I’ve been an advocate of the consumerization of BI for a number of years. Business Discovery platforms like QlikView that embody consumer oriented characteristics are more acceptable to a broad range of people, and so see higher adoption. At core, the consumerization of technology is about empowering people to do what they need, themselves. To be able to do so any technology must possess the three key consumerization attributes of speed, usability and relevance. (For more on these see Jeff Boehm’s 2011 post on my definitional research note whilst at Gartner).
However, driving back from taking my children to school on Tuesday morning I heard a discussion, on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme about the 2013 UK Design Awards, that brought home to me that there’s a fourth attribute of consumerization, as important as the others: aesthetics. For some people how something looks or feels will overcome the three other consumerization attributes, no matter how strongly they’re made available. It’s worth noting that while usability and aestethics are closely related they’re not the same. Something can be very usable, but not look pleasing. I suppose that’s the difference between satisfaction and delight.
During an interview on the radio show Professor Josh Silver, of the Centre for Vision in the Developing World (CVDW), described the Child ViSion self-adjustable glasses his organization is distributing through schools. The glasses have fluid filled lenses that are adjusted using pre-attached syringes.
The glasses are a powerful example of the consumerization of an established technology:
• They’re fast; adjusting the lenses to correct someone’s vision takes a few minutes at most.
• They’re usable; each glasses wearer self serves by fitting their own specs – no optometrist needed.
• They’re relevant, directly to the individual life chances of the person that gets a pair, and broadly to the estimated 60 million young people that suffer from uncorrected myopia in the developing world.
Crucially though (and unlike earlier versions) the glasses are designed with aesthetics in mind. Their shape is pleasing. They come in a variety of colors. The syringes on the arms used to alter the focal length are easily removable. Why does this matter? Because the target group for these specs is 12 to 18 years old! Image conscious teenagers the world over won’t wear something that doesn’t look good, no matter how useful it is. I’ve personal experience of this – when I was at school the UK National Health Service (NHS) provided one style of glasses frame in black for children. Nowadays these NHS specs, my 16 year old son tells me, are the height of ‘geek chic’. Back then, kids would do anything not to wear them, even if they couldn’t see the teacher’s writing on the blackboard from their desk. That’s why my short sightedness went untreated until I learnt to drive…
We can learn lessons from the development of CVDW’s inspirational project.
It’s obvious that QlikView embodies the three attributes of speed, usability and relevance directly in how the technology works. The fourth one, the crucial aesthetic element, is largely up to the people who design the QlikView apps. It’s up to you to appeal to the consumers in your organization through the pleasing design of the apps you make available. Beautifully designed apps, styled to the users in question – a web site analytics apps for marketers should embody a different aesthetic to one for financial analysts – mean higher adoption, better perception of value delivered, greater return and more questions answered. The opposite means a less focused outcome.
A final thought on the Child ViSion glasses project: it’s a massively disruptive technology and extremely cost effective compared to the long established way of doing things. Sound familiar?