When Apple developed the first Mac back in 1984, it elevated user experience to new heights by focusing on an icon-driven user interface. Although most innovative in those days, since then a seamless and simple user experience has gradually lowered the threshold for people to use devices and applications by hiding a high degree of complexity beyond what actually can be perceived.
Today, technology is omni-present and when designed correctly, it is transparant to its users, not even being aware it. Modern cars may have as many as 150 microprocessors without their drivers having to know what these are for or how these function. This ambiguity between the easy-of-use and the complexity to be hidden somewhat reminds me to the all-time modern classic in American literature: ‘Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance’. In his masterpiece, Robert M. Persig describes a father and son road trip discovering the simplicity and serenity of the American landscape they are crossing whilst looking to ease the complexity he is caught up on in his personal life. There is more to the picture than meets the eye.
As more and more organisations are embracing innovation to improve their products and services, and better meet the high expectations of their clientele, they are confronted with the enormous complexity this entails and the challenges to render this transparent for people actually using it. Digital Transformation is one of these domains where this certainly holds true. Creating digital ecosystems is a tedious and complex process in which modular and open architectures are designed so that employees, customers, vendors, 3rd parties and even competitors can seamlessly interconnect. When tackled correctly, the rewards are numerous: integrated product development, new revenue-sharing services, facilitating mergers and acquisitions, enhanced customer centricity, entrance into new markets, to name just a few.
Identifying potential digital capabilities requires the so important expert view that extends the eyes and ears of executive management in this unexplored territory. The essentials skills to avoid pitfalls and mitigate risks are often less present within the organisation itself as these are not part of the organisation’s core business. Niche players are filling this gap and offering management a business perspective on technology and digital transformation, by translating technical complexity into straightforward business models.
Or as Steve Jobs used to put it: ‘Simple can be harder than complex: you have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple.’
Jan Verbruggen – Managing Partner at Xperian