Service-oriented architecture (SOA) applications don't mean a thing if it ain't got that swing, as in a swinging user experience (UXP).
Users need to find SOA applications fun to use, argues Richard Monson-Haefel, senior analyst, Burton Group Inc., because if they don't, the business risks losing productivity, the very reason why it embraced SOA.
Old fashioned coders with pizza stains on their sweat shirts might think the Ajax or rich Internet application (RIA) user experience is just anchovies on the pepperoni, but Burton Group begs to differ.
"We firmly believe the user experience needs to be a first level priority at the same level as SDLC, platform languages, SOA and security." Monson-Haefel said during a Webinar this past week,
He calls the user experience the "linchpin" in the success of a business because the user interface is where the business users go to get the information they need to close the deal."If the business depends on people and people depend on information technology," Monson-Haefel explains, "then the interface between people and information technology -- the user interface -- naturally has to be very good. If you have an ineffective user interface, you're going to have a less effective organization."
He argues that in the history of business computing, the IT components have changed from water-cooled mainframes that took up the space that would comfortably sleep a family of five to today's ultra-thin MacBook Air. But what hasn't changed is that people need the information that IT hardware and software can deliver to them.
"At Burton Group we like to talk about the fact that people are the platform," Monson-Haefel said. "IT is ephemeral. It continues to change over time, but what does not change in business is that the quality of any organization depends on the quality of its workers."
If developers think the goal of SOA is to provide agility in assembling loosely coupled Web services into an application that provides real-time sales data to managers and marketers, they are missing a key component in the Burton view.
"The idea is to make user experience the end goal of any IT initiative and not an afterthought," Monson-Haefel said.
And two goals of the UXP should be to provide business users with a way to get the data they need with one click and ,equally important, the user experience should be fun, a concept not everyone in IT may be able to grok.
Monson-Haefel offered pointers for IT organizations ready to focus on the UXP.
"The first thing organizations need to do is embrace the idea of rich Internet applications," the Burton analyst said. "Take a look at the available technologies, whether it be Ajax or Adobe Flex or Silverlight."
But Monson-Haefel warned that RIA technologies are limited because they are not resident on the user's PC desktop and thus may lead to performance issues related to the limitations of the Web browser where they live. So Burton is urging IT to look beyond RIA.
"We see the next step as RIAD, the rich Internet application desktop," Monson-Haefel said. "Here you need to look at Adobe AIR [Adobe Integrated Runtime], Google Gadgets, the Microsoft Widget Library, to see resident applications that provide you with a visual experience associated with RIA."
In Burton's view, the future of the UXP is in using Web widgets, portable chunks of code and gadgets, miniature objects that can be placed on a Web page to provide dynamic content.
With widgets and gadgets, real-time sales data is on the sales manager's desktop without requiring him to do multiple click-throughs to find a table or chart, the Burton analyst said.
"We believe that rather than opening up a large sales application and navigating through five screens to get to the sales information you need, that applications will start to take the form of widgets and you will always have the information you need on your desktop within one click away," Monson-Haefel said.