A question of depth

2 Mar 2005 - 7:39am
9 years ago
15 replies
375 reads
kjnarey
2004

I had a very interesting conversation with a customer who insisted that
their [very well documented] 'business process' was wholly separate from any
human or system interaction. On further investigation I found notable
evidence of human involvement.

This is a common 'traditional' attitude in the manufacturing and automotive
sectors as their is an historically, well defined supply chain. IT plays a
fundamental role in that supply chain and tends to rely heavily on a
pre-defined business process i.e. well established mainframe applications,
that are undergoing change to increase productivity. The current tendency is
to look heavily at the business process, propose changes to that and
identify risk through business and systems analysis - no humans are tested
to validate these decisions.

In terms of business effect, how far do we collectively feel IxD goes? Can
we go as far as to say that IxD activities should now define (or assist in
defining?) business processes instead of the current status quo? Or are we
(and always will be...) the presentation layer of a piece of
software/physical product?

Kevin

Comments

2 Mar 2005 - 9:08am
Robert Reimann
2003

Businesses do business through humans interacting with
software and each other. Thus it seems reasonable that
IxD has something significant to offer in the development
of business processes.

IMO, IxD has *never* been just about the presentation
layer, but rather about product (and service) definition
as a whole. Digital products and services are defined
by their behavior, and IxD is all about behavior.

Robert.

-----Original Message-----
From:
discuss-interactiondesigners.com-bounces at lists.interactiondesigners.com
[mailto:discuss-interactiondesigners.com-bounces at lists.interactiondesign
ers.com] On Behalf Of kjnarey
Sent: Wednesday, March 02, 2005 7:40 AM
To: 'Interaction Designers'
Subject: [ID Discuss] A question of depth

[Please voluntarily trim replies to include only relevant quoted
material.]

I had a very interesting conversation with a customer who insisted that
their [very well documented] 'business process' was wholly separate from
any human or system interaction. On further investigation I found
notable evidence of human involvement.

This is a common 'traditional' attitude in the manufacturing and
automotive sectors as their is an historically, well defined supply
chain. IT plays a fundamental role in that supply chain and tends to
rely heavily on a pre-defined business process i.e. well established
mainframe applications, that are undergoing change to increase
productivity. The current tendency is to look heavily at the business
process, propose changes to that and identify risk through business and
systems analysis - no humans are tested to validate these decisions.

In terms of business effect, how far do we collectively feel IxD goes?
Can we go as far as to say that IxD activities should now define (or
assist in
defining?) business processes instead of the current status quo? Or are
we (and always will be...) the presentation layer of a piece of
software/physical product?

Kevin

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2 Mar 2005 - 9:41am
Coryndon Luxmoore
2004

I my experience there are two ways that business processes are approached. One is from a top down analysis that is abstracted from the actual implementation of the process and is primarily focused on how the process supports the goals of the business. This includes abstraction from the IT as well as actual user behavior. The second is by working from the ground up as to what is possible and desirable using the available technology, policies, and procedures to execute the business goals. The second part is much more common in most businesses today since it more common to have to adjust and existing process to gain some efficiencies allowed by new technologies or to meet new market conditions.

Generally both approaches must be taken for the process to be truly successful. Interaction design has a greater contribution to make to the second part of this development. It is during the second part of this process that we encounter practical obstacles to the successful execution of the business process. Creating a successful experience and business is dependant of resolving these issues in a way that is inline with the more abstract business process.

I once worked with a catalog retailer who used price incentives by market segment in their catalogs to generate sales volume but was having a hard time migrating that business model/process to the single integrated online catalog that customers expected. The interaction design problems and order processing problems that this created was ruining their online channel since the prices, item numbers, and promotions were not aligning and the site was confusing and frequently would not work. It was only through changes in the business processes that we were able to address these issues and create a successful experience.

--Coryndon

2 Mar 2005 - 10:29am
Petteri Hiisilä
2004

Coryndon Luxmoore wrote:
> [Please voluntarily trim replies to include only relevant quoted material.]
>
> I my experience there are two ways that business processes are approached.
> ...
> Generally both approaches must be taken for the process to be truly successful.

To my experience there's a missing link. Business analysts refine things
top-down. They create so called "requirements" that are handled down to
the IT guys, who try to reach the business goals from the bottom up.

Their boat is leaking. They notice that something's wrong and buy bigger
pumps to fix it. More analysts, more requirements, more engineering,
more programming, more testing.

I agree completely with Robert: "Businesses do business through humans
interacting with software and each other ... Digital products and
services are defined by their behavior, and IxD is all about behavior."

