Steam Engines & Silicon Valley: How does an easy commute mimic effective technology adoption?

Mark Holland

Being in business development and solution design for most of my career, I do love a good metaphor – and I spent some time last week equating software and software platforms to railways.  Not sure why this metaphor – perhaps because I had a short period of time where I really enjoyed lurking on platforms watching trains as a child?  Perhaps it is my commute into London on the trusty 8:05 into Waterloo Station.  Either way, I felt it was worth writing down.

Imagine a software platform as a bustling railway platform. Just as the railway platform serves as the foundational base where trains arrive and depart, connecting diverse destinations, a software platform acts as a crucial base for various applications and services, linking different technologies, content and user needs.

The railway platform, with its tracks extending in multiple directions, mirrors the software platform’s ability to support a multitude of paths—be it through the integration of various apps, services, or functions—facilitating journeys to countless digital destinations. Each train departing from the platform is akin to an application launched on the software platform, designed to transport passengers (users) to their desired destinations (tasks or services) efficiently and reliably.

The railway’s scheduling and ticketing systems reflect the software platform’s user interface and APIs, which organise and manage access to services, ensuring that resources are allocated efficiently and that users can navigate the platform smoothly and intuitively. Just as railway platforms are designed to be accessible to everyone—from seasoned commuters to first-time travellers—a good software platform is built to accommodate users of varying expertise, ensuring ease of use, security, and accessibility.

Moreover, the maintenance and upgrading of the railway infrastructure parallels the continuous development and updates of the software platform, aimed at enhancing performance, expanding capabilities, and ensuring safety and security for all users. This ongoing effort ensures that both the railway platform and the software platform remain robust, reliable, and ready to meet the evolving needs of their users.

In essence, the software platform, much like a railway platform, stands as a critical hub of connectivity and innovation, where journeys begin, intersect, and lead to limitless possibilities.

Comparing poorly thought out software as akin to the controversial High Speed 2 (HS2) railway project in the UK offers a vivid metaphor. The HS2 project, ambitious and grand in its vision, aims to connect London with the North of England through high-speed rail, intending to improve travel times, increase rail capacity, and bolster economic growth. However, the project has faced significant criticism over its soaring costs, environmental impact, and questions about its actual necessity and efficiency.

This scenario mirrors that of an expensive, poorly thought out software project. users Yet, without careful planning, clear objectives, sponsorship and thorough understanding of user needs, these software projects can balloon in cost, delivering dubious value for the investment made.

Just as HS2’s development has been marked by debates over its actual utility versus its projected benefits, software projects conceived without a solid foundation in actual user needs and practical implementation strategies can end up as monuments to missed opportunities and misallocated resources. They may become outdated even before their completion, overtaken by more agile, thoughtfully developed technologies that offer better solutions at a fraction of the cost.

If Skyral were to digitally transform HS2 (yes, I know, a tall order), we’d look to reform the planning process to ensure the ambitious project was well-thought out, secure, and genuinely tailored to meet the needs of each person using our platforms. We’d also hone in the signalling system of the railway itself. In other word: bringing the richest standards across every aspect of the project.

Easily said, but how?

At the highest level, we’d  prioritise a secure and agile approach to both software development, aka the platform, as well as leave users with the means necessary for true, healthy technology adoption. Thinking back to our metaphor, Skyral’s philosophy of being a technology partner to our customers ensures that each ‘train’ leaves the platform not just on time but in the right direction, fully equipped to deliver your passengers—your users—to their desired destinations efficiently and with satisfaction.

At Skyral, we’re proud to position ourselves as adept conductors, ready to navigate these complex tracks of software engineering and solution design in system of systems,  digital twin, synthetic environment and decision support spaces. Our expertise in understanding and articulating user requirements means we can help you avoid the wrong journeys, ensuring your software solution doesn’t become a monument to misallocated resources but a dynamic, flexible infrastructure capable of adapting to future demands. With Skyral, users embark on a journey where every ticket is a promise of a secure, user-centred destination, preventing derailments and ensuring that every venture is as rewarding as it is revolutionary.

In both cases, the metaphor highlights the importance of foresight, planning, and alignment with genuine needs and constraints—without which, even the most ambitious projects risk becoming costly endeavours that fail to deliver on their promises and potential.

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