“Seeing is like that. Statements are made with great certainty, and one doesn’t know how it happened.”
Carlos Castaneda

Tales of Power

Good Design?

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One of the last software design projects I partook in was with telecom company who wanted/needed to overhaul their product line. They had new hardware in place and needed new software on top of it – which was the purpose of this project.

The software they already had was tragic in every possible way. It was mashed together by their development team without any design intention, with an outdated user interface software framework and with no understanding at all of market needs and positioning.

The first phase of the project was an analysis of what they had, what they had going for them, what competition had and where the market was. They were lagging behind the market, they had poor branding. Had we tried to catch up with the market we would have lost the game … the gap was just too big. However we did manage to identify numerous opportunities for unique positioning – there were recurring weak spots in most of the competitive products and we went after those.

The project was unpleasant. They felt like an old and tired government organization. We had marketing pretty much on our side but the development team who was very technically oriented (and outdated) were skeptical and constantly challenging or ignoring our approach to their product – this despite many attempts to bring them into the game. I remember the head of development was also very petty … claiming that we were paid to much for what little donation we had to the project.

At one point in the project we were all sitting in a fairly large meeting and I openly said to them that I don’t think they understand the position they are in. I poingantly said that unless they find a way to reinvent their product they would all be out of jobs in a few years (this was a very old and well established hi-tech company in Israel). In my mind it wasn’t about pixels or colors or even features – it was a question of life and death for them as a company.

I somehow managed to bring the project to completion with OK design artifacts … but overall I felt that the project was a failure. That was until this morning I found (as usual a little late as I am fairly out of touch with happenings in the world) that about a year ago, after numerous acquisitions and attempts to save it, the company folded … and in a bad way.

Sadly, I now feel that the project was a success. I called it the way I saw it and I did everything I can to communicate my perspective and help them from that understanding. I also truly felt that product-wise there was hope – and we aptly demonstrated it (I wouldn’t be surprised to find that the opportunities we identified are still there, unclaimed in the market place). As they were at the time I left them, there was no justification for them to continue to exist … and now they don’t.

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