Lessons From The 80s - Why The Humble VCR Is Still Relevant Today

14/10/2016 14:32

I'm old enough to remember when old fashioned VCRs (Video Cassette Recorders for anyone born in the DVD age) had more buttons than the average 747 cockpit. VCR manufacturers quickly realised though that, even if their product designers were in love with the technology, their customers struggled to use the VCR because they found them too hard to operate! So second generation VCRs suddenly only had the most basic of buttons - play, stop, record, fast forward and rewind. And user adoption soared. An early and basic lesson in how to make technology serve the needs of the user.

Consumer technology companies have (mostly) heeded this lesson. They've appreciated that, to drive adoption, they need to make their products user friendly and able to deliver a valuable and compelling user experience very easily. Think Amazon 'One Click'. Think Go Pro and their easy to use cameras. Think iPads - swipe right and tap!

But in the world of business technology, we still lag someway behind in our thinking. All too often business applications are designed with masses of functionality that are created to justify an expensive upgrade path but result in users only exploiting small percentages of the available functionality. And this can be exacerbated by in house IT departments who, dare I say it, may have a vested interest in making business technology *cough* challenging to use. After all, turkeys don't vote for Christmas! The end result is widespread user frustration that they can't drive the value they need from the technology they have to use.

Perhaps though, the tide is starting to turn. Driven by the COIT trend, more and more B2B technology providers are wising up to the need to focus on the user experience first and foremost when they design their products. The focus is increasingly on the outcome that the technology must deliver rather than the elegance of the functionality itself. And it's not just user demand for this that is driving the change; B2B technology buyers now demand much clearer, demonstrable, evidence of the likely ROI they are going to get.

It's a lesson we have taken to heart in our business. I can describe what we do thus;
'we specialise in data warehouse automation software'
......At an educated guess, dear reader, unless you are in IT yourself, that won't sound too fascinating.

But if I say instead that
'we enable all departments within an organisation to access the information they need to make quick, accurate decisions, and we do this for companies such as Nike, Tesco, Vodafone and Body Shop'
..... then it's suddenly much clearer how we deliver value to our customers.

In short, we've built our product offer with the user need (or journey in marketing parlance) in mind. People need fast, accurate information in order to do their job.

So, I bring you a message of hope. If you love your home technology but struggle with your professional technology, then things are changing for the better. And as a result, we'll see the true technology revolution. Not only will technology be omnipresent (think the Internet of Things) but it will also be truly user friendly, delivering ever greater value at the point of use. And that's got to be something to look forward to!