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The Job Of The CTO Should Be Chief Simplifier

Technology should empower through simplicity for every user

15Mar

The last two years have seen something stir again that many thought was gone forever - Star Wars.

2015 saw the universally loved ‘The Force Awakens’ followed by 2016’s ‘Rogue One’, both tried to emulate the feel of the originals with similar modeling, the original cast appearing throughout and even the same technological layouts. In December 1977 the layout of the Millennium Falcon looked futuristic and packed full of technology, it had hundreds of brightly colored unlabelled buttons, complex radar things for targeting, and could even do the Kessle run in less than 12 Parsecs. This was what the future of technology seemed to be, complex, baffling, and oddly using a unit of length to measure time.

However, after the complexities of new technologies became too much for people, they realized that less is more. It is the concept that the original iPod exploited to such great affect, replacing the tens of buttons on other MP3 players with a single button and wheel. People realized that it was as powerful as any other MP3 player available, but you didn’t need to spend hours reading an instruction manual to make simple changes to it.

This idea is something that CTOs should still be exploiting today and should be at the very core of their jobs.

It is essential that they can empower people working in their company, and this doesn’t mean introducing a piece of technology so complex that it requires a three-day course to utilize - it needs to be simple and powerful. We have seen with the introduction of CMS systems and even templated websites that this can have a profound impact on how people work. No longer do they need to know how to go into the code and create something new, they just need to know where to place an image and copy and they’re ready to go.

We are in a time when developments like AI and big data have made the business world seem considerably more complex than it really needs to be for the average employee. It is unrealistic to expect somebody working hard to get sales to then take days to learn how to analyze data. They just need to understand how to use it in their own process and this comes from simplicity, automation of certain tasks, and having a UX that is intuitive and mindful of the end user.

This leads to some serious dichotomies for CTOs across the board, given that new technologies are often not formatted in a way that allows for simplicity of use. Think about how difficult it was to use big data technologies only five years ago compared to today. Very few people would have the capacity to use them effectively when they first began to have an impact on companies, but there was considerable pressure for companies to adopt these technologies. A CTO is therefore left with the difficult decision of when to implement these new technologies to have the biggest business impact.

There is little argument that data has been a genuine game-changer for companies and therefore CTOs have been under considerable pressure to adopt it at theirs, but the reality is that rather than jumping in straight away, they need to assess how it will be useful for the company at all levels. In the case of big data, this doesn’t require everyone to be able to analyze the data themselves, instead it will be a case of making the analysis done by others available to those who will benefit from it. To make this workable, a CTO needs to evaluate who will need it, how they will access it and most importantly, how many people will be needed to operate to this standard.

Introducing a new technology is always going to be done to make people’s work simpler or more powerful. This could be anything from virtual assistants helping to organize the working day, through to VR visualizing data in 3D to help with analysis. However, it is only ever going to be useful if it has practical uses across the company, which comes down to simplicity for the end user. This is never going to be a case of making sure that every user can do everything using the technology, but simply that the benefits of the technology are available to all, be it a data analysis, an improved call recording capability, or even just a change in file storage. These benefits need to also be easily accessible, clearly explained, and most importantly, simple. 

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