By Doug Brockway and Ilja Vinogradov
The consumerization of IT, which the use of third-party cloud services and applications such as cloud storage and social media and Bring Your Own Device (BYOD), are driving an irreversible trend in the way businesses and their staffs produce and consume information. The impact goes far beyond satisfying the desires of individuals to use their own devices and not be hassled about it. In acceding to that trend business also stands up to the need to change the way the information and transactions in corporate systems are consumed. This leads to transformations in applications portfolios, in business process and business results.
The first steps in BYOD came with Wintel notebooks, then Macs were added, and now mobile devices, tablets and smart phones. As-is, the information displayed is not consumable by mobile devices. The different screen sizes require different UI layouts. The point and click interactions upon which “industrial” systems rely is confounded by the touch interaction of a tablet; your iPad has no right click, it’s hard to double click on your Android.
But, while most companies now spend considerable time and energy on UI and UX for a mobile device world across multiple vendors there’s a deeper issue, a deeper opportunity at play. The core systems that run our corporations and our institutions are “Functional Systems” or as Clay Shirky has called them, “Web School” systems, where scalability, generality, and completeness were the key virtues. They use “enterprise design practices” in that from the back-end to the UX the designs put all the function one might need to cover all the situations one might encounter across a homogenous set of “users.” Web School systems are “closed” systems. Their function is designed for consumption only in a pre-defined manner using an application UI. These web-enabled apps are designed to provide maximum functionality with minimal amount of screens, for the most part to reduce development cost per user.
Increasingly we are finding that breaking this paradigm by combining “situational design” front-end systems with “cleanly implemented” core systems creates the optimal solutions. This means designing mobile apps that are optimized to allow increasingly targeted groups to accomplish particular tasks as quickly as possible. These apps sacrifice some functionality found in Web School systems in return for targeted relevance (Economies of Scope). These systems are “open” in that their function can be consumed not only by different humans but by other applications as well. Think of localization not just for nationalities and languages. Think of localization in the sense of the engineering data needed in the field is different from that in the lab or the timeliness of CRM data and the sales reporting needs of a SME channel are different from that of selling to large corporations.
In this world good design keeps the mobile part of the technology ecosystem as simple as possible from implementation point of view. The complexity is pushed to backend, to middleware and to so-called “smart process apps.” This is where the different transactions are created, the different views to data. A useful analog is the concept of “software agents” – making business process components that respond to individualized environments, i.e. software that enables decisions of real and tangible value.
Because users are on the move and business needs are in constant flux they need capabilities to be developed quickly, customized to immediate need, and at a low enough cost to have very short payback period. These systems may be in use for some time but the economics allow them to be treated as throw-away solutions. Marc Andreesen showed in “Why Software is Eating the World” that the costs of building such targeted-use systems has dropped and will continue to drop precipitously. This also allows for design and development emphasis on time to market, especially time to materially, positively affect employee productivity.
It is the customization, the lower costs of ownership, the continuous alignment to business need, the “enterprise agility” that makes strategically thoughtful actions to take advantage of consumerization and BYOD transformational.