What is the latest revolution in digital disruption?

Technology advances have always been disruptive, even going back as far as the industrial revolution.  Since these times the rate of change has increased.  So why is digital disruption currently such a hot topic?  The latest paradigm shift has effectively been driven by Apple.

The first clear example of Apple’s digital disruption was the simple ipod. In many ways this was just a natural progression from the Sony Walkman and Discman devices.  The real digital disruption was not to do with the device, but how people accessed and purchased music.  Music streaming was a natural extension to this.  People no longer went to the shops and brought “records” they simply downloaded the individual songs they wanted to listen to.

The latest revolution that is impacting all businesses, ultimately it is the ease of use of tablet computing.  The tablets are expanding the adoption of computing to areas that previously were unreachable.  These devices are simple to use without an instruction manual, and there is no longer a “fear” of doing something wrong.  So now the spread of tablet use reaches from two tear old babies up to the oldest of pensioners.

For many companies this is increasing the market that is now potentially open to them.  Marketeers are jumping onto the “free App” band wagon in an attempt to reach these new audiences.  This is simply starting to annoy users, and is generating the option to pay to have a application without adverts.

The Aviva driving app is taking mobile application marketing to a new level.  The application looks to add value to the user by rating their driving.  This is generating intra-family and social group competition, ultimately driving more people to the app.  This is greatly increasing brand awareness for Aviva and giving them a pull sales channel through offers relating to your divers score.

These apps are having a massive impact on all businesses.  CIO’s are being challenged to make information available via mobile computing.  There are many challenges from a technology perspective and security perspective.  However, the biggest challenge is the need to change thinking when it comes to design.

Software has always been designed in the same way, with the focus being on having a traditional computing device.  The starting point being the database and how the data logically sits together. Then the business processes are built or enabled on top of this.  Generally, this has meant that a user needs an in-depth knowledge of a business process to be able to effectively use an application.  These process based applications are then bolted together.  Everyone will have seen examples of such processes, where different aspects either need repeating, or different elements being done or updated in multiple systems.  Essentially all applications and processes became increasing complex as a result.

The drive to make data available via a mobile device is too often considered as a presentation layer on a traditional design.  Consequently, the normal thought process is to take these desktop (web) applications and construct a responsive design that “enables” them to work on a mobile device.  This misses the key attribute of these devices – being simple to use, easy to navigate and no need for instructions.

To resolve this issue the design process needs to be turned on its head.  Applications should now be designed with a “mobile first” concept.  Applications should be designed to work on a mobile device (both smart phone and tablet) first, with everything else being constructed to support this.  That is to keep the complexity hidden from the user.

Taking this back to the digital disruption created by tablet style device, the consumption of data through an intuitive interface, accessible anywhere needs to be the first consideration for any application.  The analysis and architecture then needs to be constructed to support this.  Responsive design then needs to be reversed to say how can the presentation of information be expanded to work of more traditional devices.