Don’t worry. It’s just the generation gap. With the release of Windows 8 now imminent and the preview edition being widely installed and tested, the same, tough criticism is heard over and over again: Why is that user interface so completely different from what it used to be? And more importantly: Where is my Start button?
It’s only natural really, the craving for mechanisms and habits that we have gotten used to over the course of potentially decades. And it’s that same, familiar comfort zone that keeps us from exploring new areas and opportunities.
Let’s use the occasion to coin a new concept: The Start Button Syndrome occurs when we fail to apply the transformative potential of a new technology because we map it only to what we already do and know.
The Windows 8 user interface is redesigned from the ground up to facilitate a new era of working and being entertained through multiple (mobile) devices with data stored in the Cloud and crucial information and actions available at first sight. It’s actually the best denial of an operating system that I have seen so far. Ceci n’est pas un operating system: Windows 8 brings you as quickly as possible to what you need, without bothering much about the underlying mechanics. It can drastically improve the way we interact with the network and each other, not only through the old and new devices that we know – PCs, laptops, smartphones, tablets, TVs – but also through yet unexplored channels (just watch your table, office walls, wearables and store windows in the forthcoming years).
It takes a fresh, unbiased look at the business challenges of today and tomorrow to fully appreciate – and then leverage – the potential of breakthrough technologies.
There are many more examples of the Start Button Syndrome in the current business technology market. Take SAP’s HANA: It’s tempting to consider the advanced in-memory database and transaction technology as just another – albeit much faster – engine underneath your data warehouse. It won’t change processes; it will just speed them up.
The real magic occurs when you truly reimagine parts of the business, based on the ability to make complex analyses and decisions in seconds, rather than in hours or days. This is where “extreme applications” come in – literally starting from scratch on selected business challenges – and early successes already convincingly show the power of it.
The Cloud is clearly an area where the syndrome regularly pops up as well. Firms are pondering what parts of their existing IT landscape should be picked up first to migrate to the Cloud. Often, they end up stymied by the limitations and obstacles of their current business. Our own, very recent research (more about it in a few weeks) shows that the real breakthroughs towards the Cloud are more likely to occur around entirely new business processes and activities: Think social customer experience, human capital management or collaborative procurement, and the Cloud is already the default for solutions.
So whenever we assess new technologies for business value, from now on we should self-check regularly. Lead a healthy, open-minded life: Watch out for the Start Button Syndrome.