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Velocity and Design Thinking for the Industrial Internet of Things

Why do we accept speed as an unquestionable edict in software development? And when we do, what is the best approach to introduce smart machines without alienating customers in the digital transformation journey?

To understand the origin of speed as a strategic element of software development, let us look at military defense. The introduction of long-range bombers led to the first, major IT-based response effort: design and implementation of the SAGE computerized air defense system. Next, higher-speed, Inter-Continental Ballistic Missiles (ICBMs) further shortened response time requirements, leading to the next generation of a software-intensive defense system: SDI or Strategic Defense Initiative, a high-tech program with a scale only matched by that of the Manhattan Project.

Technological innovations led the military to adjust requisite sense-and-respond abilities, though breakthroughs leading to speed-ups are obviously not limited to defense. The financial sector has witnessed similar changes with the introduction of high frequency trading. As Klaus Schwab notes, we are entering a 4th industrial revolution that keeps compelling organizations to reconsider traditional ways of doing business to keep pace with changing technology and consumer expectations. Rather than bombers and ICBMS, breakthroughs come in the form of Internet of Things (IoT), autonomous vehicles, artificial intelligence, robotics, materials science, 3D printing, energy storage or quantum computing.

Now that we understand the origin of software-intensive systems for improved sense-and-response, we can ask ourselves how this translates to solution design. This question becomes particularly interesting in the recently re-iterated case for Event-Driven Architecture (EDA) by Gartner’s Ann Thomas, precisely acknowledging the need for organizations to address sense-and-respond capabilities. Events are notable things that happen inside or outside organizations. They indicate the presence of a critical situation, an impending problem, an opportunity, a threshold, or a deviation. With breakthroughs previously mentioned, these events originate increasingly from non-human personas. We introduce IoT personas alongside human personas in the design of software-intensive solutions destined to address technological advances. How do we retain a service design approach that remains user-centric in a world which is less and less exclusively human? Until now, we got away with human-centered design, but as we embrace EDA for this new industrial era, we will see enhanced forms of service design emerge that will be truly differentiating in experiences involving appliances and smart infrastructure.

But there is a flip side to this ability to design for things and humans simultaneously.

Evolution towards event-centricity to meet the need for speed-ups carries an inherent risk: losing touch with customers! This can make businesses paradoxically vulnerable to the very innovation they were addressing. The need to retain conscience of the end user (customer, citizen, patient) remains therefore a key consideration in digital transformations baked into our “Connected” approach to service design. It seems antagonistic, but these are two sides of the same coin: one side is about being able to leverage platform capabilities from the vantage point of the autonomous device and on the other side retain a clear perspective over the experience to avoid alienating humans as we move further towards automation.

We believe this duality can be resolved through a focus on outcomes.

Service design at Ness brings our product development capabilities to bear. The product mindset, more so than in project-based delivery, forces us to embrace the multifaceted realities of outcomes. We make use of Personas and blueprint their steps end-to-end, capturing on- and off-screen interactions. We refer to these as journeys, as they capture idiosyncrasies and will include a systematic capture of events prioritized by relevance. While these journeys reveal events and needs of machines and humans alike, outcomes remain centered on humans. Outcomes can be more abstract and will ultimately give rise to, hopefully, exciting confrontations of emotional and machine intelligence.

These research and workshop tools, such as Journey Maps, are tools for capturing behaviors and narratives, and provide outcome intimacy for the situation at hand. They are part of a set of artifacts used during Ness’s Discovery and Envision phases when we propose our Ness Connected approach to engage on digital transformation efforts. Perhaps you, too, have faced this duality in designing your next-gen infotainment system or home appliance solution. We would love to hear from your experience and perhaps even walk some of the path on that journey to digital transformation together!