They Took Away My Cloud

On Monday, a U.S. judge gave Microsoft control of 22 domains owned by domain hosting service No-IP.com. Microsoft intended to filter out some domains used by malware, but promptly screwed up. The result was that millions of legitimate users could not access their servers.

This will happen again and again as infrastructure moves to centralized cloud providers. What do you think will happen if the server just above yours in the server rack (more...)

Citizen + Open Data = $55,000 savings

Big Data is not necessarily about crunching massive amounts of data – it’s about finding unrealized value in a data set. This might be done on huge sets of billions of records, using Map/Reduce running on thousands of servers. But it might also be done at a smaller scale by a concerned citizen.

More and more data is being made available by municipalities and countries. These are typical “big data” collections: Just a bunch of (more...)

Poor Usability Puts Dangerous Criminals on the Street

Good usability is often seen as optional – something we can include in a system if we have the time and the resources for it. But sometimes, bad usability can cause economic damage. A couple of years ago, here in Denmark, a large, well-respected organization had to write manual checks for months to avoid having their phones cut off. The reason: Their new ERP system was so hard to use that invoices were not getting (more...)

Late to the game: SAP

Having working with Oracle Fusion Applications, I know what a modern, cutting-edge user experience for enterprise software looks like. Something like this:

fusion-applications-screenshots-3I’ve also sometimes been subjected to SAP. Suffice to say, it does not look like this.

But maybe they’re upping their game – according to job hunting site Glassdoor.com, SAP is looking for 58 User Experience engineers. A bit late to the game, given than Oracle is already shipping stuff like the (more...)

Cool or Safe? Volvo Chooses Cool

Safe driving has two components: Safe cars and safe drivers.

A Volvo car is built like a tank and is equipped with all kinds of safety features – it’s a very safe car. Unfortunately, Volvo has unthinkingly undone all the advances they have made on the car side of the equation by making the driver much more likely to cause an accident. How did they do that? With touchscreens, of course.

A driver in a (more...)

Keeping the Programmers Out

When an implementation project for a standard system like SAP or Oracle E-Business Suite runs completely off the rails, it’s because the programmers have been allowed into the project.

Programmers are very accommodating people and they don’t like to say no. And true enough, given enough time and money, they  can build anything.

The problem is that the business case for a standard system rests on the word “standard”. Not “almost-standard-with-a-little-bit-of-code”. By all means use (more...)

Why you’re not getting hired

If you’re applying for permanent positions and not getting hired even though you have the skills the organizations asks for, consider whether you are proving your ability to learn new things.

I’m often talking to people who believe their 20 years of experience with technology X or Y should make them shoo-ins for a job. However, they are not getting hired.

The reason is that a modern organization can’t depend on the same skill being (more...)

Cool or useful?

This is the dashboard of a Tesla S:

tesla dashboard

With a large touchscreen and very few physical buttons. A lot of design time went into building this. Very cool-looking.

This is the steering wheel of a Formula One racecar (which is incidentially the whole user interface of the car):

formula1 steering wheel

A small screen and a lot of physical buttons. A lot of usability engineering went into building this. Very useful.

If you are going to be handling (more...)

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

The above phase means “who will guard the guards themselves?” and is relevant in many security contexts.

Here in Denmark, we are currently having our own “News of the World” affair. In our case, a contractor at the payment processor handling almost all Danish credit cards was able to automatically send a tip to a journalist whenever a celebrity used his or her credit card. That makes it hard to take an incognito honeymoon (more...)

DIY Disasters

When people take on home renovation “Do-It-Yourself” projects beyond their skills, disaster ensues. Apparently, this is so common that you can base a whole TV series on this theme – where professionals rescue the disastrous DIY project for the grateful and clueless amateur handyman.

I’ve seen the same thing happen in many IT projects. The people in the organization overestimate their own skills and are unable or unwilling to pay the cost of professional external (more...)

Unfocused Learning

The manager was proudly showing off his new IT classroom.

“Where is the projector?” I asked.

“Oh, we don’t need a projector. The instructor can just take over everybody’s screens.”

I have been teaching in environments like this, and it does not work well. When I have a piece of information or a computer screen projected in large format in front of everybody, the class has a common focus on the task. If (more...)

IT Defence in Depth

The Heartbleed bug has shown that security vulnerabilities can pop up everywhere. Unfortunately, many IT organizations depend on a single security layer to secure their network – and as the ineffectiveness of the Maginot Line proved, that is a risky strategy. You need multiple security layers – what soldiers call Defence in Depth.Security LayersThis illustration is from my weekly Technology That Fits newsletter – sign up here.

Good IT hygiene

Everybody knows they need good dental hygiene – daily brushing and flossing, regular checkups at the dentist. But many IT professionals don’t realize they need good IT hygiene as well – regular maintenance, security patches, etc.

If you don’t practice good IT hygiene, you will experience pain down the line. I’d like to help you avoid that – get in touch.

Information Evaporation

Have you noticed that knowledge about IT systems seems to evaporate over time? I’ve seen quite a few systems where the only knowledge left was a few pages of yellowed paper in a dusty binder.

Information EvaporationHowever, in some application systems, this does not happen. Why is that? Because the information about what the system does is stored in the code.

Keep system documentation inside your code to prevent information evaporation.

Dutch Cars – Technology That Fits

I was just in Amsterdam last week, and they have the smallest cars I have ever seen:

small_carAt first, it looks counter-intuitive, given that the average Dutchman seems to be several meters tall. But really small cars is actually a very obvious solution for a crowded city like Amsterdam with many canals, narrow roads and very limited parking. These mini-cars are actually parked on the pavement, probably avoiding the 5 Euro per hour parking fee (more...)

Thinking it Through – Nest Smoke Alarm Fail

The company Nest, recently acquired by Google for the usual billions, makes smart thermostats and smoke detectors. Unfortunately, they did not think through the user experience of their Nest smoke and CO detector.

In principle, it’s great that you can turn off your smoke detector by waving your hand at it – like in “oh, cut it out, I just overcooked my microwave popcorn a bit.”

Less great is that if people experience an (more...)

Don’t Automate Half-Way

I watched in horror as the updated application was deployed to the test server. The application was fine, having been subjected to the first test by the developers, but the deployment process was bad. There were various home-built utilities to run with very specific parameters in order to build the deployment package that would then be semi-automatically installed on the test server. It took a new developer a whole day and 20-30 attempts to build (more...)

Come back when we’re open

I subscribe to Microsoft Office 365 and had a payment stuck on an expired credit card. Even though there was a new card, the billing system kept trying the old one.

In a modern cloud service, I would open a service request and expect things to be handled for me. But this is Microsoft. And with the arrogance of the monopolist they used to be, they require you to please show up when they feel (more...)

Good User Experience at Low Cost

The business wants IT to deliver a good user experience at low cost. Many people in IT considers these two goals to be conflicting, but they are not. The secret to good user experience at low cost is to use existing best practice, codified in User Experience Design Patterns.
UX patternsSo where do you get these magic, cost-saving design patterns? A good starting point is the very comprehensive library of UX design patterns that Oracle is (more...)

The Future of User Experience

I’m off to the Netherlands for the first and finest Oracle User Experience Event in Europe, arranged by Oracle Platinum Partner AMIS Services BV at their offices in Nieuwegein.

AMIS and Oracle are pulling out all the stops – Oracle is flying in their top UX talent to speak, AMIS has lined up some of their experienced consultants, and they’ve even invited a few outside experts (like me).

I’ll be co-presenting with Killian Evers (more...)