Posts tagged "innovation"

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.

Webinar on “Intuitive User Experiences”

On Wednesday 28 April, at 11am PT, I’m co-presenting with Ron Rogowski of Forrester Research on “The Value of Creating Intuitive User Experiences”. This online webinar will focus on the approach to creating user-centric applications, and the business value that emerges from intuitive user-experiences.

During this presentation, I’ll be talking about a project my team have been responsible for delivering over the last year, that is internally code-named “Hendrix”. This has been a tremendous collaboration within Adobe, bringing together our TXI team of technologists and user-experience designers with our IT organization, leveraging our 3D methodology for blending user-centric design thinking with agile software engineering, and in turn, creating an application that allows our agents in our contact centers to more effectively service Adobe customers – to help more customers, first time in less time. Every time.

Project Hendrix is something I am very much looking forward to talking more and more about in the days, weeks and months ahead…the business problem we were tackling (which has resonated with a tremendous number of customers to whom I have shown Project Hendrix in Customer Briefings in San Jose), the 3D approach we took to really understanding user needs, and how meeting user needs could meet business goals, as well as getting deep and dirty with the technical details of how we delivered an Experience Oriented Architecture … a tremendously complex implementation of a beautifully simple user-experience that leverages Adobe technology throughout the technology stack to attenuate the complexity of underlying systems such as our SAP CRM system.

It’s incredibly rewarding to have the project going live to our agents, and to be able to begin to talk about it with designers and developers, customer and community, and with the industry at large.

Sign up for the webinar here.

Deliver: Agile Execution aligned to Innovation

Previously, I spoke about “Discover, Define and Deliver” as the 3 Steps to Innovation upon Adobe technology. When describing this “3D Methodology” to customers, I find it’s easiest to start with that which is most familiar – Deliver – and then work back towards the value of Define and Deliver. When all is done, when the observations and insights have sparked an idea for innovation, and the innovation has been distilled into concrete requirements and designs, the Deliver phase is about bringing it all to life. It’s about breathing life into a design, lifting it from paper concept to production code. Deliver is primarily about writing code, pushing it through Quality Assurance and into production.

Deliver is agile…

Wherever possible, the team at Adobe advocates Agile development – and more specifically we advocate Scrum as our methodology of choice. This is indeed consistent with many of the product engineering teams within Adobe, as we more broadly embrace agile and Scrum within Adobe.

Formerly, I was an advocate of XP (Extreme Programming), but laterally, as more of the industry appears to embrace Scrum, as more of our customers embrace Scrum, and with more training and accreditation around the Scrum process, the differences between XP and Scrum are too trivial to matter. That previous link to Mike Cohn’s article highlights “Scrum doesn’t prescribe any engineering practices; XP does” … that being said, we very much advocate and encourage the practices of XP, whether it be coding standards, pair programming, unit-testing and test-driven development, continuous integration, and our teams are continually pushing the state of the art by contributing to tooling to support them, whether that be FlexUnit, FlexPMD, FlexPMD plug-ins, integration with Hudson, etc.

Prototype and Test == Release Early and Often

Throughout the 3D methodology, we strive to create the right environment for innovation. One particular trait of innovation is the ability to prototype and test; one particular trait of agile is release early and often. I think there’s a relationship between the 2 that is interesting.

Tom Kelley of IDEO talks about prototyping as “the shorthand of innovation”. I’d highly recommend reading that article, itself an excerpt from what we consider to be Adobe Technical Services required reading, “The Art of Innovation”. But within Innovation thinking, the importance of getting a working prototype in the hands of users, as a means of creating the opportunity to observe and feedback into the design, is very much established thinking. The team over at IDEO are tremendous at leveraging prototypes in their product design process; there’s a definite opportunity to embrace this kind of thinking and approach in the software product design process.

Within Adobe Technical Services, we will often prototype INCREDIBLY early in the process — oftentimes before we’ve even really undertaken a concise requirements gathering exercise. Prototypes are often deliverables from our Discovery phase, opportunities to explore hunches and insights, to play what-if with customers, or indeed even ourselves, and to stretch our own thinking about how some of the business needs, user goals and technology opportunities could come together in imaginative ways. We create incredibly high-fidelity prototypes, very quickly, either with Flash, with Flex or increasingly with Flash Catalyst…however, these vision prototypes really only take us on a “happy path” through the application. This kind of vision prototyping differentiates us from many others that we work with, and so I plan on talking about this in much more detail over another series of entries.

However, if you consider the agile process of delivering functionality in discrete time-boxes (what XP calls iterations, and Scrum calls sprints), then you recognize that each sprint affords us an opportunity to spin out a prototype that we can test. It takes courage on the part of the customer and the team, to challenge our own assertions mid-flight and to be prepared to course-correct upon learnings. But agile methods embrace change during development; and so the very engineering methodology that empowers us to prototype and test regularly through the development cycle, similarly empowers us to embrace the learnings straight back into the product design, during the manufacture of the design itself (which is in essence, the Deliver phase).

Deliver doesn’t have to be agile…but it helps…

We don’t always follow agile within Delivery, but ad-hoc is never an acceptable alternative. Oftentimes we will lead the delivery phase of projects with an Adobe team, but more likely we will be working alongside our customer’s development team or our ecosystem of Adobe partners. Agile approaches – stories as currency of requirements, feature-driven development and sprints of functionality prioritized according to business value – have proven to be a tremendous means of achieving technology and business domain knowledge transfer; I’d be interested if you have found the same also?

