The influence of the experience economy on IT architecture

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AMIS is puting more and more emphasis on IT architecture. That is one of the reasons why I am doing my Masters in IT architecture and why AMIS is starting a knowledge center about IT architecture. The following paper is written for one of the masterclasses (Applying Architecture) that I have followed so far.

Introduction
Companies that are able to provide their customers an experience by providing emotionally and psychologically gratifying products perform well in the currently very competitive marketplace (Free, 2006). Companies like Apple, Disney and Starbucks are able to sell their products based on an added user experience. Customers are willing to pay more for products largely based on the emotions that these products raise to their buyers. Maybe Apple is one of the most well known companies that excel in delivering an added experience with their products. Apple customers identify themselves with the companies’ products. They want to show that they are different (European Centre for the Experience Economy, 2005).
This paper describes how the experience economy influences the role of an IT architect.....

The Experience Economy and the role of an IT Architect
Companies that excel in creating an added user experience with their products show that they are able to put an emphasis on design and usability. IT systems that leave a memorable impression on their users need to have a highly learnable and usable attractive interface. It must be fun to use the software system. Learnability, attractivity, user-friendliness and usability are all quality attributes that are addressed by the Quint2 Extended ISO 9126 Model for software quality (Quint, 1991). Experience economy products put high demands on these non-functional requirements. Many vendors are able to produce MP3 players. These players all do the same; you can play music on them. The functionality of products can be the same, the user experience, which is determined by how products look and feel, can differ enormously. This can be said about software systems too. It’s not the user requirements that makes software systems differ, it’s the non-functional requirements, the how systems are built, that makes software systems different. Apple’s Mac OS X and Microsoft Vista are both fully fledged, modern, operating systems with mainly the same functionality. But the user experience of these software systems is very different. Microsoft is continuously putting an emphasis on the technical aspects of their operating systems; Apple puts an emphasis on the user experience of their software. The homepage of Windows Vista mentions service packs and upgrades (Microsoft Corporation, 2008), the homepages of Apples Leopard operating system mentions the Leopard experience  (Apple Inc., 2008).
It is the role of the IT architect to watch trends (Cibit, 2008). IT architects should incorporate these trends in the solutions that they are designing. Architects that design systems with a high user experience demand should of course pay attention to the requirements of the systems that they are designing, but an even higher effort should be spend in the definition of the non-functional requirements of the systems that they are designing. The definition of the non-functional requirements of systems should contain very explicit requirements about the usability of software systems. These usability non-functional requirements should be aligned with modern market trends on order to create attractive systems that follow the latest developments.
A trade-off is present between different non-functional requirements  (Kazman, Klein, & Clements, 2000). High demands about the user experience of IT systems will put a strain on for example the realisability of IT systems. This will lead to more complex systems, which negatively influences the time to market of new systems. An example of this is the postponement of Sony’s “Playstation Home” because of the complexity the user experience brings into this system (Tweakers.net, 2008).

Conclusion
The experience economy puts an emphasis on modern, trend related non-functional requirements of IT systems. An improved look and feel greatly determines an emotionally and psychologically gratifying user experience.
More emphasis on well-defined usability requirements introduces complex software that is difficult to develop. IT architects should design systems that have a great user experience, but that are realisable as well.

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3 Comments

  1. Successful architecture must be capable of delivering competitive differentiation. Your observations highlight essential considerations for any architect.

  2. You are right. I lost the links when I copied the text from Office (on the Mac) to WordPress. It should be fixed now.

  3. You know, using a system that works good on paper, but not on the web, makes for a very bad experience. Instead of referring to external references in a bullet-pointed list at the end of your article, containing non clickable links, you could have provided clickable links within your text. A much better experience!