Ideas are the harbingers of change. Getting an organisation to change requires an understanding of ‘Crossing the Chasm’. This is the phrase introduced by Geoffrey A. Moore in his book (Crossing the Chasm) which describes the challenge of getting a product through the Technology Adoption Life Cycle. Moore argues that there is a chasm between early adopters and the more pragmatic early majority.
An idea has to ‘cross the chasm’ well before any actual implementation. And the chasm is where the change averse operate. The idea has to survive business resistance, people resistance and technical resistance. So best that the idea is packaged into what I call an ‘Idea Experience’. When an Idea Experience is packaged right, it doesn’t just get accepted by the direct audience, it gets leveraged. Other people start talking about the idea and carry the idea further into the organisation. A great Idea Experience goes viral within the organisation and gets the early majority excited about potential.
LINQ is proving to be a powerful idea. When we created the LINQ methodology, we put a lot of work into refining the idea. LINQ is about enabling communication between IT Experts and non-technical executives. When organisations use LINQ, they can achieve transformational change. Boom. That’s an idea which people talk about. They ‘get it’ and want to bring the idea into action in their organisation.
One interesting test of an Idea Experience is what happens at the end of a presentation. If you’re met with “Yes, but…”, your idea is going to struggle to cross the chasm. Fortunately, the LINQ Idea Experience has invariably been met with “Yes, and…”. With that reaction, your idea will be carried across the chasm by others.
If you want to take a look at the LINQ Idea Experience, check out this video:
Once the idea has ‘crossed the chasm’, we now need to think about putting the idea into action. Ideas are put into action by a person using a technology. This is really important to understand. An Idea Experience was successful because it explained how an organisation would improve its business outcomes. But it now has to be implemented as technology. And organisations don’t use technology; people use technology.
It’s important that the User Experience matches the Idea Experience. Users are likely to be confused or disappointed if the product they use doesn’t deliver to the expectations that were set in the Idea Experience. Traditionally, the gap between Idea Experience and User Experience has been amplified by the years it’s taken to get product to market. At LINQ, we’ve used a Lean / Agile development process to ensure that the gap is minimised. We’ve succeeded in getting releases out every three weeks on average. This agility helps us to react quickly to user feedback.
User Experience is where an idea meets change reality. The user of the technology is a real person with individual needs. They’re already using tools to perform their work. And now you’re about to impose change on them. Making the challenge worse, the person you sold the Idea Experience to is probably different to the person who will now experience the product. So what’s in it for the actual user of your product?
All too often, User Experience is something we judge in terms of how a user interacts with a technology. Have we designed a consistent and productive application that delivers value to the business – because that’s what the Idea Experience promised? But if we just stop there, we’re likely to meet user resistance.
Business & User Value
A great User Experience needs to deliver more than just business value. It needs to make the user feel valued; it needs to contribute to their sense of ‘belonging’ to the organisation and participating in the organisation’s mission. Above all, the tool needs to provide demonstrable user value quickly and repeatedly.
We’ve worked hard to ensure that LINQ delivers immediate and repeatable value – to the user and through the user to the organisation. I’m proud of what the development team has achieved. We’re constantly challenging ourselves to think about how to make the user experience even more valuable. We’re exploring creating ‘gaming’ incentives to encourage users.
A great User Experience is important. Perhaps a better way of making that clear is to point out that a poor User Experience will sink a start-up. Even a more established company that puts a poor User Experience in place is creating the conditions for employee disengagement, poor performance and ultimately, competitive disadvantage. You can’t transform your business when your employees are suffering industrial age work conditions thanks to poor user experience. You just can’t.
By the way, if you want to check out your User Experience of LINQ, we’re happy to sign you up for a free trial. Just click on the ‘create a LINQ account’ button at www.linq.it.
There’s another step beyond User Experience that all too often gets forgotten and that’s Organisational Experience. For a focused product that only does one thing, Organisational Experience doesn’t matter. But here at LINQ, we’re building a platform that delivers value across an entire organisation.
We need to think about how users of LINQ engage with each other. How does one user’s workflow interact with another user’s workflow; do they work together? Can they fit their use of LINQ into other people’s use of other tools? How does an Executive interact with LINQ dashboards? Organisational Experience is challenging because we’re beginning to get into broader change management issues.
