Posts tagged "design"

Design is on the Enterprise Agenda

Several years ago, I was one of the early adopters of Rich Internet Applications as an opportunity, and would spend a tremendous amount of time in front of prospective customers, evangelizing the need for greater richness, expressiveness and simplicity in the experiences we deliver.  Macromedia coined a tremendous phrase that, “Experience Matters”, but the dialogue I would find myself in with enterprise customers was very much what Geoffrey Moore would call “Provocation Based Selling”.  Provocation-based selling helps customers see their competitive challenges in a new light that makes addressing specific painful problems unmistakably urgent – in the case of Rich Internet Applications, the unmistakably urgent problem was that we were failing to deliver on the promise of the Internet, and that application experiences took a step back from client-server to desktop to web.  I’d say over the last 3 or 4 years, evidence that the provocation towards early adopters is no longer necessary, and that there is now mass market acceptance of the need for richer user-experiences, could be qualitatively measured by the fact that I no longer have to provoke, I no longer have to say why.

Fast forward a little, and the dialogue in the enterprise boardroom was less about Why? and increasingly about Why Adobe?   And so in this phase of our enterprise maturity around more effective digital experiences, the conversation would move more towards “Flex versus Laszlo”, “Flex versus AJAX”, “Flash versus Silverlight”.  As executives understood the present problem posed by the provocation, they sought to understood the technology to anaesthetise their pain.

But if I’m honest, I rarely engage in that dialogue anymore.  Whether I visit a customer, or whether a customer visits me in our Customer Briefing Center, it is much less common for me to be engaged in discussion of technology versus technology.  However, there is a new provocation today, and it’s the most enjoyable one yet and it’s an incredible differentiator for success.  Technology is necessary but not sufficient…irrespective of the vendor selection to deliver a richer experience, the delivery of a compelling experience, one that resolves the dynamic tension between the ROI the business seeks, and the tasks and goals their users wish to achieve, is not a technology problem.

It is a Design problem.

I am incredibly excited at the opportunity to play a role in this provocation, and to observe in front of Adobe’s customers how the provocation is also moving the importance of experience design in the enterprise from an opportunity for the early adopters, to a necessity for the emerging mass market.  Though customers like Morgan Stanley may have had the courage, the insight and the balance sheet drivers through which they understood the opportunity behind the provocation, they have created a bar that their competitors and peers now either choose to bang their head on, or also take a new approach to clear.

The approach is Design-thinking, and the approach demands that software engineers, business analysts and organizational behavior embrace and absorb designers, and Design thinking.

I’m very much looking forward to a 2-day event in New York next week, where Adobe is bringing together it’s enterprise customers and developers with it’s community of design talent and design customers.  As Design and Technology collides in the Enterprise, we are incredibly fortunate and excited to have both of those communities available to us.  Consider joining us, by signing up at http://www.engagewithadobe.com/

I would also encourage you to read Rob Tarkoff’s post here.  Rob is the Senior Vice President of our Digital Enterprise Solutions business unit, and is really driving this collision of Design Thinking and Technology Innovation in our enterprise offering.

We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again.  Experience Matters.  Business has never looked Better.

Presenting on Intuitive Experiences with Flex + SAP in Palo Alto

Next Friday, I’m co-presenting with Matthias Zeller (Group Product Manager, LiveCycle Mosaic) at the SAP Inside Track 2010 event in Palo Alto, Ca. We are presenting a technical deep-dive on Project Hendrix, explaining how Adobe is able to leverage it’s own technologies, including Flex, LiveCycle Data Services, LiveCycle ES, LiveCycle Collaboration Service and LiveCycle Mosaic, to deliver the best imaginable experience for end-users upon an existing SAP CRM infrastructure.

