Time is on my Side

This past week I had a great conversation with my friend Jason Williams. Jason is the senior product manager for one of our offerings. We were brainstorming business drivers for a future release.

Jason and i have been talking about this off and on for a couple of months. Because of other work I’ve been doing, I’ve been spending a lot of time on what we call Customer Experience. Jason posited that the value proposition for much of what software developers need to think about is time. I believe that he is correct.

The proposition of an IT project is often measured in terms of it’s return on investment or expense reduction. These are of course critical components. However the success of a project must also take into account the value it returns to its own end user computing space. In our conversation, Jason had identified multiple distinct user constituencies, and while the deliverable space varied greatly, what was most relevant in every case was how much time was returned to the user by the software. What was particularly interesting was that each constituency measured the time value in similar ways although they used the technology in vastly different ways.

When we build IT projects, there has been a trend recently to ignore the time savings granted to the end user because they are perceived to be solely soft dollars and look only to the “hard” savings. In reality, the life of a project lasts longer than the project end date. Consider this scenario. In a traditional model we have seen the storage of data being a static location, be it a “drive letter” or a “share”. That worked for years but doesn’t work as well any more. I like to say that work is an activity not a place. And so my data shouldn’t have a “place”. Or not solely a single place. The vision exposed by many vendors of Cloud Computing, says that your work is always available in the cloud, and while one might argue the merits of the mechanism, the real value in the model is time.

If my data is replicated in the cloud, I am not bound to a particular device or operating platform. This is great so long as I have a connection to the cloud. Witness the recent conversations on connectivity rates and we can see that there still is a lot of work to do. Tie back to customer experience. What should my experience be? I should be able to use my data without having to make decisions about where I connect to it. If it comes off a laptop hard disk drive while I am on a plane, that works, but once I connect to the cloud in a hotel or back at home, my data should get to the cloud in a manner completely transparent and invisible to me, so the next day when at a client site, I need a document, I can get it without needing to jack in my laptop, access a VPN and perform other manual tasks. Any changes I make go directly to the cloud, with no digital footprint left behind because the client device is not an authorized repository for it.

It’s a simple example, but let’s look at what I really get from the example. The answer is convenience. No extra work on my part, no compromise of security, no thinking about the “where” And so I save time. Add this up over the course of a week and it’s clearly valuable to me and by extension to my employer. Now multiply this over the number of customers of the service and the payback is enormous, to say nothing of how every user is enabled to complete a task when he or she needs to.

It’s just my opinion, but the tools that I can use that give me back my time, are among the most valuable tools available to me. Perhaps you think the same way. Fortunately there are people like Jason Williams in the world who are thinking about the entire user experience, not just the cloud.

Until next time, peace.

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