© 2013 Jeff Sussna, Ingineering.IT
Brian Phipps (@brandstrat) responded to my "Continuous Quality" presentation with the comment that he thought it was relevant to brand strategists. When I asked him why he felt that way, he replied that “brand quality = ops quality”. Contemplating his comment, I realized it rang true with my own personal experience.
I’ve reached the point where 99% of my interaction with my bank takes place via their website. As often as possible I pay for things with my credit card and not cash. Whenever I can I arrange to get paid by direct deposit. As a result I don’t even use the bank’s ATM much anymore. I pay all my bills using online bill payment; I can’t remember the last time I opened my check book. About the only time I go into the bank is to use their coin counter to get rid of left-over change. Since I don’t use cash much anymore, I don’t need to do that very often either.
Until recently, my bank’s website was mediocre. The graphic design was crude and old-fashioned. The flow of the functionality was confusing and hard to navigate. The site was very slow, often to the point of being unusable. My overall experience was one of annoyance, frustration, and dissatisfaction.
A few months ago, the bank revamped their website. The new design is crisp and contemporary. The functional flow has been simplified and rationalized. The performance has dramatically improved. My experience went from dissatisfaction to pleasure. Now I look forward to logging in to pay bills. Asked by a colleague to recommend a local bank, I enthusiastically recommended mine, only partly because its functionality met my colleague’s specific needs.
Because I interact with my bank largely through their website, that site almost entirely determines my attitude about their brand. Design, information architecture, functionality, and IT operations all contribute to my feelings about the company. Had the site revamp not addressed all of them, I’d still be left feeling somewhat dissatisfied, and less likely to “recommend it to a friend”.
The digital realm is completely infusing the physical realm. Interaction and relationships are superseding broadcasting and consumption. The rise of the service economy is blurring the distinctions between branding and delivery. Brand quality is becoming inseparable from design, development, and operations quality. A site that is gorgeous, exquisite to use, and highly functional will not satisfy customers if it falls over under high user traffic volumes.
Companies that want to generate excellent brand experiences need to create inseparable quality practices across all the disciplines involved in digital service delivery. No longer are websites just mechanisms for marketing and explanation. They’ve become applications, and beyond even that, the primary product for sale. Digital design, development, and operations are all part of what customers are buying, and they all contribute strongly to customer satisfaction. As much as anything, customers derive satisfaction from the seamlessness with which user experience, functionality, and operability complement each other.
DevOps is an attempt to improve quality, efficiency, and value delivery by dissolving boundaries between development and operations culture, tools, and practice. DevOps is a necessary but not sufficient step towards digital brand quality. In order to attain real customer satisfaction, we need to dissolve boundaries across marketing, design, development, QA, and operations. We need to create unified human-centered IT cultures, practices, organizations, and toolsets that are bound together by a holistic understanding of quality across all dimensions of service delivery.