Halal Butchery, Feature Management, and Conceptual Design

Back in late October we enjoyed a visit from Brian Prentice, a Gartner Group analyst whose areas of specialisation include intellectual property, conceptual design, open-source software, social computing, and service-based delivery models (e.g., cloud computing, software-as-a-service, and platform-as-a-service).  Over a couple of hours a lively discussion ranged across most all of those specialisation areas, and although the session was now a couple of months ago there are aspects of it that have stuck with me, particularly around the adoption of conceptual design to the application-development life cycle.

At his Gartner Group blog Brian Prentice offers a definition of conceptual design as:

  • a basic foundation that defines the structure of the solution, including the functional elements of the product, their relationships, and the system behaviour.

…and great things come from an approach like this, which emphasises the creation and delivery of greatly-usable individual function points: think of Google Search (which Brian Prentice points to as “a triumph of whitespace”) and Twitter.  When the introduction of additional functionality starts to degrade the experience for a large-enough proportion of users, you’re probably dealing with a new product that should be developed independently and integrated across function points to provide highly-usable, highly-scalable composite applications.  Organisations such as Google capture and monitor metrics on the use of features introduced into their applications and drop features that fall short of what’s needed to keep them going.

Thinking recently about conceptual design and the introduction and management of features and functions while waiting for a bus, i noticed this sign in a butcher-shop window:

…apologising for the introduction of a new service feature.

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