Welcome!

Java IoT Authors: Elizabeth White, Liz McMillan, Pat Romanski, William Schmarzo, AppDynamics Blog

Related Topics: Java IoT

Java IoT: Article

Java Desktop: The Usability Paradox

How Much Progress Has There Been Since the 1950s and LEO?

The world's first office computer, known as LEO, was created in the 1950s by Lyons, the British teashop giant. Its aim was to replace the thousands of clerks who did the billing, invoicing, and stocktaking, and also tracked the supply and demand of sticky buns and cups of tea that the public were consuming. Its success lay not in the technology it employed, but because it made the company more efficient by streamlining what was previously a very labor-intensive business process. It benefited Lyons, which cut costs and had more control of corporate information, and it also benefited the thirsty public who had enough cakes, sandwiches, and cups of tea to see them through their seaside weekends, rain or shine.

In much the same way that early machines automated tasks such as harvesting crops or weaving cotton, LEO was successful because it was more than just an electronic filing cabinet - it had integrated itself into the DNA of the corporation and freed up employees from manual labor.

The 1960s to 1990s was not such a cakewalk for IT, however, and the Nobel Prize-winning economist Robert Solow summarized this period: "We see computers everywhere except in the productivity statistics." He was basing his observation on the statistic that while IT spending grew in every decade since the 1960s, productivity growth slowed. In the 1990s the amount of money spent on new computer hardware alone was over $750 billion, and since none of this seemed to make companies more efficient, the expression - The Productivity Paradox - was coined. Despite all the money that was being spent, there was no real return on investment.

Solow did the industry a disservice as he had painted a picture of inefficiency. What has occurred since is that many corporations view IT not as an opportunity to create revenue, but as an overhead that departments have to incur and as such it should be minimized.

Such an attitude worries me deeply as the line between saving costs for the business and providing a poor customer experience is a thin one. Two examples of places where this line is wafer-thin are voice response systems and browser apps that front end legacy applications.

Anyone who has telephoned a company to deal with a request and had to navigate touch-tone options in vain knows the frustration and poor service it provides. Most companies spend a lot of money on their office's reception area; plush furniture, nice lighting, and welcoming smiles greet customers as they walk into the business. A voice response system, however, is the virtual equivalent of a company's reception area as it creates the first impression and is the waiting lounge until you can see the person you've called to visit. While companies implement cost savings by outsourcing help desks to far-flung time zones and attempting to put their customers many touch-tone menus away from the real people left on their help-desk support staff, they are doing the equivalent of decorating the entrance hall to their corporate offices with uncomfortable chairs, shabby carpets, and impersonal service.

The Web has had a phenomenal effect on companies and how they can interact with their customers, but for many industries I fear that all that has occurred is they have front ended their batch systems and exposed inherent business weaknesses and flaws. Most of the computing universe runs on batch systems that were conceived and built in the last millennium, where nightly jobs compute numbers, move data, send messages, and print reports. Front ending this with a browser so customers can interact with their data is more efficient both for the company and the user; however, if it suffers from inherent legacy business inefficiencies, then it's no more than lipstick on a mainframe. A colleague of mine suffered this recently when on Friday they cancelled a payment that was due to be made the following Monday, only to find it had occurred anyway. The final explanation given was that three days notice was required because Monday's transactions were processed over the weekend and the job to do this started on Friday night. Listening to the story I had visions of an IT department in a deep subbasement somewhere with armies of oompah loompahs stoking a Heath Robinson Series II computer with currant buns while they drank cups of lukewarm tea.

Is the problem that IT is forever suffering from the poor return on investment that they suffered in the latter half of the last century? That it will forever be viewed as a cost center where only the minimum functionality is enough rather than a revenue-generating opportunity? Successful e-businesses understand that IT is the blood supply of their company and invest hugely in being able to deal with a world where customers exist in, travel to, and relocate around all corners of the globe and quality service must be provided 24 hours a day. For companies whose boardroom goal is to report quarterly results that boost shareholder value based on profit and loss figures, is the only way to do this to shave overhead and cut costs and investment? To become more productive and shake Solow's aphorism, are IT departments focused on keeping the economists and accountants happy, while delivering a poor usability experience for customers and hurting the company where it matters most - the satisfaction of their users?

More Stories By Joe Winchester

Joe Winchester, Editor-in-Chief of Java Developer's Journal, was formerly JDJ's longtime Desktop Technologies Editor and is a software developer working on development tools for IBM in Hursley, UK.

Comments (3) View Comments

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.


