Design & Information Architecture Evolution in Enterprise

Apple Mouse Photo

Evolution of the Apple Mouse / Flickr User: raneko

For many years the enterprise user has toiled with the tools given to do their daily work shackled to the decisions of leaders who never had to use the product they were buying. Where the holy triad of speed, cost and quality represented in the size of their importance to the enterprise software buyer it would end up looking like a dragster, great big speed and cost wheels on back and a little tiny quality wheel on the front. Then came mobiles.

Mobile Revolution

As we approach the end of the first decade of the mobile we can see the trail it has blazed in such a short amount of time. It’s easy to look at mobiles themselves and see where the world was stood on its head as the small, thin and cheap became a dichotomy with big, bold and powerful after the dawn of the smartphone. Whether it was an e-commerce site or a productivity application, people began refusing to accept ugly clunky software that didn’t work well and the principles behind agile software took off.

Enterprise is big and slow though and that shift has been a long time coming to enterprise, but it’s coming. When you have companies like IBMand Oracle betting heavily on mobile, it’s clear it’s coming and it’s creating an entirely different way for the enterprise to design its solutions.

Architecture Over Time
The term “architecture” in enterprise IT has greatly evolved over the past several years. Before mobile the term almost inevitably referred to the design of different business systems and how they operated with each other. If one was an “architect” that almost inevitably meant a systems architect or a network architect and the focus was entirely on the machines.

That’s changed in several ways since then.

Solutions

Architecture now commonly refers to solutions, an entire process of how software and hardware work with each other starting with the definition of a problem and working to the design of the solution. Typically when one is an architect they are designing solutions, not necessarily systems.

People

Where architects prior to mobile rarely had to concern themselves with people the modern day architect certainly does. The “consumerization” of IT has started to creep its way in but it hasn’t set up shop yet.

While people have been bringing in their devices to their jobs they’ve been able to drive enterprise adoption of the devices as well. Much more significantly the world of Shadow IT has been growing, to the point that some 61% of businesses created a Shadow IT mobile app in 2015.

It’s this push of Shadow IT that has made the IT departments in enterprise realize if they want to survive, they need to evolve. First they thought that just meant letting the mobiles in. Then they started to realize it’s more about the solutions and involving people in the solutions.

Dawn of Design

This change in architecture and the inclusion of people in design has turned our dragster on its head. Increasingly UX/UI design teams have been popping up in enterprise. Where developers were left to their own devices to design user interfaces before it hasn’t stopped with pretty interfaces, it’s moved to the very construction of the solutions that are being created. “Usability” has moved on from its interchangable use with “accessibility” it was previously associated with. Solutions now need to go beyond just working, they need to work well.

We still have a long way to go. It’s still very easy for organizations to declare themselves “agile” or “lean” and then engage in the same old behaviors they engaged in before but under different guises. The difference is that push from Shadow IT has put the fear of god into many a CIO, CTO or director. It’s the fear of not being needed.

This time the realization is perhaps “innovate or die” wasn’t just a cute phrase Bill Gates was using to inspire his team many years ago — it was about to become the standard in enterprise IT.

About The Author

W Guy Finley
Web Design, digital marketing, WordPress, UI/UX Design, content strategy, and general disruption for a cause. Tenacious and passionate about doing things right for my clients and users.