I’m a cloud architect and spend most of my time traveling around the nation meeting with clients and developing solutions that serve their unique needs. On a recent business trip, I had an experience that’s worth sharing with those involved in the design of cloud-based solutions. You could call it a little epiphany or an aha-moment.
During this particular trip, my client meeting ended on time and I found myself with a few hours to spare before wheels up. I considered hitting the airport lounge, but headed to a cluster of work stations instead. I opened my laptop — hoping to squeeze in a few productive hours — and searched for the free airport wireless network I expected to easily find and access. However, I could not find one, and it got me thinking.
In an era where the value of cloud is constantly being conveyed, this situation made me contemplate what we value and how it impacts the success of the solutions we architect. We value our devices, our apps and cloud, but the invisible thread is connectivity and we hardly think of it. We don’t think about it enough as consumers or IT leaders. And I began trying to quantify which service provides more value — connectivity or the cloud? I would say they are equal priorities because I can’t access data in the cloud if I’m not connected to it!
To that point, the heralded cognitive scientist and usability engineer Donald Norman says design should address the communication between solution and user. Design should optimize that conduit of communication in order to make the experience of using the solution pleasurable. In Norman’s book, The Design of Everyday Things, he makes the point that people are often prone to blaming themselves when objects appear to malfunction, instead of the lack of intuitive guidance that should be present in the design. We can easily apply this thinking to cloud solutions and expand the landscape of our planning to include connectivity.
Consumers of our systems have the same level of expectations with cloud connectivity that they do when they turn on a faucet to run water, or a light switch for electricity. So why not consider connectivity the pivotal design point it truly is, and think it through from the consumer’s perspective? For example, how are the employees your network serves connecting to the cloud? Is the connection secure and compliant with business and customer requirements? Is the networking point located in a place that provides fast access for users? How will people access your solution in the cloud and how can you make that seamless for them? That’s my point. The good news is that although I was not able to connect to a free airport wireless network, I was able to use my iPhone to connect to my cloud data via cellular services. While not ideal, it was a serviceable backup plan that kept me out of the lounge.
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