued me. He said the intention would be to get design out of the way. The forms develop with reason. It almost feels undesigned. As you rightly pointed out on design, I think we would be inevitably moving towards such a state where enterprise architecture is designed the same way. It also seems to concur with what you talked about Situational Applications. If we take an example of a product, for instance, emergent collaboration platforms, most of them define the way the collaboration happens. We might have to rethink emergent collaboration tools based on this..