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The Nature of Engagement

The last few weeks with my new IPhone inspired me to write about user experiences (UX). Now, the same objective experience is perceived different to different people. We know this from discussing movies, travel destinations etc. in our personal lives, but it certainly applies in our interaction with technology as well. The strange thing is that experiences are very subjective and very hard to describe – but we know when it’s right (read: great)!

There is a relationship between functionality (features) and usability. Bill Buxton from Microsoft operates with what he calls BXT – Business, Experience and Technology and that all three needs to be in harmony striving for the best product/solution. The funny thing is that my first impression with the IPhone was a great experience – despite the fact that I actually lack lots of features that I used on my Windows Mobile for years. From a feature point of view, the “basic” phone (without additional 3. parties’ apps) is not very rich. But because of the elegance in the flow between functionality it overshadows the weak spots and leaves one with a very good experience.

I think the same applies for our Business Intelligence Solutions. We might provide the best architectural and technology solutions and we might understand and deliver to the business requirements, but we do not necessarily deliver great experiences. Looking at the BI market today, our competitors are not just the Platon look-alike-consulting-companies anymore; it’s also the creative folks with web backgrounds as well as the technology vendors with plastic wrapped packages. This means that our core competencies at Platon are under pressure when business people start buying end user experiences. A great looking app, with fewer features and potentially “wrong use of technology” can win in competition with a well architected and feature rich solution – it depends on the user experience!

At Platon we started to work with the nature of engagement in our solutions. That’s not just about technology; it’s about BXT and a seamless flow. It’s emotional attachment of the user to our solution. However, it requires that every solution is built with user experience in mind from the very start to the end of a project. I heard Bill Buxton from Microsoft talk about this – he calls it like having a “language”. A team who speaks the same “user experience language” makes it possible and obvious for everybody in a team to take the right design and development decisions. The solution should be independent from the individual who developed it and instead appear as obvious and attractive to the user. I have been in projects where we documented that “language” in Platon Insight® (specifically a Design Document) and it really works well. Then, later when the users have got a great experience and are emotionally hooked, we can add additional features in the same way as Apple – selling even more apps 🙂


About Stig Torngaard

Stig is Platon Practice Director for Big Data. He is one of the leading consultants in Platon and has more than 20 years IT experience with 15 years dedicated to BI. Stig founded Platons Microsoft practice back in 2001 and has worked as architect in the Microsoft Information Management space since the introduction of SQL Server 2000. The last two years the focus has been on Big Data and Advanced Analytics aspects of Information Mangement


7 thoughts on “The Nature of Engagement

  1. Very inspiring. I think that the current gamification trend (ratings, thumbs-ups, achievements, etc.) is just the first wave of how we will move into better understanding and addressing the human brain’s reward systems in our UX/BXT. This will give us the desired “emotional attachment” that you mention. There’s certainly a lot of room for improvement in the current state of UX, but in the process we must remember, that there are still only two businesses that call their customers “users”… 🙂 I think I need to write a blog post about this topic.

    Posted by Thomas Holmen | September 19, 2011, 12:05
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