EUI Summit – Day 0

Kirsten and I arrived in Aspen for the Enterprise UI Summit yesterday, tired and hungry. Overall the trip was pretty uneventful, although we had a super tight connection in Denver, and a bumpy ride into Aspen because of the weather.  I think it is going take me a little while to get acclimated to the altitude – my heart is racing a bit, and I am finding myself out of breath!

Because our rooms weren’t ready, we opted to walk around, stretch our legs, and have some lunch.  I had forgotten what a beautiful place Colorado is!  Aspen is in a little valley, nestled between two mountains.  It is green and there is still snow on the mountains in places.  The landscape is speckled with huge houses, and there seems to be a lot of use of natural materials – huge stones lining the water on the golf courses, rustic homes constructed of wood and stone.  We are staying at the Sky Hotel, which is a giant ski lodge right at the base of the Silver Queen Gondola (you can sort of see the gondola in the top right of the picture at right).  We are hoping we’ll have a few minutes on Friday to check out the view before we leave.

After some work and conference prep in the hotel lobby (because my room still wasn’t ready), I met up with the individuals that I’m on a panel with Dan Rosenberg from SAP User Experience, Dwayne King from Pinpoint Logic, and Thomas Vander Wal, Infocloud Solutions.

The panel will be moderated by Robert Hoekman, Jr., and the topic is Making Enterprise UI/UX Better: Exploring the facets to improve and refine how enterprise software relates to its users.  We had a pretty lively conversation even as we tried to put some structure to what we were going to talk about.  In my mind the central question is how we bring social tools to the enterprise.  On one hand, social tools are inherently collective or collaborative, and the consumers which make up their target audience expect ease-of-use.  On the other hand, corporations are siloed, hierarchical, and highly regulated.  I think the central question for the Summit is how and where those things converge, and what can Jive do about from a product and partnership perspective.

Jive has just finished interviewing 700 of their current customers to understand what they need to do next from a product and go-to-market perspective.  Most of the feedback they received was around User Interface and User Experience, which is part of the reason the conference is framed the way it is.  But it’s clear that overall the company is at the tipping point.  The founders are two college classmates, and they’ve now got a much larger team in place to help make them successful.  The company has grown from 75 to 150 people just this year!  It sounds like they are still following a fairly typical ‘waterfall’ requirements and development approach, where most of the product strategy is being driven by the technical guys, and the job of the UI team is to figure out how to make it look & work from a user point of view.  It seems like they are ready to do things differently, so I am very curious if we’ll get a window into the transformation work as part of our activities this week.

Dinner last night was very good, lots of delicious local food. I had some interesting people at my table, and then for dessert we rotated who was at what table so we had a chance to meet more of the Summit participants.  It is quite an interesting crowd.  I will try to write more about the individuals and their work as the sessions unfold on Thursday.

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