Inside outside

16Jun11

I spent some time today helping to design a computer system. I may have missed something, but I’m sure that twenty years ago we used to design the system from the inside (the data structures and logic) to the outside (the screens and reports). Today we were designing the system from the outside (the web pages) to the inside (the data and algorithms).

Have all design processes evolved like this? In the olden days did every product development start with the engineering (the inside) and end with the customer experience (the outside)? And now, does everything start with the consumer experience and get cobbled together?

This would explain things like Peter Storm cagoules in the 1970s (innovative fabric, but like wearing a wet polythene bag), the driving position in a Peugeot 505 (1970s-80s), the atom bomb and popcorn (still produced in the old fashioned way – exciting to create, but rubbish to eat).

It would also explain current trends like fascination with celebrities (all outside observation, nothing but speculation about what goes on inside), fast food, the Jubilee Line (nice looking, but usually fails to get you to your destination) and Beach Volleyball.

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4 Responses to “Inside outside”

  1. 1 Steve M

    From my (limited) knowledge, it seems that Systems Thinking, or some equivalent, is driving some of these behaviours; starting at, “What’s important to the customer?” and working into the function from that perspective. From a business perspective this, generally, seems to be a positive move as the business doesn’t waste time with unnecessary frippery, bells and whistles.

    But does the IT have to be “cobbled together”? Can we still not carry out proper data analysis, and create appropriate database structures which can support the customer’s processing needs, for example? Or have those IT disciplines been lost / abandoned / dismissed as “old-fashioned, so last century”?

    I fear that the baby is being thrown out with the bathwater.

  2. There’s a lot of that going around at the moment Steve

  3. Ugh dirty words “system thinking”

  4. 4 Graham

    In the good old days the people who used the old systems were trained operators and the customers didn’t see the system just the answers, now the customer will see the system usually online and the systems are operated by any Tom, Dick or Harriet off the street. So the outside is now as important as the in.


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