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Relativity

Published on: January 23, 2013

Relativity is a useful concept when thinking about IT applications and services. It’s relevant in terms of the type or functionality of a service, expectations of a service, perceptions of a service. There are variations from the viewpoints of service providers and consumers, and of course there are broad spectrums of opinion based on personal timelines too – a newly minted student or IT professional will likely have very different perceptions than a battle-hardened professional – student, IT person, or anyone else.

So what does this mean to the IT professional/service provider/application designer/business analyst…?

I think it means that it’s very hard to please all of the people all of the time – not because immense effort hasn’t been deployed in interface design, feature creation, training and launch planning – but because perceptions and expectations are almost always relative to those affected.

If you come from a high school where you carried kilograms of books to and from school, and then are exposed to the rich set of online scholarly resources available at the library, then you might be in awe. If you have lived in an online world from birth then maybe it’s not such a big deal.

People coming from other schools may have an array of mobile services to navigate and transact their way through school. Others may come from places where Web 1.0 is considered a miracle.

An application that appears brilliant to some in 4th year compared to the way it was in 1st year may hear a diametrically opposed view from someone who knew nothing of the past approach to a transaction or service.

Opinions and perceptions and expectations will vary with the experiences and expectations of the recipient.

When we consider some core services such as phones or e-mail or calendars there will be some who want a dial tone, lots of folder hierarchy, and a paper-calendar. Others will expect find-me-anywhere, video-calls via Facetime or Skype or Jabber on a smartphone, tablet or laptop. Anything provided that differs may be considered a lacking service by some, or a great service by others.

Over the years I’ve encountered a slew of polar opposites:

  • “we need to open things up” / “we need to lock everything down and severely limit access”;
  • develop with a waterfall methodology / develop with an agile model;
  • outsource / insource
  • Mac / PC
  • [Enter yours here]

Invariably, all points-of-view have validity from a relative perspective – perspectives that vary with personal experiences, career time, conventional wisdom and public opinion.

Ultimately, an absolute reality comes to pass – “a collapse of the probability wave” and we do something. And in time, the pendulum of opinion and/or the directions of technology/the operating environment/threats and risk mitigation/information overload…/ compel a change. And an absolute certainty becomes an uncertain reality. Things change.

For an IT professional it means having strong operating principles, many models upon which to frame a potential innovation, flexibility and adaptability, a breadth of experience, and a realisation that today’s rock solid view of the world is not necessarily going to be as absolute in the future. That dynamism provides an exciting challenge to our profession.