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Measuring Innovation and Design

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We’ve recently sharpened our project management, helpdesk, coding and documentation processes, both internally and externally, using modern tools such as Jira and Confluence. In addition, we’re indoctrinating the usage of full-scale CRM in all our sales activities. Then we’re gauging our culture with Officevibe, which sends periodic questions to everyone in order to rate different work aspects.

Not unlike our own Platform, these tools provide a lot of measurement data which is used to create different Key Performance Indicators and comparisons. One might even think that soon we managers are replaced by AI, which remembers everything and prudently iterates and enhances the productive work of our highly skilled people. Perhaps there’s also a happiness AI working alongside.

I’ve observed that there are a few caveats in this era of all-encompassing quantification and ranking, related to innovation and design. When I served in the Air Force in the 90s and got familiar with distributed and fault tolerant computing, it took me ten years and two jobs before I was ready to establish a company based on these very principles, although the rough idea was there in 1995. Slow?

When I made the go-decision in the summer of 2001, it still took us six months to contemplate and draw the architecture together with my to-be CTO Erik Bunn and Chief Engineer Kaj Niemi. Our service-only (SaaS) model took another three months. Fast?

Although our original architecture is sound and valid, it needs continuous refinement to match and make use of emerging technologies. The full slate could be fitted into two A4s in 2002, while an A0 printout is not enough today, even without hundreds of lines of embedded descriptions.

The work of a front-end coder or project manager is today somewhat quantifiable. Take a software architect, who is usually a very skilled coder too, and the scene is much more complex. If I assign a task to my CTO to design a scalable scheme on how spimes seamlessly migrate from one hardware architecture to another while retaining cost and resource consciousness, this can take two weeks or a year. After hundreds of thought experiments, internal discussions, prototypes and discarded models a solid version emerges. When this is then applied by the rest of the team, things are again a bit more quantifiable.

The same challenge applies to corporate identity, visuals and key messages, which define how the company is perceived internally and externally. This is a complex work stage for the CMO – a presentation for a specialized audience can take 15 minutes or two weeks. Copying old stuff is quickly detected by Internet sleuths; only a fresh and insightful presentation is worth giving.

In conclusion, these new quantification tools are welcome and useful, but they can’t be used for creative design and innovation. At least before we have brain-computer interfaces measuring synaptic activity and thought patterns of these people.

//Pasi

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