Organisational Experience is about the operationalisation of LINQ. We’ve had CIOs at a number of organisations say “wow, we’re going to change the way we do IT in order to take advantage of LINQ”. That’s a fantastic endorsement of the power of LINQ that requires us to ensure that LINQ becomes a multi-user, collaborative experience.
This is where we have to be very careful with platform design. If we’d over-focused on User Experience, we’d have created a product. A product is typically great at doing one thing really well for one person… but struggles when it then gets adapted to be extended and made multi-user. We’ve designed LINQ to be a multi-user, scalable platform. That’s all built into the core ensuring that on our development journey, we can steadily evolve over time to build more and more collaborative experiences.
As CTO in a start-up, I have to carefully balance the resource we put into User Experience (which creates revenue now) versus Organisational Experience (which supports future revenue and avoids costly rework later).
LINQ is more than just an organisational technology. Information Supply Chains are rarely confined within an organisation. Information flows from organisation to organisation on a global basis. Measuring value as it cascades from organisation to organisation is an important LINQ capability. Not only does this provide an objective value for open government initiatives, it helps understand dependencies on external organisations.
This introduces another experience dimension that I need to consider: the Global Experience.
LINQ is built on the Amazon Web Services (AWS) Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) along with a dozen more AWS acronyms. Rather than explain them, I’ll summarize the key business advantages for us: fast and easy deployment, global reach and scalability. It’s important to note that AWS is the enabler but it’s taken real insight and skill from the LINQ development team to build a cloud-native platform that can fully exploit AWS capabilities.
AWS does two things for our Global Experience. It allows us to scale infinitely but remain local to our global users. If we were trying to run LINQ from a data centre in New Zealand, our users in UK would see real latency issues and we’d be dependent on limited internet connections out of New Zealand. By using AWS, we can quickly and easily deploy instances to serve our global users locally.
Global Experience is about more than this. At the core of LINQ’s technology is a node-edge graph. This allows us to model information flows at any scale of information system all the way up to the global level. Graph technology is fundamentally scalable and will support performance at any level of depiction. Where we are taking the greatest care is in preserving the privacy of our users’ data.
When an organisation uses LINQ, it is depicting the current state of how information flows within an organisation. This is a precious resource. Information flow represents the nervous system of an organisation; a LINQ diagram provides incredible insight about the effectiveness of the organisation. We therefore need to be able to guarantee our users that their data is safe with LINQ. So we’ve invested a lot of time and resource in ensuring we have a secure platform.
A Global Experience lives in tension with that security requirement. We have to ensure that a customer’s data is completely secure; but that they can grant permission for some outbound information to be visible to a wider audience. Think about a government department with very sensitive information flows within the organisation but participating in open data initiatives. We need to guarantee that their internal LINQ diagrams are safe and secure (they are) while allowing them to depict their open data service flows to other organisations… if they wish.
Localisation & Internationalisation
One other important dimension of the Global Experience: Localisation. There’s little point in setting out to trace global information flows if we have to stop at the boundary of the English speaking world. Chances are that the information your organisation uses comes from all over the world. Localisation enables anyone anywhere in the world to use LINQ; internationalisation enables that localisation.
We made the decision to build internationalisation into the heart of the platform from day one. Internationalisation is about far more than supporting different languages. It’s about supporting different cultures. Something as simple as a ‘name’ field is culturally sensitive. The concept of ‘first name’ and ‘last name’ varies from culture to culture. Far better to put ‘known name’ and ‘full name’. Different countries have different date structures. Most countries don’t have Zip codes. There’s a lot to think about!
Localisation demands careful UI design. We need to think about character-based languages like Japanese and Chinese. We need to consider left-to-right languages like Arabic. Those have major impacts on how we layout the application. Best we get these right now so that we can be global from birth.
The Global Experience of LINQ is several months away from realisation. But the platform is ready. That’s the key to my role as CTO; ensuring that our customers get value today while ensuring that the platform can support tomorrow’s vision.
Balancing the Experiences
By carefully balancing across these four experiences, LINQ has become a powerful platform which is delivering real value to our customers today; and that will continue to add more and more value over the years to come.
I hope that’s helped you understand how I approach the role of CTO. It continues to be a wonderful challenge – with exciting times ahead.
Please let me know if you have any thoughts or ideas about this approach.