By Jean-Paul de Vooght
Why do we accept speed as an unquestionable edict in software development? And when we do, we ask ourselves what is the best approach to introduce smart machines without alienating customers in the digital transformation journey?
To understand the origin of speed as a strategic element of software development, let us look at military defense. The introduction of long-range bombers led to the first, major IT-based response effort, design, and implementation of the SAGE computerized air defense system. Next, higher-speed Inter-Continental Ballistic Missiles (ICBMs) further shortened response time requirements, leading to the next generation of a software-intensive defense system—or Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI), a high-tech program with a scale only matched by that of the Manhattan Project.
Technological innovations led the military to accelerate requisite sense-and-respond abilities though breakthroughs leading to speed ups are obviously not limited to defense. The financial sector has also witnessed similar changes with the introduction of high frequency trading. As Klaus Schwab notes, we are entering a fourth industrial revolution compels organizations to reconsider traditional ways of doing business to keep pace with changing technology and consumer expectations. Rather than bombers and ICBMS, breakthroughs come in the form of Internet of Things (IoT), autonomous vehicles, artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, materials science, 3D printing, energy storage, or quantum computing.
Now that we accept the origin of software-intensive systems for improved sense-and-response, we can briefly ask ourselves how this translates to solution design. This question becomes particularly interesting in the recently re-iterated case for Event-Driven Architecture (EDA) by Gartner’s Ann Thomas, precisely acknowledging the need for organizations to address sense-and-respond capabilities. Events are notable things that happen inside or outside organizations.
They indicate the presence of a critical situation, an impending problem, an opportunity, a threshold, or a deviation. Relative to breakthroughs previously mentioned, these events originate increasingly from non-human personas. We introduce IoT personas alongside human personas in the design of software-intensive solutions destined to address technological advances. How do we retain a service design approach that remains user-centric in a world which is less and less exclusively human? Until now, we got away with human-centered design, but as we embrace EDA for this new industrial era, we will see enhanced forms of service design emerge that will be truly differentiating in experiences involving appliances and smart infrastructure.
But there is a flip side to this ability to design for things and humans simultaneously.
Evolution towards event-centricity to meet the need for speed-ups carries an inherent risk, losing touch with customers. This can make businesses paradoxically vulnerable to the very innovation they were addressing. The need to prevent losing focus of the end user—customer, citizen, patient—remains therefore a key consideration in digital transformations baked into our connected approach to service design. It seems antagonistic, but these are two sides of the same coin—one side is about being able to leverage platform capabilities from the vantage point of device autonomy and, on the other side, involves retaining a clear perspective over the experience to avoid alienating humans as we move further towards automation.
This duality can be resolved through a focus on outcomes.
Service design brings product development capabilities to bear. The product mindset enhanced with rapid experimentation, allows us to embrace the multifaceted realities of outcomes in mixed or machine-to-machine contexts. We leverage, for example, the use of personas and blueprint their steps end-to-end, capturing the continuous (re-)negotiation of the relationship between human and machines. These can be referred to as journeys, as they capture idiosyncrasies and will include a systematic capture of events prioritized by relevance. Research and workshop tools—including journey mapping—are tools for capturing outcomes and map surface trajectories that are not exclusively user centric. They are part of a set of artifacts that are used during discovery and envision phases when companies engage on digital transformation efforts.
While these journeys reveal events and needs of machines and humans alike, outcomes remain centered on human endeavors. Therefore, outcomes can be more abstract and will ultimately give rise to, hopefully, exciting confrontations of emotional and machine intelligence, specifically for manufacturing, which is poised for accelerated change.
Jean-Paul de Vooght is the director of client solutions for Ness Digital Engineering.