Most Recent Comments
Andrew Wolfe 11/08/05 02:41:56 PM EST

The key issue with low ROI of computing, especially in terms of productivity, is essentially that too much of the investment was in MS Windows _personal_ computing and too little in real collaboration. Corporations purchased boatloads of PCs and on which people mainly used standalone personal applications that were never integrated into any business process except by sneakernet. Workflow around Microsoft Word or Excel is ludicrous, but that's what a business really needs. Most of the "wow" spreadsheets and "cool" presentations were squandering the time of the so-called "knowledge workers" who in reality needed INTEGRATED business intelligence and data access.

As a Mac user, my biggest laugh of the 1990's was watching Windows users endlessly gripe about poor performance of their latest PC while Mac users like myself were contentedly using three-year-old applications on six-year-old machines. The problem was not system performance -- it was that these machines were not getting work done and these people's frustration was woefully misdirected.

PCs became another office-worker perk instead of an integrated part of business operations. And the FUD was that all your competitors were getting good value from PCs so you better get PCs too. And your knowledge workers would be unhappy if they couldn't have a PC on their desk to play Solitaire -- er, I mean, to run data analysis spreadsheets (with poor quality snapshots of erratically derived corporate data).

So in my opinion, the paradox only LOOKS like usability. The problem was that the whole personal-computer mantra was never oriented towards corporate business processes. It doesn't matter how usable Excel is -- if you leave your knowledge workers cut off from live access to corporate data, they might as well be playing Solitaire for all the good it's doing.

Java Developer's Journal News Desk 11/07/05 01:10:31 PM EST

The world's first office computer, known as LEO, was created in the 1950s by Lyons, the British teashop giant. Its aim was to replace the thousands of clerks who did the billing, invoicing, and stocktaking, and also tracked the supply and demand of sticky buns and cups of tea that the public were consuming. Its success lay not in the technology it employed, but because it made the company more efficient by streamlining what was previously a very labor-intensive business process. It benefited Lyons, which cut costs and had more control of corporate information, and it also benefited the thirsty public who had enough cakes, sandwiches, and cups of tea to see them through their seaside weekends, rain or shine.

CallCenters 11/04/05 06:12:03 PM EST

]]]] While companies implement cost savings by outsourcing help desks to far-flung time zones and attempting to put their customers many touch-tone menus away from the real people left on their help-desk support staff, they are doing the equivalent of decorating the entrance hall to their corporate offices with uncomfortable chairs, shabby carpets, and impersonal service. [[[[

Well put. Hear, hear.

