CIO Column

Reflecting on a record summer and new tools

Our CIO watcher brushes up on geometry and learns what it means to deliver change and working in new ways

Geometry equipment on white background space

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The summer of 2022 will be remembered, at least in the northern hemisphere, for being long, dry and exceedingly warm. A drought has reminded many of the fragility of our natural environment, whilst poor crop yields this year and, as a result of the drought, poor conditions for sowing next year’s crop will exacerbate inflation pressures on national economies. The summer of 2022, for me personally, will also be remembered for geometry.

Geometry is the part of mathematics dealing with the measurement, properties, and relationships of points, lines, angles and surfaces. Those CIOs and business technology leaders that - perhaps foolishly - follow my Twitter feed will know that away from the day job, my obsession is mountain biking. And the summer of 2022 led to the purchase of a new mountain bike, all because of geometry. New geometric thinking and product design have resulted in a drastic improvement in the riding experience of the latest range of mountain bikes. For me personally, it has been that often over used phrase in our community - transformational.

Improvements in geometry are almost invisible to the untrained eye. I am quite sure family members look at my latest purchase and wonder what the difference is compared to the last one, other than a natty new navy blue colour scheme. But this is the elegance of geometry and iterative product development. It is the little improvements that all add up to a big change for the end user, in this case, the rider. Geometry and iterative thinking not only changed the angles of the front fork, the frame length and handlebar width, but the entire iterative process has also created room - literally - for other improvements in the overall product. As a result, developments in wheel width, tyre types and the running gear - what you might call the applications - are all best utilised as a part of the new product. Over the last few years, rather than investing in a new platform, I have been adding new technologies to my existing bike. However, this led to few real improvements in performance. New tools only really deliver lasting benefits when integrated with a platform (also known as a bike frame) that, like the tools themselves, has evolved to extract the maximum from one another and, in doing so, provide the best opportunity for the end user to perform at their optimum.

My summer of 2022 lessons in geometry is, therefore, an example of design thinking and how all elements of the usage and, therefore, the product come together. Design thinking, which in the best examples, always involves a close study and involvement of the end user and or customer, is able to respond to evolutions. As the customer or vertical market adapts, the design is able to respond. 2022 demonstrated to me that trails have adapted, so simply bolting on new tools to a platform that no longer suited the environment was not going to work in the mid to long term. It was time to invest in the platform.

It is important at this point to state that the old bike was not the main problem; the end user, yours truly, has had to work hard on improving skills and fitness levels. The opportunity to put my capabilities and physicality to the test alongside a new team has stretched every muscle fibre and synapse. I doubt my face looks grateful after weathering an attacking climb or white knuckle descent, but if I could catch my breath, I would say thank you. Again this experience is replicated in our enterprises; with the right tools and an opportunity to work in different environments, then teams can deliver benefits to the organisation. But for these teams to flourish, they need the complete package of platforms and tools.

The amazing summer of 2022 also reminded me that sometimes to get more from something; you have to slow down. In business and technology, as with mountain biking, there is a desire and a culture of speed. As the summer of 2022 continued to bake the hills, the landscape became dusty, with the surface becoming a bed of marbles. Used to fighting the surface for speed and grip in northern Europe’s famously moist climate, the change from resistance to overly active assistance became a hindrance and led to some lost skin on more than one occasion. It took a little while to sink in, but slowing down and reducing the effort led to greater flow, more fun and better outcomes. In today’s fast-paced digital world, there is a constant desire for rapidity, but sometimes the slower pace delivers more. 

Enjoyable as the summer of 2022 was, the drought served to remind me that as important as it is to invest in new platforms, we must do so with the needs of the planet in mind. As we modernise and invest, it is vital to ensure that the next stages of a product’s life cycle are considered and factored into the purchase and usage patterns. It was a summer to enjoy but also to learn from.