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6 min read

Building Business Agility And Quality Applications, Not White Elephants!

Everyone involved with IT is currently aware of the transformation happening in our world. While "Cloud" and the "API economy" have been around for some time, more recently, everyone is talking about bi-modal (or multi-speed) IT and that a quality user experience (UX) is no longer "a nice to have" when developing enterprise applications.

The concept of bi-modal IT in relation to software engineering is fairly straightforward, it simply gives people permission to adopt different rules for different circumstances. In one sense, this idea has existed in many enterprises for some time, in the form of "IT-based projects" having one set of rules and "Shadow IT projects" having a different set of rules. There are however, two aspects that make bi-modal IT a very different proposition:

  1. It's no longer the business doing shadow IT by themselves; it's now one team - IT and the business working together on the Line of Business led initiatives.

  2. There are now agile IT processes and new software architectures that make bi-modal IT possible and extremely potent. These new architectures are crucial and often underestimated, as the right architecture provides a technology pathway that is empathetic to both the people and technical hurdles that will inevitably challenge everyone on a bi-modal journey.

Once you have your bi-modal IT strategy working, you will get fast and tangible business results, however, if you ignore the user experience you will just be building white elephants!

According to a study conducted by SAP, 78% of enterprise applications are abandoned after their first use. The typical adoption lifecycle is an initial spike, followed by a dive after two or three weeks, then a very long tail. This points to a sizeable gap between the expectations and design processes of the enterprise and the actual needs of the users. Even in an enterprise context, where users are usually mandated to use your application, the simple truth is that User Experience Design is not just a nice to have. If the user experience is not intuitive, engaging and enriching, then mandated or not, they will simply opt out.

When creating Enterprise Applications, your task is ensuring the user sticks around long enough and takes enough actions to understand the value of your app. But before that happens, they should enjoy a first use.

To create effective API-driven experiences that can delight users, additional capabilities in the Cloud and UX space are needed. In particular, you need to think about the connection between Cloud, UX and your legacy systems (let's face it, that's a weird mix) and how you can innovate, even within the challenging enterprise environment (which is a key goal of bi-modal IT).

It’s also important that, as you address your bi-modal journey, you use the right agile IT processes and take one step at a time, which is why "prototyping" is often a good place to start. This might seem a strange first step, but it's one of the few areas where business and IT can engage on a level playing field, in a friendly and facilitated environment – a playground of sorts that promotes a change in working styles. More importantly, a core element of prototyping is the definition of "user tasks" i.e. what are the tasks that the application is designed to help the users accomplish. This is a very different lens that is applied during requirements analysis; not paying attention to the user tasks and using techniques like prototyping, will have a significant impact on the quality and usefulness of the application.

Prototyping is not a new concept, it allows applications to be tested against user expectation, removes risk, and ensures stakeholders’ expectations are met. However, it’s important to understand that all prototyping is not created equal. Fully functional prototyping is an approach which focuses on creating prototypes that fully interact with data. The simple rule of thumb: wireframes and partial prototypes are for websites; fully functional prototypes are for applications. It's the interaction with data that makes an application fundamentally different to a website. If you simply wireframe an application you're giving everyone a false sense of security.

Combining a bi-modal IT strategy with effective User Experience Design, will help you create world-class offerings, rather than white elephants.

To get you started on your bi-modal journey, download the Certus Touchstone infographic here.

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