Simplicity: The Motto For Success

Nate Iler

President / Founder

As technology evolves, it's easy to get caught in the whirlwind of new features and functionality without assessing whether these bells and whistles will even have a positive impact on your business. I've spent my career with simplicity at the forefront of my approach, architecture and ultimately my solutions for end user experiences. I've naturally gravitated towards like minded leaders in the technology industry and would like to share a couple I found interesting.

And we'll never forget what made Basecamp so popular in the first place: It just works. It's simple, it's easy to use, it's easy to understand, it's clear, it's reliable, and it's dependable.

Jason Fried - Founder & CEO of Basecamp

37Signals: Earlier this year 37Signals, known for creating Basecamp and HighRise, among many others, announced that it would discontinue nine of their ten products to regain focus on their best selling application, Basecamp. I admire their dedication to focus and their approach to business. The ideas are simple: eliminate excuses, reduce wasted time, go lean and most importantly start doing. If you have a free afternoon, I encourage you to pick up the publications 'Getting Real' and 'Rework' which outlines this mindset.

As a follower of Basecamps' Signal vs Noise blog, I recently read a post titled: It's OK not to use tools. While the underlying simplicity theme is appreciated, the article echos my belief that too simple can become complex and cumbersome quickly. With the vast set of resources and tools at our fingertips, there's no reason not to add them to the toolbox. I rarely watch TV yet I don't think my TV should be limited to the basic features when TV's were first invented. I like my remote and high definition, as they are part of technological evolution; they make my life easier and more enjoyable. My mindset is mirrored in web application and software development. Three components that allow Flipbox to run in a simple and intelligent manner are: Automation, Bootstrapping and Standardization.

Automation: If I can save myself time by automating a task, I'll do it any chance I get. Spending thirty minutes setting up an automation configuration is well worth my time two months from now when it has saved me hours. Automation can be found everywhere from project initialization using Grunt to continuous deployment integration using Bamboo.

Bootstrapping: We're proud to say that we don't do a lot of things. This allows us to focus on the details of our work and ultimately produce amazing results. This provides an application set that isn't bloated and we can spend time creating a "Flipbox" bootstrap that allows us to hit the ground running with each project we initiate. There's no sense starting from scratch when a preconfigured environment can reduce hours of repetitive tasks.

Standardization: Although Flipbox implements project teams, it's important that all teams are on the same page. An identified standard to execute a task creates consistency which ultimately results in a project that is on-time and on-budget.

As you may see, these three components are tightly coupled to one another. At the end of the day, simplicity doesn't mean giving up features, it means using focused tools to make your applications easier to build and maintain.

Three quarters of consumers are more likely to recommend a brand if it offers a simple experience. And many of those would actually pay a higher price, a nice premium on top, for an even simpler experience.

Bill McDermott - CEO of SAP

SAP: CEO Bill McDermott presented the opening keynote titled "Simplify Everything. Do Anything." at the 2014 ASUG/SapphireNow conference (you can watch a recording of the presentation here). I found the topic of interest as SAP itself has been criticized as being complex. Furthermore, the SAP user interface has been one of the most highly prioritized areas of improvement for years. It's a decade old technology that needed some serious attention. Leo Apotheker, former SAP CEO launched a similar initiative to simplify the UX five years ago and we didn't see much as a result. SAP announced that Fiori and Personas, their solution for a new UX, are included to existing licensing agreements. A refreshing solution to a lingering issue. Good work SAP.

This new 'Run Simple' initiative is spreading throughout businesses bringing a unique set of challenges to the table. In a culture where change is slow and the mindset that complex problems require equally complex solutions is expected, simple is hard to fathom. Building simple technology is not easy; It requires meticulous attention to detail and exceptional thinking around design. It also requires assessing functionality and relevance with the outcome of sometimes resulting in 'No'.

Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.

Leonardo da Vinci

Both 37Signals and SAP have earned kudos in their respective territories. I've learn from them; building a better product doesn't always mean offering more features. Sometimes it's as easy as revisiting and refining what you already have. Take ideas to the whiteboard and think through them thoroughly. Do we really need to offer feature-x? Is feature-x relevant? What is the value of feature-x?

At Flipbox we keep simplicity in mind as we approach problems. We're not about fancy bells and whistles; we choose the right tool for the job and deliver an intuitive solution that just works.