This applies to most digital age business forms, and it's hard to spot
businesses who don't have digital systems & digital behavior in the very
core of their processes.

Best,
Petteri

--
Petteri Hiisilä
Palveluarkkitehti / Interaction Designer /
Alma Media Interactive Oy / NWS /
+358505050123 / petteri.hiisila at almamedia.fi

"I was told there's a miracle for each day that I try"
- John Petrucci

2 Mar 2005 - 10:51am
Coryndon Luxmoore
2004

Petteri Hiisilä said:
> To my experience there's a missing link. Business analysts refine things
> top-down. They create so called "requirements" that are handled down to
> the IT guys, who try to reach the business goals from the bottom up.

This is where I have seen the opportunity for IxD to contribute most successfully. Successful business processes have to be calculable for the IT guys and understandable for the users in order to work. There are many organizations that refuse to modify in-calculable and unusable processes but they run the risk of being punished with degraded business performance and efficiency. Any good business will rationalize and modify their processes against reality. The really good ones will throw away the ones that no longer make sense over time.

I believe the question at hand is not what Robert said but HOW and WHEN we can contribute. We generally as a profession (with rare exception) do not have the training or authority to participate in the top down creation of processes but we have a huge amount of credibility and authority to contribute to the bottom up execution of those processes.

--Coryndon

2 Mar 2005 - 12:17pm
Dan Saffer
2003

With so many business schools now teaching design (and visa versa),
design on the cover of Business Week practically every other month,
designers now designing organizations and government systems, and
Harvard Business School last year declaring MFA as the new MBA, I
thought this was sort of settled. But maybe not. :)

Dan

Dan Saffer
M. Design Candidate, Interaction Design
Carnegie Mellon University
http://www.odannyboy.com

2 Mar 2005 - 12:25pm
Bill DeRouchey
2010

On Wed, 2 Mar 2005, Dan Saffer wrote:

> With so many business schools now teaching design (and visa versa),
> design on the cover of Business Week practically every other month,
> designers now designing organizations and government systems, and
> Harvard Business School last year declaring MFA as the new MBA, I
> thought this was sort of settled. But maybe not. :)

On that note, here's a hybrid program: Stanford's new d.institute,
headed by David Kelley, founder of IDEO and Stanford professor.

http://www.stanford.edu/group/dschool/index.html

(Of course, they can't make up their mind if it's d.school or
d.institute.)

Bill

2 Mar 2005 - 12:48pm
kjnarey
2004

Coryndon wrote:

>but we have a huge amount of credibility and authority to contribute to the
bottom up execution
>of those processes.

Yes, but do we have the credibility and authority in the wider marketplace?
I've not seen a great deal of evidence of this yet, although I'm expecting
to see further growth over the next couple of years.* Personally, whilst
decidedly mundane, I think the raison d'etre will be when we are recognised
through the more formal business channels such as Gartner reports - as
Interaction Design.

I see this happening when it is formally recognised through quantitative
global evidence that IxD does have a significant impact on business process
and that the behaviour of a product [hyperlink to Robert's comments] is the
focal point of it's success in the marketplace. If our target is to purely
execute process rather than direct it, I fear we will always have acceptance
problems, because IxD will always be seen as a separate billable option -
not a default activity.

Kevin

*To qualify that statement, I'm looking broadly at the European market place
with a current focus on Manufacturing and Automotive coupled with sporadic
world views from MIT and UK Design verticals.

2 Mar 2005 - 12:47pm
Coryndon Luxmoore
2004

Dan Saffer said:
> I thought this was sort of settled. But maybe not. :)

Well in theory it is but reality has yet to catch up :P.

I would love to hear other peoples war stories on how they have sucessfully changed business processes through thier work as IxD'rs. Dealing with this issue tactically is where i have had some of the most fun (and pain) as a designer.

--Coryndon

2 Mar 2005 - 12:55pm
Dan Saffer
2003

On Mar 2, 2005, at 12:47 PM, Coryndon Luxmoore wrote:

> Dan Saffer said:
>> I thought this was sort of settled. But maybe not. :)
>
> Well in theory it is but reality has yet to catch up :P.
>

Settled as an idea, not in practice, I should clarify.

Dan

2 Mar 2005 - 1:00pm
Coryndon Luxmoore
2004

Kevin said:
> If our target is to purely
> execute process rather than direct it, I fear we will always have acceptance
> problems, because IxD will always be seen as a separate billable option -
> not a default activity.

It is our skill at execution that I think will get us a seat at the larger table.

