User experience as an input to development

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Also posted on: The Norfolk Punt

DevOps is popular these days. It’s all about enabling Freedom for the business users of automated systems, based on Trust that the automated systems will behave as the business expects – or would expect if it thought about the issues deeply – and with development controlled by feedback loops around a continuous delivery process.

The issue is that any feedback is often merely around the technology and its performance; whereas what the business expects, or should expect, from DevOps, is continuous delivery of better business user experience. The business, which (ultimately) pays developers, doesn’t really want technology, it wants better, more effective, ways of doing business. In the worst case, continuous delivery of technology that doesn’t work is going to give developers a bad name; but continuous delivery of technology that fails to delight the business users isn’t much better, in practice.

So I was interested to read this from Embarcadero, about Embarcadero AppAnalytics, the first hosted backend service to provide software application developers with detailed information on how users are interacting with Desktop, Mobile and Wearable applications built with RAD Studio XE8. The component enables developers to create better apps by tracking anonymous user events within existing VCL Windows and FireMonkey mobile and desktop apps, and by providing relevant data that can be used to guide the development of new features and user experiences”.

Of course, Embarcadero is not alone in thinking this way, and most Application Performance Management tool vendors (IBM, CA Technologies, Dynatrace, for example) are increasingly focused on User Experience, but Embarcadero is building it into a code development tool. I haven’t seen Embarcadero’s tool working, but it seems to be an innovation to be welcomed. This is a useful addition to RAD Studio and running it as a hosted service, with anonymised usage stats, is the right approach.

In essence, what we are talking about here is all about applying Actionable Insights, derived from the information produced or collected by a process, to the technology development process itself, not just to business processes. An idea whose time has come, and one which should help to deliver good governance of the development process by ensuring that it remains focused on business outcomes, without waste.