At and Between. Evaluating Interoperability through Quick-MI.

clip_image001In my earlier discussion, I outlined the importance of Sharability to successful Modular Innovations and Quick-MI. Quick-MI consists of 5 categories that bring to light critical variables instrumental in the sustained success of many current and emerging products, increasingly becoming part of the Modular Innovation trend. Modular Innovation (MI), along with a product’s User eXperience (UX), combine to be strong indicators of a product’s adoption and success.

As previously described

Modular Innovation (MI) is all about relationships, be they between people or products online. In looking at how these relationships are established, maintained, enhanced, and expanded, one can achieve greater insight into the underlying forces shaping Modular Innovation, quantifying the degree by which a product is participating within, as well as evolving towards greater degrees of, Modular Innovation.

1 of the 5 categories that makes up Quick-MI, is Interoperability. Interoperability is the measure of the degree of integration permitted. It is the means by which information is shared and disparate products can continually exchange information.

Interoperability is about the connection. It is the Interoperable, integrated connection between products that facilitates sharing and exchanging. This includes the ability to make that connection, to establish that relationship; or the hindrance, thereof.

Through the study of Interoperability, a clearer understanding can be formed of the immediate benefits achievable, as well as the quantification of these benefits and capabilities.

In abiding with the overarching goals of both Quick-UX and Quick-MI (quick assessment for summary, directional guidance, and quantitative comparison), the variables constituting the minimal representative subset for Interoperability are…

  • Connectivity
  • Redundancy
  • Legality

Each variable and category (e.g. Interoperability) is assigned a value that can be compared and combined. When all the categories’ values are combined, they form the Modular Innovation Index of a product.

Connectivity

Perhaps the most obvious variable of Interoperability is Connectivity. Connectivity is the means by which the current product can access and interact with external products and platforms. To exchange information, a connection must be established and methods must exist that enable the relationship to take hold and let flow the content.

02_twitter-homepage The content can be anything, from basic status information to images and friends lists. Connectivity is typically achieved via an API. A well known example is the Twitter API. This API provides a simple, web-based interface that allows people and 3rd-party products to perform actions, like read messages and status updates of the people on Twitter, as well as submit new ‘tweets’ and direct messages — resulting in a Connectivity variable value of 2.0.

Connectivity flows both ways: in and out, read and write. The Connectivity variable value (with a starting value of 0 and maximum value of 3.0) is determined as follows:

  • Add 0.5 if the product can read from, “pull-in,” content from one or more external products, and
  • Add 0.5 if the product can write to, “push-out,” content to one or more external products, and
  • Add 1 if external products can read from, “pull-out,” content from the product, and
  • Add 1 if external products can write to, “push-in,” content to the product.

Redundancy

When integrating with another product, is the user forced to choose exchanging information between either product A or product B? Or can both products be used in parallel?

Redundancy is the ability, provided by the product, whereby external products are leveraged to provide replication of functionality and/or content.

03_pingfm-homepage Building upon the Twitter theme, some services exist to facilitate this very sort of Redundancy. Most notably, Ping.fm comes to mind. Ping.fm does not force integration with one external product over another. Ping.fm allows for simultaneous, parallel integration with multiple similar products; making the user less dependent on any one of these services, in the event of down-time or other failures. Beyond “peace of mind,” Redundancy also provides for means to replicate content and maintain functionality that results from such integrations. For example, when I use Ping.fm (Redundancy value of 1.0), I can simultaneously send a status update to Twitter, Jaiku, Pownce, and Plurk …

  • saving me time,
  • replicating my status updates, and
  • ensuring that I can continue sending updates even if one or more of these products are unavailable.

Redundancy can be found on the user-facing side, like Ping.fm, or just under the surface, e.g. using multiple data clouds to store data. The Redundancy variable is assigned the value of 0 or…

  • 1 if, per touch point, multiple external products can be (or are being) used to replicate functionality and/or content throughout the primary functionality and interaction points of the product (e.g. everything from status updates to pictures to messages to data storage), or
  • 0.5 if, for each touch point, a single external product can be (or is being) used to replicate some of the primary functionality and/or content (e.g. status updates sent to both Twitter and Jaiku)

Legality

Terms of Service and other legal restrictions and requirements have a significant impact on the resultant Interoperability possible, or worthwhile. In some cases, broad capabilities of Interoperability are possible, but only for personal usage. Other exemplary cases, allow for Interoperability, but with an associated monetary cost.

01_yelp-homepage The website, Yelp, provides a range of Interoperability that allows external applications to access restaurant and related data. However, those products making use of Yelp’s Interoperability have the following restrictions / requirements resulting in a Legality variable value of 0.75…

  • Clearly display Yelp branding alongside any obtained content,
  • Product must be non-competitive with Yelp,
  • Cannot locally store any obtained content,
  • And, more.

Legality is a measure of freedom, and allowable range of use and usefulness, of the ability to integrate and be Interoperable. The Legality variable is assigned the value of…

  • 1 if there are absolutely ZERO legal restrictions placed on the Interoperability of the product,
  • 0.75 if commercial use is permitted,
  • 0.5 if only non-commercial use is permitted, or
  • 0 if no Interoperability, via API or other means, is permitted.

Rapidly Closer

Quick-MI is all about understanding and measuring the relationships formed and supported between online products, especially those pioneering the next generation of web products via Modular Innovation.

A relationship cannot hold together without the “glue,” without Interoperability, quantified via the Interoperability score (summation of the above variable values). Remember, Interoperability is just 1 of 5 categories that make up Quick-MI. The other 4 categories are…

When all 5 categories are combined, a sound, representative, quantitative understanding of a product’s ability to foster and maintain relationships both within and without — yielding an oft missed, yet critical, perspective into the success and sustainability of an online product.

Through the growing presence of Modular Innovation, and the important category of Interoperability, everything is becoming increasingly and rapidly closer.

Enjoy, Discuss & Tweet!

Jeremy Horn
The Product Guy

PS Try it out, tweak it, learn more about Modular Innovation and share you experiences.

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About Jeremy Horn

Jeremy Horn is an award-winning, product management veteran with thirteen years of experience leading and managing product teams. Jeremy has held various executive and advisory roles, from founder of several start-ups to driving diverse organizations in online services, consumer products, and social media. As founder of The Product Group, he has created the largest product management meetup in the world and hosts the annual awarding of The Best Product Person. Jeremy can currently be found pioneering the next generation of content management and sharing at Viacom, acting as creator and instructor of the 10-week product management course at General Assembly, and mentoring at Women 2.0 and Lean Startup Machine. Follow Jeremy on twitter @theproductguy or his blog at http://tpgblog.com.

8 thoughts on “At and Between. Evaluating Interoperability through Quick-MI.

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