Our abstract for our presentation is as follows:

“In this presentation, Steven Webster and Matthias Zeller will demonstrate how to create innovative and intuitive user-experiences upon existing SAP solutions by leveraging Adobe technologies including Flex and LiveCycle. Project Hendrix is an internal application to Adobe, developed to empower agents in contact centers around the world to help more customers, first time, in less time, every time. Built atop an existing investment in SAP CRM, the innovations in user-experience provide an interface that allows agents to focus on performing their tasks simply, easily and effectively, hiding from them the complexities of numerous underlying enterprise systems. Steven and Matthias will demonstrate the application and user-experience, before deep-diving into the technical details and best-practices that enable this Flex interface to be moulded upon SAP by technology integrations such as LiveCycle Data Services and JCO. They will challenge product engineering teams to think about how to bring design into the engineering process, share Adobe’s approach to bringing user-experience design, business requirements and software delivery together, and introduce the concept of “Experience Oriented Architecture” as a design and development approach to fusing Rich Internet Applications and Service Oriented Architecture. SAP development has never looked better.”

A number of our enterprise customers and partners have significant investments and experience in developing complex, mission and business critical systems upon SAP. What we have shown with Hendrix, is how we can realize additional return on these enterprise investments, unlocking further ROI through a design process, and by creating simpler, easier and more effective user experiences that are more useful, more usable and more desirable.

If you’re going to be in or around Palo Alto, I’d love to catch up with you at the event…you can find more details here.

SAP development has never looked better.

Why I dislike Devigners (and never buy fried chicken in Marin)

Take a look at this photo, of a sign that I drive past every single day…clearly someone at KFC decided that they could lift some stock imagery, adhere to brand guidelines, use the corporate approved font, and create for themselves a sign that would ensure that people honored the 1-way drive through system appropriately. I can’t say for sure, but it’s consistent with so many conversations I’m privvy to — we don’t need one of those designers, just give us the templates/some examples/some guidelines/some best practices and we can do the design ourselves. But seriously …. I wonder if there’s a correlation between the Colonel himself warning you not to enter his establishment, and the fact that I rarely see any customers as I drive past. I’m often asked “what’s the return on investment of design” – in fact I was challenged to address this question last year at Adobe’s Analyst Briefing in San Jose. My position was that you should really restate the problem as “what is the ROI that you believe exists in the solution you are developing; design isn’t a line item that delivers ROI of its own, rather than the process that unlocks the available ROI in the solution”.

kfc_donotenter.jpg

Because that’s the crux of it … if your problem is customer retention or customer acquistion, if your problem is shopping cart abandonment or number of customers who give up midway through a loan application, or if your problem is customer satisfaction for an online self-service experience, then you likely know your performance, and you have some sense according to industry convention or expectation, as to where benchmark performance is.

I wonder what would happen to the footfall in Mill Valley’s KFC, if “DO NOT ENTER” instead said “WAY OUT”, “EXIT ONLY” or “DRIVE THRU AT THE NEXT ENTRANCE !”

Once you understand that ROI that’s available in any given initiative, the Design process offers a much more user-centric approach to solving the problem and unlocking the ROI. While technology – whether that be Adobe technology such as Flex, AIR, LiveCycle ES, LiveCycle Collaboration Server, or another technology – may enable a solution that realizes the ROI, the design process is the difference between a solution built upon that technology that unlocks the ROI, and a solution built upon the technology that doesn’t.

Customers and partners will often ask me if our User Experience team can share some documents or papers that outline “UX practices”, or if we can create some “example screens” that can be used as baselines for someone without design in their DNA to cookie cut every other screen. When I’m asked this, I always think about KFC in Marin…about the logic that suggested that with some sample assets, some photoshop comps, some brand guidelines and the right fonts installed on the computer, customers could be steered in the entrance and out the exit in their droves.

For sure I’ve met some developers who happen to be incredible designers (they’re usually designers who manage to become developers, I think I’m yet to meet anyone who crossed over in the other direction) but they are the exception rather than the norm.

Design is a process, and designers are professionals that drive and participate in that process. I think the real opportunity isn’t to turn designers into developers, or developers into designers…it’s to find approaches, processes and methodologies that create the handshakes between the two, and to create tools (like Flash Catalyst) that facilitate these handshakes and workflows.

In the meantime, if you are working on a project, or with a customer, who is seeking “devigners”, or where “the business analyst” or “the project manager” is “designing the screens”, then maybe you should play a little chicken with them.

