I just finished watching this video of Bill Buxton speaking at the MIX10 conference. Buxton is the Principle Researcher at Microsoft and worked extensively on design applications at SGI and Alias (in the pre-Autodesk days.) Recently he has gotten a lot of attention in the user experience design circles from his book Sketching User Experiences (well worth a read.) In this talk, he makes some parallels between architecture and software design. Having one foot in both software and architecture worlds, I think often about these parallels, so I was intrigued. A number of people have written and spoken on this topic, but mostly with a focus on the how Christopher Alexander's pattern language methodology has been subsequently adopted by the software world. Buxton takes a slightly different tack. He talks about changing the culture at Microsoft so all projects have business, technology and design having equally represented. "For every project you need the same depth and same level of creativity from each of these three professions. Each is essential. None is sufficient on their own. Their success depends on how they intertwine and work together." Sound familiar? If you replace business, technology and design with owner, builder and architect and you realize the kernel of what he is talking about is similar to Integrated Project Delivery. Of course, I do not think the Seattle Public Library was designed and built using IPD, but he illustrates that user experience design is behind the curve of even "traditional" the design/bid/build process because in most software shops, developers still call the shots primarily. This is mainly because user experience design as a discipline is very young (measured in decades, not centuries.) Thankfully this is changing rapidly in the software design industry as design continues to take on a more central role in the development of new products, including at Autodesk. Buxton makes another important point: we don't want to turn the tables and have cranky designers calling all of the shots, either. We must form collaborative teams where all three disciplines have equal say, equal stake, and take equal risk so we can all fail or succeed equally. As many of you are with IPD, we user experience designers are entering into a new paradigm where collaborative teams are the norm and all three disciplines are expected to be able to be conversant at a minimal level about the other two. If people are co-locating, talking more, and sharing a central model (be it a BIM, software code, or other database), I think only good things can happen. The closest analog I can find to IPD in the software world is Agile development... but that is a topic for another post.
Bill Buxton, speaking at MIX10 - the first 15 min or so is his presentation and the rest is discussion with the audience.