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M. Planning Connection with Use


Valued computing tools are born from intensive conversations, and those conversations may then continue to evolve throughout a product’s dispersion and adoption.

Beyond input gathered from targeted individuals during product development, a launch date can represent the beginning of a meaningful dialog between a computing tool’s creators and its users. As industries, cultures of practice, and technological environments evolve, so must the interactive applications that are situated within them. Conversations around adopted usage can provide a wellspring of insights for technologists striving to provide enduring value in complex work practices.

Designing for such meaningful connection requires critical thinking about potential real world scenarios of use — both desirable and negative — as well as potential interventions that might help steer usage toward intended outcomes.

Long before a computing tool’s launch, product teams can envision connections with real world use in order to develop design strategies that could positively influence the socio-technical systems that will envelop their creations. For example, envisioned concepts could contain integral channels for ongoing collaboration around user needs and design advancements. Teams may even go so far as to conceptualize their entire offerings as services instead of products, either literally or in spirit. Workers can experience vendor organizations through a variety of supportive, service oriented touch points that are thoughtfully tied into their activity contexts. The nature of these touch points may depend on the domain, the character of targeted work practices, and the level of disruptiveness or maturity of the product category.

During application envisioning, product teams can actively talk about potential downstream effects of their design concepts. Teams can also generate ideas about future connections with their applications’ eventual users, envisioning integral touch points that can allow them to remain systemically responsive and strategically relevant over time.

Beyond connections with individual workers and organizations, product teams can also foster and learn from the communities of practice that will ideally grow around their applications. Once a product has been incorporated broadly into a knowledge work domain, workers in related professions may become invested in the tool’s advancement. From users’ perspectives, applications that succeed in becoming part of the infrastructure of a field can actually “belong,” in some sense, to the people who have made the technology meaningful in their own practices. This category contains 4 of the 100 application envisioning ideas in this book: M1. Iterative conversations with knowledge workers M2. System champions M3. Application user communities M4. Unanticipated uses of technology Product teams can use these ideas to explore concepts for how their organizations and offerings could systemically support work practice throughout a product’s evolution, based on mutually beneficial exchanges with users and stakeholders. Early ideation focused on this support, rather than post hoc efforts after a product launch, can help teams to integrate these relationships into the core of their application concepts. Early thinking about these connections can also positively shape the ongoing product development processes that an envisioning effort initiates. The central notion of this category is most closely related to the “Exploring work mediation and determining scope” (A) and “Promoting integration into work practice” (K) categories.

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