Technology is going through another shift. We’ve had many shifts in the past, but most have really only affected the geeks in IT. Mainframe – > Client server -> web. But this latest shift is touching everyone. The problem is no-one is really sure what this means. But what is clear is that the web is evolving and quickly. And it is going to have a profound impact on how users use applications and therefore how applications look and feel, hence are delivered and therefore are developed.
The thoughts here are limited to users in a business context, although every business user is also a consumer so their expectations are shaped bytheir experiences at home.
More complex, not just different
The demographics of the business user community (users) now covers 3 generations each of which has differing attitude, experience and expectation. The 3 generations we need to worry about are
- Boomers, born 1943-63,
- Gen X, born 1964-81,
- Gen Y born 1982-2001.
What is driving the cloud, social, mobile (csm) is Gen Y.
Gen Y: They are less likely to turn up to things. They are constantly connected and communicate differently. They value open and honest communication. They are civic-minded. They have little interest in a person’s race, gender or sexual orientation. They are earnestly interested in values and corporate responsibility. They want flexible working and work-life balance.
educated, bored by routine, success-driven, lifestyle-centred, anti-commitment, service-minded, environmental, entrepreneurial, opinionated, diverse and goal-orientated
Technology backdrop (Cloud & Mobile)
The technology landscape is changing rapidly. Far faster than we can imagine. Think of the mobile phone in 2005 phone just 5 years ago. Here is a link to the ‘best of 2005’. So it is very difficult to predict what is coming.
Here is a compelling video made by Microsoft to start shaping people’s expectations. Interestingly much of the technology demonstrated is available today. But many of the concepts are probably a step too far for our users.
I was speaking at a recent CIONet event in Amsterdam about the Stealth Cloud. I was interviewed after the session and was asked for my prediction for the next 5 years. I declined to comment but pointed out that I got off the plane at Schipol, checked my calendar on my iPhone, clicked on the address in the event item which launched GoogleMaps. The iPhone knew my location and I asked for directions by public transport which were served up including the time of the next train and walking directions from the railway station, and one click enabled me to see a picture of the building I was aiming for. As little as 12 months ago that would have been sci-fi. So what can we achieve in 5 years – please!!!
However, the majority of clients will not be on the bleeding edge. Which means the technology landscape is getting more complex and more diverse, not easier. At one end clients pushing us to support the latest concepts, and at the other end teams struggling through Windows2000 upgrades. IT departments are longing for the easy life where they only had to worry about Y2K.
The biggest inhibitor to a migration to 100% cloud world is connectivity. Having sat through a very entertaining keynote at Dreamforce it is easy for Mar Benioff to make you believe that Cloud IS THE ONLY WAY. In many, if not most countries around the world users are not 100% connected whilst at work let alone on the move. Let’s pause for a moment and consider what “at work” means for our users. Starting with MOST connected down to least:
– In an office at a desk connected via cable
– In an office at a desk connected wirelessly
– At home connected via home internet connection
– At home connected wirelessly to home internet connection
– In a someone else’s office connected wirelessly via client network
– Travelling with free wifi internet connection (eg airport, coffee shop)
– No wifi so mobile/3G connection, stationary
– No wifi so mobile/3G connection, but travelling (train, car, bus)
– No connection
As devices become cheaper and therefore users own multiple devices as a consumer (tablet, phone, laptop) there will be a pressure for business to allow them to bring them to work – as I suggested in the IQPC article Why the CIO hates Christmas. The alternative is the users will own and probably carry around 2 of each; their own and the (inferior) company provided one. The rise in popularity of the Mac in consumer space based on the success of the iPhone and iPad is putting pressure on IT departments to support it. I read on a blog, so it must be true, that 62% of CIOs have an iPad. The devices that need to be considered are:
– Desktop (PC & Mac)
– Laptop / netbook (PC and Mac)
– Tablet (10” and 7”- iPad/iOS and Android)
– Smartphone (iPhone/iOS, Android, Win7, Blackberry)
These apps are often not enterprise ready, but they have innovative UIs which set an expectation for end users. The big enterprise players are trying to respond but as most have form-filling, data-entry style applications they are limited. Salesforce.com has revised its UI. But we need to look further afield as “touch replaces clicks” for inspiration / guidance, such as Prezi.com and MS pptPlex which are rethinking Death by Powerpoint (same death, jst more entertaining) or MS Canvas for OneNote.
This is the greatest driver of change. A conversation is no longer face to face. Collaboration is IN. It is new and exciting. No it isn’t, Nimbus has had collaboration capabilities for years – Social BPM new and improved. It just dodn;t look like Twitter.
The key sites that are educating users how to collaborate are Facebook and Twitter, increasingly Chatter from Salesforce.com and LinkedIn to a lesser extent. MSLabs have created their version of Chatter called OfficeTalk and there was Google Buzz which flamed out. These interfaces are simple, but are still evolving. Social is at its most powerful when combined with mobile and location services. But critically it is changing the way people think about applications.
Google and Amazon WERE the web. The defined how people worked and operated.
No more. Facebook and Twitter are the new web.
Welcome to the new world.