Don’t ignore the User’s environment

Behavior is a function of the environment. It is also a function of participants in the environment and a complex psychographic intertwining of the participants. Social networking is a great example. Corporates intranets have matured to varying degrees from being a storehouse of company policies to platforms of information dissemination. Some intranets, especially those from multinational, multi-disciplinary firms, are warming up to the fact that the workplace is after all a social environment with its own needs making effective connections. At this point, the trapdoor of Facebook-meets-corporate-intranet opens up, little realizing that the environments and participant psychology in the two situations are vastly different. And hence the need to cater to different environment driven networking demands.

I have witnessed this while building capital markets related products. Given the democratization of these markets, it is very likely that a Product Manager, Engineer, Tester – all – have particpated in it in some form or fashion. The choices they make during product development is often clouded with their own behavior. The fact that retail participation in capital market follows an entirely different workflow compared to institutional investing is overlooked.

Managing overlapping environments is an interesting challenge because it is not axiomatic that what I have mentioned above must always hold good. Take for example the building a professional software developer Q&A community (must watch – Joel Spolsky talking at Google about Stackoverflow). It is best that software developers just meditate over their own professional trouble-shooting pain points and build a system that effectively addresses them. Sadly, such examples are fewer and far between. And the challenge remains to carefully understand the users along with the environment they would be working in. Investigating in isolation either of the two will most likely result in this


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