Summary

So when we get into the Deliver phase, we’re really in the midst of a software engineering lifecycle…there’s ongoing user-experience design for sure, but really the bulk of the experience is locked and loaded, in the backlog and ready for implementation. We definitely find that agile methods are conducive to innovation methods in the product design and manufacture, and so advocate them wherever possible. We definitely find that the engineering methods popularised by XP, and more widely embraced by the agile community, are as relevant to development with Adobe technologies as any other, and whereever possible we are contributing to and pushing the state of the art on the tooling to support agile engineering.

Most of the knowledge that we have to share in the Deliver phase comes from the tools, methods and best-practices particular to the technologies we are using, rather than the process or methodology we are using. Many of my colleagues are sharing this information in their own blogs and articles, and I’ll seek to reference them more in future entries.

However, as we push back into the Define phase, where a user-experience moves from concept to idea and to implementation, where we ensure that user-experience designs are satisfied by business and functional requirements and vice versa, where the real collaboration and magic happens between designers and developers, then I think we have a little more insight to share.

And so that’s where I’ll go next, with a similar overview of the kind of challenges we address in our Define phase. I’d love to hear what challenges you’re facing, how and whether you’ve addressed them, so that you might steer the direction of dialogue. By releasing these thoughts early and often, I have the opportunity to evolve them to meet consumer needs…!

3 Steps to Innovation with Adobe Experience Design and Technology

Through a series of posts, I’d like to share ever increasing detail in how the technical services organization within Adobe – comprising user-experience designers and technologists from technical sales and solutions engineers to consultants – consistently approaches the ideation and implementation of solutions upon Adobe technology. Each solution that we innovate follows 3 steps, which we call our “3D Methodology” – Discover, Define and Deliver. Over a series of entries, I’d like to elaborate on each of these steps, as a prelude to sharing more deeply some of the best-practices that have emerged for us from repeated application of our approach.

When I describe “Discover, Define, Deliver” to customers and partners, I find it easiest to describe it from the back to the front…and so this is how I’ll introduce each phase over the coming days:

Deliver: Agile Execution aligned to Innovation

When all is done, when the observations and insights have sparked an idea for innovation, and the innovation has been distilled into concrete requirements and designs, the Deliver phase is about bringing it all to life. It’s about breathing life into a design, lifting it from paper concept to production code.

I’ll talk more about agile development, the adoption of Scrum, and the traits of innovation methods that I believe align with traits of agile software development methods.

Define: where Requirements inform the Design, and the Design informs the Requirements

The industry has long accepted the fate-sealing that occurs when a project commences development/delivery before requirements have been adequately specified. In the 3D methodology, the Define phase commences when we feel we have gained enough insight and observations about user-needs, technology opportunities and strategic business drivers, to have a solution set of opportunities that can be elaborated with the customer into a set of business requirements.

I’ll talk more about design-led innovation, about how we bring together user-experience design methods with agile software development, and resolve tensions that so many of our customers and partners seem to face when bringing design and development teams together. In other cases, we find that there is tremendous lip-service paid to the design process … it’s something we feel strongly about, and dialogue we look forward to entering into in this forum.

Discover: gaining the Insights for Innovation

If Define and Deliver answer the question “how do we build things right’, then Discover answers the question “how do we build the right thing”. In our discovery process, we very much embrace innovation techniques and user-centered design methods that uncover the critical insights that ignite the spark and uncover the soul of an application. In the discovery phase, it is our goal to construct a portfolio of ideas to inform the very requirements that we collect with our customer to gather. These insights come from observation of the very individuals for whom our solutions will be in service.

I very much look forward to sharing our thinking and approach, the tools that we use, the assets that we create, the workshops that we facilitate and the philosophies that guide us in truly stepping back and challenging not just the solution, but the problem itself.

The 3D Playbook

We’ve captured this methodology as a series of individual plays in our “3D Playbook”, a social platform for capturing best-practices in how to set up for success. Should a project wish to, each phase of discover, define and deliver can be followed “by the book”, giving project teams clear guidance on the sequence of workshops, activities and deliverables. Alternatively, a project can be less prescriptive, but embrace the best-practices and philosophies that the plays are there to support, cognizant of the consequences of the plays that are being passed over.

I very much look forward to dipping into our playbook, and sharing with you our approach, the tools we use, the techniques we apply, and the lessons and learnings that we try to pass from one team to another at each stage in the innovation lifecycle.

Summary

We fundamentally believe that solutions delivered upon Adobe technology can establish the state of the art, can set the bar, where the technology is a medium and a means to an end, rather than simply the end itself. If Adobe technology is necessary but not sufficient, then sufficiency comes from the introduction of Innovation, and Innovation is Design-led.

Innovation doesn’t happen “by the numbers”. However, the environments that must be created, the individuals that must be engaged, and the insights that must be gained, can be sequenced and repeated. The practices can be repeated, and the best of these practices can become best-practices. Discover can yield insights for innovation, Define can bring the design and engineering disciplines seamlessly together and Delivery can assure a consistent execution with engineering best-practice.

I’m very much looking forward to sharing in this thinking, and entering into broader dialogue with our customers, partners and community about where we can share more, and what we can learn from the successful implementations that you are each responsible for delivering.

What else can we share ? What do you have to share with us ? Where do we begin ?

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 ?