When it comes to building technology solutions, an engineering mindset dominates. This pattern of thinking amounts to: How do we solve the problem with what we have.
One of the negative side-effects of such an approach is that it focuses too much on the capabilities of the technology. This leads to parochial solutions which are only incrementally better than what existed previously. A nasty side effect is low end user adoption. This is because users are never delighted, only satisfied, with the final results.
Evaluating technologies and comparing vendors is a favorite pass time of engineers and IT departments. After all, who doesn’t love a good feature shootout? However, such shootouts put a disproportionately high focus on the spec – usually an Excel spreadsheet with a list of desired features. Solutions that follow such an approach produce mediocre end user experiences.
There is another way of building solutions – a design centric approach. Here you focus on the purpose and imagine what is needed to make it happen regardless of your current inventory of tools. With a strong purpose, it becomes clear what is important and what isn’t. Without a strong purpose, you get a bloated solution which attempts to satisfy a spec and not the human using it.
Antoine de Saint-Exupéry said it best, “A designer knows he has achieved perfection not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.”
Just to be clear, we are not throwing out engineering, just sequencing it appropriately for maximum impact. In short, design first and then engineer. The resulting solution stands a chance of using less technology because the solution turns out to be simpler. A nice side effect is high end user adoption. Win-win, if you ask me.