I was recently added to a team that is trying to come up with some tools that will help facilitate innovation training. It got me to thinking about what software I’ve created that was “delightful” in the spirit of Intuit’s d4D practices – Design for Delight.
I quickly came up with at least three things that I had developed end-to-end, from customer problem to delightful solution: Keyword Search, Intuit unstructured time hosting and Intuitlabs.com (actually its predecessor, innovation.intuit.com). Keyword Search brought full text search to QuickBooks back in 2005 as an add-on. It’s being released inside of QuickBooks proper for 2011. Hosting is an offering internal to Intuit, giving teams the ability to rapidly launch applications while still complying with Intuit privacy, security, etc. stuff. Intuit Labs, originally “innovation.intuit.com”, showcases Intuit innovation.
So what made these offerings delightful? I was able to come up with two common factors that are repeated by customers. The first is speed. All three radically changed how quickly the task could be accomplished. Keyword Search became invaluable to small business owners, causing some to eliminate multiple methods of filing. One of the early Alpha testers, after running a search, exclaimed simply, “Wow!”
With hosting, the time to get a working instance that complied with Intuit security and privacy went from months to just hours. A team could spin up a LAMP or Tomcat stack and have it in front of customers, without going through the traditional data center processes that existed to protect our larger applications and sensitive customer data. A new, isolated zone let them experiment without risking customer information.
Intuit Labs is part of that experiment zone, enabling the security, legal and privacy issues to be addressed within a single, rapid, standardized process.
The next factor is enabling the impossible. Before Keyword Search, there was no way to search for text within certain fields of QuickBooks, such as a memo field or line item descriptions. Many small businesses use these locations for critical information such as item serial numbers, but finding them meant having to know something else about the transaction, then visually scanning through potentially years worth of data.
With hosting, teams were limited to public applications that used only the default hosting environments, This prevented rapid experimentation using new platforms such as Facebook or Google Apps. Intuit Labs gave experimenters a place to connect with customers and application users. The only place for this in the past was on the larger Intuit offering websites – not the best place for, say, a Facebook experiment!
So what I have now is at least some kind of framework for creating delightful offerings:
Is the offering so much faster than any other choice, that you can’t imagine going back to the old way?
Is the offering enabling something that was previously impossible?
Those are two questions I’m going to be answering in any future offering.