An angry man

I was once an angry man.  Well, I’m still kind of angry I guess, but it is more of a dull ache than a throbbing, burning desire to destroy.  So what caused the difference?

Many different things including eating properly, exercising properly, getting enough sleep and realizing that sometimes people just don’t know any better.  That last point, that people just don’t know any better, was emphasized recently due to some events that occurred in my wife’s family.  I realized that sometimes, for reasons totally beyond the control of the person, certain “value systems” were never introduced or emphasized.

When I grew up (here I go remembering the past again) my parents always quizzed me about my report card and why I get certain grades.  They wanted to make sure that I was working hard at trying to improve.  They wanted me to know that my marks, while important, were secondary to my efforts to making my marks better.  If I wasn’t making the effort how could I improve? 

We live in a world that is constantly changing.  What was once a good profession may, with the introduction of technology, become a dead end street with no light at the end of the tunnel.  What may have been a good career choice out of high school may not even exist any more.  When was the last time you saw a telephone booth on the corner of a street?

Improving, making the effort, these are important in life, particularly in the career path you choose.  You should be anxious to learn new things.  There should be a desire to become better, a desire to improve, a desire to strive for excellence.  I can tell you about the Microsoft Virtual Academy, I can tell you about Channel 9, I can point you in the direction of instruction manuals and tips and tricks, but I can’t make you want to learn.  I can’t make you want to improve.  You have to do that yourself.  You have to have the desire to get better, the desire to improve, the desire to learn.

The IT industry changes quite frequently, sometimes in advance of society and sometimes as a reaction to society, but the ebb and flow of change is fundamental to the core of what IT does.  If you don’t change just remember that corner telephone booths didn’t last forever.

The Changing Experience

When I was younger and personal computers were just making their way into the work place there was the role of the “interface designer”.  When your world consisted of an 80×24 text based screen (an IBM 3270 terminal) there wasn’t a lot of flexibility in what you could do.  Things changed with the introduction of a graphical user interface (GUI) and the “interface designer” became the “GUI designer”.  The purpose was the same, however, get the user to enter in some information so that the big back end systems could process them.

When the World Wide Web (aka “The Internet” although it is only just a part of it) came on board the “GUI designer” became a “web designer”.  And while the web is still where many/most things are being done the role of “web designer” has changed.  It morphed into what some people have called a “customer experience designer” or what other people have a “digital experience designer”.  My personal preference is “digital experience designer” (DX) as I think the experience of the client extends beyond what they see on the screen.

The DX designer’s purpose is to ensure that the entire experience with a product / organization meets the needs of the client, not the needs of the organization and this is a somewhat different focus than traditional development.  Normal development is based on the needs/desires of the organization whereas a DX designer takes those needs and translates them into something that a customer will want or will save the customer time.

For instance, if you go through the ApplyAlberta system to apply to a College/University one of the requirements is a transcript of you marks.  Rather than having the student provide those transcripts the post secondary institution makes a request for the transcript on behalf of the student.  An existing business requirement (transcript) is still satisfied, but is done in a manner that eases the burden on the student.  Their entire experience, their entire digital interaction is what comprises the digital experience, not just the single interaction with the web site.

And therein lies part of the problem.  Mobile devices outsell desktops and laptops by a wide margin.  It is estimated that this year more people will be accessing the Internet through a mobile device than through laptops/desktops.  So, where are the mobile versions of many of our applications?  Even a site with responsive web design would go a long way towards making the digital experience, when viewed through a mobile device, a more acceptable route.  Unfortunately, when I look at many sites, not just within the GoA, but world wide, the sites are not mobile friendly.  My fingers are not narrow, dainty things that I can use to point with extreme precision.  They are blunt instruments that work quite well at pounding the keys of my keyboard.  I want, I need, the digital experience that I desire.  The companies that provide that experience get my business and that is one reason why Amazon is probably one of my more frequently visited sites.  Not only do they have a mobile friendly website, but an application that I can install to get an even better experience.

Building a better digital experience does not need to be expensive, but it does require a solid foundation upon which to build this experience.  By creating applications and services that provide the basis for this foundation we position ourselves to take advantage of changes in requirements with a greatly reduced effort.

We need to build for the future not the past.

Digital Disruption

There is a lot of talk about the “Digital Disruption” occurring in a variety of industries and the impact that it is happening.  Examples are all over the place and include:

  • Music.  The introduction and proliferation of MP3 formatted files caused a tremendous shift not only to the recording industry, but to retail stores as well.  Whereas there once used to be multiple “record shops” almost adjacent to each other, they are now few and far between.
  • Movies.  The movie industry fought the digital delivery of movies tooth and nail and yet Netflix is now the largest consumer of bandwidth in the world.  Depending upon which report you read during Prime Time in the United States it exceeds 50% of all network traffic (spam included).
  • Software.  There used to be a lot of computer stores that stocked row after row of games and utilities and other packages that you could purchase and run on your computer at home.  The vast majority of software delivery currently occurs through downloading the application over the Internet.  No more manufacturing costs associated with the product anymore.
  • Books. Lots of disruption in this area as people purchase Kindles, Kobos and other eBook readers to consume their literature.  While sales in digital form have not outpaced sales in traditional formats, that time is quickly approaching.

The items listed above are very transformative in nature in that an existing industry no longer looks the same after the disruption has occurred.  There are, however, disruptions that occur that don’t change the industry so much as they change the perception of the industry or just increase the user satisfaction with the industry or company.

Let’s go back to Books for a moment.  When Amazon came along they made a significant impact on the publishing industry by giving people the opportunity to browse and purchase a huge selection of books, a selection so large that your local bookstore was unable to match the breadth of offering.  But here is one of the things that you may not know.  Not all of the books that you could order from Amazon were actually “real” books.  A number of the books were printed “on demand”.  You order the book, the book gets printed and then shipped to you.  A print run of one.  All you need is the digital image of the book and you can print it.

The recent advances in 3D printing have the potential to impact people in ways they never knew.  Imagine going to a parts store, a really small parts store, for a particular part for your dishwasher.  They have the “part”, but it will take 15 minutes to make it for you.  Or, for those more adventurous, you download the plans off the Internet and make it yourself.

We have a lot of things at our fingertips:  video, music, books, software.  Why not parts?  Granted plastic parts will be the easiest, but you honestly don’t believe that the process and the evolution of “printing” is just going to stop with plastic, do you?  Carbon fiber?  Soft metals?  Harder metals?  A complete fabrication plant in a box?  Food?  No, that one is already coming.