Friday, April 27, 2018

Thinking about Software Architecture & Design : Part 4


Any new IT system will necessarily sit inside a larger context. If that context includes the new system having its own identity – from “the new system” to “Project Unity” - it will be anthropomorphised by its users. This can be good, bad or neutral for the success of the new IT system.


It does not matter what form the naming takes e.g. “Project Horizon”, “Bob's System”, “The new HR system” or even a visual identity such as "the new button", or even a tactile identity such as “the new panel under the desk at reception”. In all cases the new IT system may be treated by existing team members in much the same way as a new team member would be treated.


New systems get “sized up”, so to speak, by their users. Attributes such as “fast”, “unreliable”, “inflexible” or even “moody” might be applied to the new system. These may be factually based, or biased, depending on the stance the community of users adopts towards the new system arriving into their team.


One particularly troublesome possibility is that the new system may be seen as causal factor in events unrelated to it. “X used to work fine before the new system came along....” The opposite can also happen i.e. the new system get plaudits for events it had no hand or part in. Causality versus correlation can be a tricky distinction to navigate.


Takeaway: sometimes the human tendency towards the anthropomorphic can be used to your advantage. If you suspect the opposite may be true for your new system, it can be useful to purposely avoid elaborate naming and dramatic rollout events which can exacerbate anthropomorphisation.


Sometimes, new systems are best rolled out with little or no fanfare in a “business as usual” mode. Sometimes it is not possible to avoid big bang system switchover events but if it is at all possible to adopt a phased approach to deployment, and transition slowly, I would recommend it for many reasons, one of which is the sort of team dynamics alluded to here.


As AI/Robotics advances, I think this will become even more important in the years ahead.


1 comment:

Anthony Coates said...

Along those lines, I do think there's a lot to be said for creating a new version of an app for an app that is beloved, but a new app with different name for an app that is hated. The difference here is only one of prescription, but no less important for that.