@ThingsExpo Stories
The Internet of Things will challenge the status quo of how IT and development organizations operate. Or will it? Certainly the fog layer of IoT requires special insights about data ontology, security and transactional integrity. But the developmental challenges are the same: People, Process and Platform. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Craig Sproule, CEO of Metavine, demonstrated how to move beyond today's coding paradigm and shared the must-have mindsets for removing complexity from the develo...
SYS-CON Events announced today that MangoApps will exhibit at the 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. MangoApps provides modern company intranets and team collaboration software, allowing workers to stay connected and productive from anywhere in the world and from any device.
The IETF draft standard for M2M certificates is a security solution specifically designed for the demanding needs of IoT/M2M applications. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Brian Romansky, VP of Strategic Technology at TrustPoint Innovation, explained how M2M certificates can efficiently enable confidentiality, integrity, and authenticity on highly constrained devices.
“delaPlex Software provides software outsourcing services. We have a hybrid model where we have onshore developers and project managers that we can place anywhere in the U.S. or in Europe,” explained Manish Sachdeva, CEO at delaPlex Software, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
The IoT is changing the way enterprises conduct business. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Eric Hoffman, Vice President at EastBanc Technologies, discussed how businesses can gain an edge over competitors by empowering consumers to take control through IoT. He cited examples such as a Washington, D.C.-based sports club that leveraged IoT and the cloud to develop a comprehensive booking system. He also highlighted how IoT can revitalize and restore outdated business models, making them profitable ...
Internet of @ThingsExpo, taking place November 1-3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, is co-located with the 19th International Cloud Expo and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world and ThingsExpo Silicon Valley Call for Papers is now open.
We all know the latest numbers: Gartner, Inc. forecasts that 6.4 billion connected things will be in use worldwide in 2016, up 30 percent from last year, and will reach 20.8 billion by 2020. We're rapidly approaching a data production of 40 zettabytes a day – more than we can every physically store, and exabytes and yottabytes are just around the corner. For many that’s a good sign, as data has been proven to equal money – IF it’s ingested, integrated, and analyzed fast enough. Without real-ti...
SYS-CON Events announced today that 910Telecom will exhibit at the 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Housed in the classic Denver Gas & Electric Building, 910 15th St., 910Telecom is a carrier-neutral telecom hotel located in the heart of Denver. Adjacent to CenturyLink, AT&T, and Denver Main, 910Telecom offers connectivity to all major carriers, Internet service providers, Internet backbones and ...
Big Data, cloud, analytics, contextual information, wearable tech, sensors, mobility, and WebRTC: together, these advances have created a perfect storm of technologies that are disrupting and transforming classic communications models and ecosystems. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Erik Perotti, Senior Manager of New Ventures on Plantronics’ Innovation team, provided an overview of this technological shift, including associated business and consumer communications impacts, and opportunities it ...
You think you know what’s in your data. But do you? Most organizations are now aware of the business intelligence represented by their data. Data science stands to take this to a level you never thought of – literally. The techniques of data science, when used with the capabilities of Big Data technologies, can make connections you had not yet imagined, helping you discover new insights and ask new questions of your data. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Sarbjit Sarkaria, data science team lead ...
WebRTC is bringing significant change to the communications landscape that will bridge the worlds of web and telephony, making the Internet the new standard for communications. Cloud9 took the road less traveled and used WebRTC to create a downloadable enterprise-grade communications platform that is changing the communication dynamic in the financial sector. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Leo Papadopoulos, CTO of Cloud9, discussed the importance of WebRTC and how it enables companies to focus...
ReadyTalk has expanded the capabilities of the FoxDen collaboration platform announced late last year to include FoxDen Connect, an in-room video collaboration experience that launches with a single touch. With FoxDen Connect, users can now not only engage in HD video conferencing between iOS and Android mobile devices or Chrome browsers, but also set up in-person meeting rooms for video interactions. A host’s mobile device automatically recognizes the presence of a meeting room via beacon tech...
Manufacturers are embracing the Industrial Internet the same way consumers are leveraging Fitbits – to improve overall health and wellness. Both can provide consistent measurement, visibility, and suggest performance improvements customized to help reach goals. Fitbit users can view real-time data and make adjustments to increase their activity. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Mark Bernardo Professional Services Leader, Americas, at GE Digital, discussed how leveraging the Industrial Internet a...
On Dice.com, the number of job postings asking for skill in Amazon Web Services increased 76 percent between June 2015 and June 2016. Salesforce.com saw its own skill mentions increase 37 percent, while DevOps and Cloud rose 35 percent and 28 percent, respectively. Even as they expand their presence in the cloud, companies are also looking for tech professionals who can manage projects, crunch data, and figure out how to make systems run more autonomously. Mentions of ‘data science’ as a skill ...
IoT generates lots of temporal data. But how do you unlock its value? You need to discover patterns that are repeatable in vast quantities of data, understand their meaning, and implement scalable monitoring across multiple data streams in order to monetize the discoveries and insights. Motif discovery and deep learning platforms are emerging to visualize sensor data, to search for patterns and to build application that can monitor real time streams efficiently. In his session at @ThingsExpo, ...
"delaPlex is a software development company. We do team-based outsourcing development," explained Mark Rivers, COO and Co-founder of delaPlex Software, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 18th Cloud Expo, held June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
SYS-CON Events announced today that LeaseWeb USA, a cloud Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) provider, will exhibit at the 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. LeaseWeb is one of the world's largest hosting brands. The company helps customers define, develop and deploy IT infrastructure tailored to their exact business needs, by combining various kinds cloud solutions.
Amazon has gradually rolled out parts of its IoT offerings in the last year, but these are just the tip of the iceberg. In addition to optimizing their back-end AWS offerings, Amazon is laying the ground work to be a major force in IoT – especially in the connected home and office. Amazon is extending its reach by building on its dominant Cloud IoT platform, its Dash Button strategy, recently announced Replenishment Services, the Echo/Alexa voice recognition control platform, the 6-7 strategic...
The cloud market growth today is largely in public clouds. While there is a lot of spend in IT departments in virtualization, these aren’t yet translating into a true “cloud” experience within the enterprise. What is stopping the growth of the “private cloud” market? In his general session at 18th Cloud Expo, Nara Rajagopalan, CEO of Accelerite, explored the challenges in deploying, managing, and getting adoption for a private cloud within an enterprise. What are the key differences between wh...
For basic one-to-one voice or video calling solutions, WebRTC has proven to be a very powerful technology. Although WebRTC’s core functionality is to provide secure, real-time p2p media streaming, leveraging native platform features and server-side components brings up new communication capabilities for web and native mobile applications, allowing for advanced multi-user use cases such as video broadcasting, conferencing, and media recording.