Thursday, 12 March 2020 10:23

Book Review – Application Experience

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The term ‘user experience’ has become commonplace in the technology industry. Often shortened to UX, it has been supplemented by related terms such as customer experience (CX) and employee experience (EX).

The idea is that a person’s practical experience when using a product or service is important, and that those responsible for delivery should take this into account. Functionality and features are one thing, but they are useless if they are not easy to implement and positively regarded by the user.

Now a new two letter acronym has been added to the stable – application experience, or AX. ‘Application’ generally refers to software or functionality that an organisation implements. This means that AX is a much broader concept than CX or UX or EX . It refers to a “holistic approach to understanding what is happening in the world of enterprise IT technology.”

That definition of AX comes from a new book called – you guessed it – ‘AX: Application Experience. A Practical Guide for IT and Technology Leaders in the Age of Digital Transformation, DevOps and Software Defined Everything’.

The book is published by US-based IT software and services company Kemp which specialises in applications load balancing, a technique for increasing the efficiency of complex workloads. Its products are in use in over 100 countries.

The book is written by Kemp technical advisor based in Australia, Ben Hodge. It is available in Kindle and print editions from Amazon.

Hodge says the book provides vital actionable insights that will help IT leaders succeed in supporting their organisation’s long-term strategic goals. The idea of aligning IT with business objectives is hardly new, but Hodge’s book concentrates on practical ways to make this happen.

“UX concentrates on the end user, not the stakeholder,” said Hodge in a telephone interview from his remote office on the NSW South Coast. “AX is much broader, and concentrates on the ability of the organisation to absorb and act on changes to the IT process, rather than the features of a product.

“The IT function and IT management and responsible for an organisation’s total AX. What I’ve tried to do in the book and provide an outcomes-driven approach that shows IT leaders how to implement AX.”

It’s a point Hodge returned to a few times during the interview. There are dozens, probably hundreds, of books on IT management. But what they all seem to lack is practical advice on how to get started with digital transformation and other IT initiatives.

The book begins with a discussion of digital transformation. “As with all ideas that gained popularity, the term digital transformation has been quickly used, misused, defined and redefined so much that it become useless for communicating anything other than a vague aspiration for improvement and modernisation.

“While digital transformation is something that impacts the entire organisation, technical leaders had been tasked with guiding the organisation through this process. As IT becomes closely tied to business and customer needs, the network and application infrastructure systems must be more resilient, more secure and better performing.

“At the same time, applications and digital services must deliver a much higher level of customer experience and satisfaction in order to be considered acceptable by employees, customers and executives. Only technical leaders have the necessary understanding and skills to successfully guide this merger of business and technology process.”

Hodge says the book is intended to show IT leaders how to get beyond the fire fighting and the meetings to actually implement change. It talks about the easy wins and how to get breathing space. He believes most books on the subject are too theoretical.

“Many organisations are struggling with transformation, digital or otherwise. There’s so much noise and it’s difficult to see the transformation process end to end. There’s lots of talk about things like North Star and Big Bang, but most people struggle to get started. That’s what I’ve tried to do with the book.”

Hodge says IT leadership is a major role to play in bridging technical and non-technical aspects of the business. “Failed transformation efforts are far too common, especially when early attempts are unable to realise the expected benefits fast enough to meet executive and stakeholder expectations.

“I’ve even seen a number of successful transformations being rolled back, merely because technical leaders fail to communicate the importance of maintaining these practices to a new and inexperienced management team.”

Hodge works for Kemp as a technical advisor, and was given time to write the book in the second half of last year. He completed the job in four months and the book was published in in February. Amazon reviews are very positive. One said it is the opposite of a ‘For Dummies’ book,’

It’s a great book with great ideas. Hodge knows his subject and is a good natural writer But its attraction is diminished a little by its need for a good copy edit. There are too many over-long sentences and paragraphs, and it is cumbersome in parts.

There aren’t too many typos, fortunately, but I found the author’s habit of capitalising nouns, as if he is writing in German, extremely irritating. This is common in the advertising industry, and has the effect of making some very lucid passages look like marketing blurb.

But these weaknesses are minor and can easily be addressed in a second edition. The tone is informal and accessible. The book is not difficult to read, and is structured around a six point application experience model:

  • Decide to Transform
  • Understand the Problem
  • Get Visibility
  • Create Champions
  • Show Impact
  • Scale Success

it’s the best board on the practical aspects of being an IT manager that I have seen. I spent six years of my life working with CIOs to help them bridge the gap between technology and business. I wish I’d had this book then.

APPLICATION EXPERIENCE: A Practical Guide for IT & Technology Leaders in the Age of Digital Transformation, DevOps & Software Defined Everything.

By Benjamin Hodge.

Published by Kemp, February 2020.

ISBN 979-8613636464

Available from Amazon (Kindle US$6.83, Print

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Graeme Philipson

Graeme Philipson is senior associate editor at iTWire. He is one of Australia’s longest serving and most experienced IT journalists. He is author of the only definitive history of the Australian IT industry, ‘A Vision Splendid: The History of Australian Computing.’

He has been in the high tech industry for more than 30 years, most of that time as a market researcher, analyst and journalist. He was founding editor of MIS magazine, and is a former editor of Computerworld Australia. He was a research director for Gartner Asia Pacific and research manager for the Yankee Group Australia. He was a long time weekly IT columnist in The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald, and is a recipient of the Kester Award for lifetime achievement in IT journalism.

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