We have an affliction. “How does this work?” — is a common question. We were those little kids in the first grade who would raise our hands and ask “WHY” to everything. We were also those kids who took apart the TV to figure out how it worked…sometimes there were parts left over when putting the TV back together… Sorry Mom and Dad.
So our role for our clients is to help them innovate. To apply creativity to their business challenges. To that end, we’re frequently finding ourselves doing things that we’ve never seen before, and sometimes that our colleagues have never seen before either. But doing different stuff is not just about the exercise. It’s about following up the “how does this work” question with another question. “How can a business use this in a meaningful way?”
Open Source VS. Enterprise Applications
Look, we’re always going to be passionate about what’s going on in the open source world. And, it still makes sense for a number of our clients. But it’s important to look at the bigger picture too. It’s important for us to understand that there are key business stakeholders out there who:
- Need to leverage content and community both into and across the enterprise
- Need to normalize their frameworks and infrastructures
- Need to provide application architectures that accommodate the business including marketing, information technology, and ultimately the brand
- Need to conform with compliance
- Need to operationalize
While this sounds like boring stuff, and painfully fundamental, dare we ask — What’s design and creativity got to do with this? Everything. The bottom line is that the human brain can only soak up so much content in a given day. More than ever, we’re in the sea of the same where the web has roughly 120 million blogs. Content is streaming through RSS feeds, building micro sites out of content from elsewhere. Content is packaged up in little bits and pulled into our mobile devices, almost the way we want it. God forbid you are like many of us and have a smart phone where you don’t even need to be in front of a computer any longer to consume huge quantities of data. Those responsible for communities and content have an enormous task of managing and producing the information. Keeping it relevant and “on brand” is another challenge.
Long preamble to a pretty straight forward challenge. One that community, information technology, marketing, and brand managers need to come together on before their content slips into the abyss. And, it’s entirely possible to keep that from happening…without making life miserable for the previously mentioned stakeholders.
So, we’re experimenting to verify and celebrate the idea that user experiences built on technologies such as Microsoft can be incredibly cool too while affording us the flexibility to exercise the creative muscle. Again, the idea is to build applications that resonate with a targeted audience, and that comply with all those business bullets (above) while at the same time staying “on brand.”
Companies like Microsoft have some pretty amazing tools that are extremely viable across the enterprises we find ourselves exposed to. Tools like SharePoint 2007 do not get a lot of love, but we’ve shared recently how it’s entirely possible to enable SharePoint as an important tool for the brand (PlainsCapital.com). And, even though some would like to ignore this, Microsoft was awarded top honors at the Crunchies recently for their work on Live Mesh. Who’da thunk it, right?
Not very long ago, I had a rare chance to visit Microsoft in Redmond with Bob Pearson at Dell. We got to meet people like Scott Guthrie, Betsy Aoki, Laurence Moroney, and some others who are working in the Microsoft Labs on some really cool things. We’re working on a labs-like project for Bob Pearson who has an amazing idea that leverages community. But, we wanted it to be different, to look fantastic, to engage the community, to be enterprise ready, and to be “on brand.” Our discussions were focused around how to leverage some of the emerging technologies to bring value to his business idea. Since then, we’ve been doing deep dives into more and more of these technologies. It’s been challenging and fun.
This initial post is here to setup and document our learning experience on Silverlight. Remember, we’re a design company with some really sharp coders. It’s one thing to learn these new technologies, but it’s another to build a process around how to design AND develop in a realm where both designers and developers must play. Our expectations are high as we aim to achieve an amazing result to blow Bob away and to also set some expectations in the design community.
In the coming posts, I’m asking our team to pay close attention to what we learn and experience through this. We’ve got an obvious benefit of having partnerships with Dell and Microsoft to help us get over the obstacles and learning curves along the way. While what we’ve seen so far has been an amazing start with Silverlight, it needs an artists love and finesse. As a business in a recession, it’s a scary proposition to take on new things when you know that processes will have to be defined along the way. We’re going to be hitting a lot of speed bumps and have more late nights.
We’ll try to position this from a business point of view with technical stuff injected where it makes sense. And, I’ll be asking for some guest posts along the way to help round things out. It’s best to speak to the good, the bad, and the ugly…as anything but a frank approach won’t benefit anyone.
Outside of the immediate RD2 team, we’ll have some help from some of our extended family along the way: