The dark path – how does it operate in ‘failure mode’?

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Content Copyright © 2013 Bloor. All Rights Reserved.
Also posted on: The Norfolk Punt

I’m at CA-2013 and CA Technologies is telling a good joined-up story around advanced technology and mobile solutions. It has feedback loops around the user experience and so on. The devil may be in the detail but it really is sounding good.

Unfortunately, I can’t take part in the interactive demo, because neither my phone nor my netbook can see the CA wireless network reliably. Perhaps I’m in a dead spot; perhaps I need to reconfigure something (but it works in the hotel room) but the effect is that I’m not listening to the excellent presentation because I’m frustrated and annoyed and trying to debug my connection. Of course, I should just give up, but people don’t. And no-one is monitoring my horrible user experience with their lovely network performance monitoring tools – because I can’t get on the soddin’ network.

OK, in the greater scheme of things who cares. But if I was a sales rep, going in to make an important sale in a rotten frame of mind, my company might. And that’s my point; however good your technology, some – a lot, possibly – of the time it will be operating in failure mode; and the impact on the users’ performance may be important.

New Development needs to go beyond mobile technology and the ‘light path’ of working wherever you are and look at the business process it enables and how that is impacted by technology failure-the dark path – even if that failure is outside your control. The New Developer needs to worry about people issues and the psychology of their interaction with technology. For instance, one of the benefits from mobility CA noted was that a manager could make decisions wherever they were, at any hour of the day or night. That’s cool and, managed properly, even useful for the manager concerned. However, looked at another way, it might mean that manager is on call 24×7, working a 7 day week and under consttant stress of broadband slowdowns, dead phone batteries and lost signal. How will his/her spouse and family like that? How reliable will his/her decisions be after a blazing row with his/her spouse? Could this mobility solution actually fail even if the technology the new developer built doesn’t, and shouldn’t the developer of mobile solutions – or somebody – be thinking about this dark path and what to do about it?

When I was a very old-technology developer I was always told that what really mattered was how a system performed in failure mode, because that’s where it’d mostly be. Does that apply to mobile development however? Surely no-one ever gets sloww connections, loses signal, tries to work in a crowded bar… Surely not…