>Design and Enterprise Architecture

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Design, style, and innovation are important communication mechanisms and are crucial to User-centric EA. These communication mechanisms are used in information visualization and is heavily used in EA to develop useful and usable information products that can be easily understood and applied.

Increasingly, design is taking center-stage across technical and everyday products in our economy.

The Wall Street Journal, 4 January 2008, reports in no less than three separate articles on the importance of design and style for everyday products from computers to hard drives and even storage containers.

Here are some examples from a front page article titled, “PCs Take a Stylish Turn in Bid to Rival Apple”:

  • “Dell is trying to inject a sense of style into the company’s PCs, with new shapes, sizes, and color.”
  • PC Makers are “racing to replace boring boxes with sexy silhouettes that will differentiate their products, entice new buyers, and command higher prices.”
  • Forrester Research “issued a report last June heralding a new ‘age of style’ in the PC market. It concluded that more attractive models could command $150 to $200 more.”
  • “During most of the industry’s 30-year history, PC makers didn’t worry much about style. A bigger challenge was boosting technical performance and wringing costs from suppliers.” Now an Intel anthropologist states “there is a sense of, ‘Oh my G-d, why does this have to be so ugly?’”
  • Lenovo stated that now “designers have equal weight at the table.”
  • Dell has gone from 6 designers in 2001 to 90 designers now and they are still recruiting.
  • At the upcoming Consumer Electronics Show, Microsoft will hold a PC ‘fashion show’ with judges picking the top three designs.

Additional articles the same day point to the importance of design and style. For example, the article “Can a Hard Drive Make a Fashion Statement” states that Seagate “kicked off a new strategy at the 2007 Consumer Electronics Show, offering drives with sleek shapes and lights to woo users accustomed to iPod-like elegance.” And in another article titled, “The Struggle to Contain Ourselves,” about the briskly growing $6 billion storage and organization industry where “style is increasingly important” and “once just plastic bins in industrial blue or clear, specialized storage products are now available for most conceivable uses in an array of material, from bamboo to faux leather to sea grass.”

While certainly consumer products are different than information products provided by EA, there is clear understanding now that design, fashion, style, and innovation are critical in reaching out to people, getting them interested in your products (consumer or information), and that design demands a premium in the marketplace. As the Intel anthropologist stated “why does this have to be so ugly?” Similarly, I would ask why do traditional EA products have to so often be so ugly, difficult to understand and apply. Let’s transition the way we do architecture to User-centric EA and design innovative information products that capture our users’ attention, really “talk to them,” clearly identify problem areas, propose alternative solutions, and lead to better decision making. Our executives are busy people with challenging jobs. We owe it to them to provide information in User-centric EA ways.

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