Visions and software innovation

In Essence, an innovative methodology, the metaphor used to describe an idea is called a Vision.
Visions are used to keep an eye on the overall goal and are a way for the team to describe and communicating about an idea.
They can be used to discover and communicate about limitations and challenges of an idea or possible solution.
A representation of a vision can take different forms, which can be seen seen as two axes, concrete versus abstract, and simple versus complex.
This means that it is possible to have four distinctive representations:

Essence vision types and representations

Essence vision types and representations

  • Concrete means that the vision is material.
  • Abstract means that the vision is immaterial.
  • Simple means that the vision is uncomplicated in form.
  • Complex means that the vision consists of interrelated parts or aspects.

In Essence each of these representations have a name:

  • Icons (concrete simple)
  • Prototype (concrete complex)
  • Metaphors (abstract simple)
  • Proposition (abstract complex)

The software industry uses these representations extensively today.
E.g. prototypes are produced each day and they are used to communication about properties of a product.
Icons are used for communicating about one specific property e.g. it needs to be more simple in use, like an apple remote.
As software professionals we often use metaphors for communicating about code, and likewise can they be used to communicate about a vision for the product being produced.
Propositions is a more complex “metaphor” often being a hole sentence describing the solution to a problem.
An elevator pitch can be seen as a proposition.

I have used them all with success both to investigate but also to communicate about an idea with stakeholders and other team members.
Prototypes is the representation I use the most.
Prototypes works well for testing practical aspects, however they are very concrete and can be complex to comprehend. The problem with them being concrete is that they can limit creativity and users can come to think that this is the final product.
This is not always ideal as the customer participation is needed in discussing the product on a level where everything is possible and where the team is looking for opportunities.
However, in the Pay-E-Safe’s Zebra project we used prototypes for presenting our vision and using this presentation it was possible for us to investigate the use context for the solution.
The main customer based was located in Uganda, Africa where there were a need for a payment solution as Zebra.
By choosing a representation which could be interacted with we learned a lot about how the customers in the domain would use the solution and what was important to them.
For instance we initially figured that a pin code would be to tiresome and slow the purchasing process.
However, they thought that pin codes were important because they felt that this protected them against theft.
This goes to show that representations of visions, and the choosing of which to use, is important for the investigations, the innovation of the solution, and for bringing value to the customer.
Put in other words visions can be used to understand the domain, but also for keeping a long term strategy for the product.