Monday, December 13, 2010

The Architecture Of Your Product Needs To Enable The Movement Of Ideas, Not The Movement Of Documents

When I work with my colleagues in Walldorf, Germany, I work from Building 18, which is called the star building, because of its shape. The building is relatively new. Its star shaped architecture enables many chance encounters and micro discussions, which is where many meaningful decisions are taken at SAP.

The bathrooms, coffee, water, discussion tables, smoking room and meeting rooms are all in the middle of the star. So those who need to use the bathroom, drink coffee or water, need a table to chat or smoke must walk to the center of the star. When we we do this we invariably run into a few colleagues with whom we need to talk. There are many tables and chairs nearby to facilitate a quick conversation where ideas are exchanged and decisions are taken.

This change in office architecture has happened in recognition of the fact that most products today are an assembly of individual ideas. The more the interactions, the better the ideas get. The goal of most workplaces in the developed world today is not to move material from one workstation to another workstation as quickly as possible. Instead the goal is to move ideas from one person to another as efficiently as possible.

Designers of enterprise software need to recognize this change in the nature of work. Let us design enterprise software that is a virtual version of the star building at SAP and enable chance encounters of people as many times as possible in a day. Let's build collaboration into the core architecture of the products we design. Let us move ideas from person to person rather than documents from server to server.
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