However, to do this we must treat the business as an important USER of our designs to get there. I have seen designers get instantly marganlized as pretty picture people simply because they do not see the perspective of the business, understand the process, or dismiss it out of hand. When designers fail to understand the business goals, models, and industry they lose all credability with the key business stakeholders. It is by understanding and directly addressing the needs of the business that we can get a seat at the table of process development.

We can see these very same dynamics at work when we deal with those in the IT sphere. One of the most valuable skill of a IxD'r, IMHO, is political.

--Coryndon

2 Mar 2005 - 1:15pm
Robert Reimann
2003

I'm in total agreement with everything Corydon said below.
I also think that while our skill at execution might get us
in the door, we also need to actively sell our skills at
planning and strategy. A design is a plan, after all.

Robert.

-----Original Message-----
From:
discuss-interactiondesigners.com-bounces at lists.interactiondesigners.com
[mailto:discuss-interactiondesigners.com-bounces at lists.interactiondesign
ers.com] On Behalf Of Coryndon Luxmoore
Sent: Wednesday, March 02, 2005 1:01 PM
To: kjnarey; Interaction Designers
Subject: RE: [ID Discuss] A question of depth

[Please voluntarily trim replies to include only relevant quoted
material.]

Kevin said:
> If our target is to purely
> execute process rather than direct it, I fear we will always have
> acceptance problems, because IxD will always be seen as a separate
> billable option - not a default activity.

It is our skill at execution that I think will get us a seat at the
larger table.

However, to do this we must treat the business as an important USER of
our designs to get there. I have seen designers get instantly
marganlized as pretty picture people simply because they do not see the
perspective of the business, understand the process, or dismiss it out
of hand. When designers fail to understand the business goals, models,
and industry they lose all credability with the key business
stakeholders. It is by understanding and directly addressing the needs
of the business that we can get a seat at the table of process
development.

We can see these very same dynamics at work when we deal with those in
the IT sphere. One of the most valuable skill of a IxD'r, IMHO, is
political.

--Coryndon

2 Mar 2005 - 1:36pm
Pierre Roberge
2005

This is the first time I am posting so l would like to introduce myself. I
live in Lennoxville, Québec, Canada. My background is in Computer Science
(B.Sc.) from which I quickly migrated away. I have been working since
1995 at designing better Software products learning the ropes along the
way. In 2000, I worked for Cooper for a little over a year. Today, I am
a freelance Interaction designer working for a travel insurance company. I
was hired to redesign a web application used by insurance brokers to sell
my client's products.

I am really interested in this thread because I was just asked to work on
the redesign of 2 key business processes the company wants to improve. I
won't be working on that alone but I, at least, am part of the team that
will work on that. I don't really know what to expect but I am sure I
will learn a lot and also bring a fresh (read user) point of view.

Anyway, my intentions are to post here what I learn in the next few months
working on that project.

Regards

Pierre Roberge
Marketing - Ergonomic Business Analyst
Expert Travel Financial Securities (ETFS)
http://www.etfsinc.com
(819) 566-2901 x2193

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2 Mar 2005 - 3:01pm
kjnarey
2004

Coryndon wrote:

>When designers fail to understand the business goals, models,
>and industry they lose all credibility with the key business
>stakeholders.

Sure. I too have seen this. With perhaps the exclusion of industry, I fail
to understand how an IxDer can operate at any level without a comprehensive
understanding of the above.

>It is by understanding and directly addressing the needs of
>the business that we can get a seat at the table of process
>development.

Undisputed. And I'll add to that if I may. I often find that business
doesn't always have a thorough knowledge of what it needs, especially in the
realm of IT. With that in mind, I'd say that, whilst inherently riskier,
*indirectly* addressing the needs of the business successfully will get your
seat at the table more rapidly.

Kevin

2 Mar 2005 - 3:32pm
Coryndon Luxmoore
2004

Kevin wrote:
> With that in mind, I'd say that, whilst inherently riskier,
> *indirectly* addressing the needs of the business successfully will get your
> seat at the table more rapidly.

Can you clarify what you mean by "indirectly"?

--Coryndon

2 Mar 2005 - 4:25pm
kjnarey
2004

Coryndon wrote:

>Can you clarify what you mean by "indirectly"?

On the basis that a business does not always know what it needs from IT, an
IxDer will need to make decisions based on a wider 'indirect' scope of
heuristic issues that the business does not need to know or understand that
it needs. The devil's in their detail, I guess. Oh and there's the politics,
right. But you've covered that. :)

It's on these types of engagement that an IxDer get's more opportunity to
design and therefore prove their worth more than where the business is
unmoveable on what it needs.

Kevin

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