Business value migrates in the direction of the user interface. Experience shows that no matter how much upstream data collection, information transformation and intelligent integration occurs, the payoff in the experience of the client occurs at the user interface. Whether business analyst, electronic file clerk, top executive, system administrator or power user, the "Ah ha!" moment occurs at the user interface.1 Information delivery provides a last opportunity to synchronize the experience of the user with the business process that is unfolding in the IT system. This is a basic principle in thinking about system architecture and the design of a usable software interface.
This column is not intended to be a tutorial on the placement of widgets on a graphical user interface (GUI) but rather an inquiry - one might say meta-analysis - of how meaning and business value are created at the user interface. The business insight and intelligence delivered at the interface is often a function of substantial upstream data integration; however, the end result is still what gains the kudos. This leaves most of the IT staff - data administrators, DBAs, developers - as unsung heroes. And that is where this column proposes to leave them in order to look at issues of the usability of the front-end system interface to promote business value.
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