Welcome to TXI

It’s somewhat of a habit, to post a blog entry with a leading apology for how long I’ve posted a blog entry…over a year in this case. However, it has been a tremendously interesting year at Adobe, building a team called “TXI” (Technology and Experience Innovation) of Technologists and User Experience Designers to deliver on a common belief that the most innovative and effective applications of Adobe technology, are the fusion of great user-experience design and great technology implementations.

You’ll know many of my team already, from the work they have already shared with the community — whether it’s technologists like Alistair McLeod, Peter Martin, Paul Barnes-Hoggett, Yaniv de Ridder, Francois Le Droff, or user-experience designers like George Neill, Jerome Doran, Kalle Korman, James Mellers or Dusty Brown. Along with their numerous other peers spread in our team from Romania to California, this team is responsible for really driving the state of the art in “what’s possible” with Adobe technology and design. In many instances, it’s in the solutions that we deliver for Adobe’s most strategic customers, in other instances it’s working with our partners and system integrators to help drive that thinking into their solutions, and in other instances still that team faces inwards, creating the applications and experiences that allow Adobe to better serve our ecosystem.

Along the way, we’re continually evolving how we think about bringing designers and developers together. We create tools, we derive techniques, we adapt software development methodologies like SCRUM to user-centered design techniques. We find ourselves deriving recurring patterns, whether these be software patterns, technology best-practices, or user-experience patterns that can improve interactions from one problem domain to the next. And it all culminates in the work the team delivers, and is proud of delivering.

I am missing an opportunity sharing our thoughts as we go, and collecting your thoughts along the way. And this is a tremendous vehicle for doing so.

There’s 4 things I care most about when I think about creating best imaginable experiences:

I care about Adobe technology; I truly believe that the phenomenal work of our product teams gives us the fabrics, the materials, the tools and the techniques to carve the most aesthetic, most effective and simple experiences, as abstractions to the most complex, robust and scalable enterprise solutions. And the more our technology platform matures, the more the world shifts to software that works the way people work, not the way systems work, the more experience matters, then the more I get excited about the opportunities we see not just to create effective veneers upon complex enterprise systems, but the more I see incredible integrations between our platform technologies and run-times, our creative products in the enterprise, our video and media products. Enterprise workflows, creative workflows, the seamless blend from virtual to just-in-time manufacturing, the production, protection and monetization of interactive media content, all present an incredible array of technologies from which to craft and carve solutions.

I care about Technology. More than just Adobe technology, but trends, directions, innovations and opportunities. Innovation is so often a product of cross-pollenation; taking ideas from one ecosystem and germinating them in another. Tracking trends and innovations in the wider technology ecosystem is the manner by which we ensure that we have the most advanced bricks and mortars to bring experiences to life; and as the materials we work with evolve, that in turns informs the experiences we are able to deliver. Design informs technology, but technology can also inform design.

And I care about Design. More than anything else. Technology is in service of the user, the customer, the citizen … it is necessary but not sufficient. Adobe has an incredible community of designers and creative professionals, and an incredible community of developers and engineers. The consumerization of IT, the trends in the industry from system centric to people centric applications, all bring mass market realization to the importance of Design in the software development process. This is something we are incredibly passionate about…we believe that design and development is a handshake, not a handover, and our people, our skills, our tools, our processes and our methodologies have evolved to bring these disciplines together (but not to create “devigners”, an inmate in disguise who still pulls strings in the day to day running of the asylum).

And all of this ? Adobe products, Technology trends and Design thinking ? To me, they are in service of Innovation. For that is what drives us, that is what keeps this team ticking, that is why customers engage us, why partners listen to us, and why in turn we enjoy immersing ourselves in our customers business, walking in their customers shoes, and understanding our partners opportunities. By bringing together our technology and design, we have an incredible opportunity as an industry to Innovate.

How can that not be exciting ?

So being the things that we care about as a team, these are the things we care about sharing. And in return, we hope to learn as much from you in return.

Where do we start ?