Rediscovering the Benefits of Simple Design

Recently, I met a coworker from almost twenty years ago whose clearest memory of our time together was our discussions about design.   And how I got us all to make a field trip to the break room to take a look at the microwave oven there.

It had a dial and no buttons.  Pull the handle and it shut off the element automatically.   I loved the simplicity of this.   I loved how it made no demands of the user, and anybody could immediately put it to use.   There was no training, no documentation, no "insufficiently skilled users".

At the time we were rolling Microstrategy out to hundreds of users.    Microstrategy is a ROLAP (Relational On-Line Analytical Processing) tool that once you provided data in a relational database within a star-schema, defined that to Microstrategy in the form of metadata then any user could use it easily - they could quickly create new reports by dragging and dropping element names and it would generate the SQL for them.   It was a very powerful tool that in the right hands could achieve amazing results.   Prior to our roll-out of this tool the backlog on reports for our organization was ten months.   After we rolled it out I signed onto and delivered an 8-hour average SLA for the creation of new reports.