Service Platforms and Human Ecosystems of Productivity

Traditional software companies are beginning to extend their platform support to include web service layers that sit across their apps. While some try to port software features to a web front-end, others are looking more closely at the collaborative workflows across apps and across stakeholders. A good example of the latter is CS5 from Adobe Systems that includes workflow support services like CS Review and the CS Live service suite. These connected services address the real-world behaviors that grow around application suites.

A design shop has multiple users working in tandem, each with specific coordinated tasks necessary to producing the final outcome. The shop itself is in communication with the client and the publishing target (eg the printers, the web developers, etc) and may be working with other 3rd party contributors. All of these have differing levels of contribution, permissions, and interaction which can be effectively mediated by well-designed services.

The shift to these kind of services is inherently social. Effective service design addresses the collaborative workflows that emerge around the intersection of the tools and the business. This design process is not feature-driven as is typical of most software development. Instead, it’s human-driven with features addressing the real needs of the users, accreting around human behaviors derived from user research & ethnography, rather than from market analysis or engineering visions.

So, for businesses looking to extend their platforms to address the secondary workflows that emerge around them, they would be well-served to invest in solid user research & ethnography in order to understand how their tools are being used, what the stakeholder relationships are really like, and how businesses implement their own hacks to develop work-arounds & optimizations for the interoperabilty & social elements of their work. Every shop & every business ecosystem has challenges that are more often remedied by frustrated internal users rather than well-designed services. These ad hoc hacks are problems looking for solutions.

Businesses are ecosystems built around human engagement & productivity. Business ecosystems are platforms for innovation. How is your services model addressing the human ecosystem of productivity?

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