Friday, April 28, 2006

Pass-Thoughts

I've been debating colleagues recently about the difference between product requirements and product design. One of my favorite examples is whether having a user log into a software application is a requirement or design. I contend that, in most cases, it is design. The true requirement is a constraint on the likelihood that an unauthorized user will view sensitive information or damage something.

When you capture the true requirement, you free designers to come up with an innovative or revolutionary way of satisfying it. Often, my colleagues will reply that, in the real world, log-in is an integral part of security, and that the possibility of other security solutions is some sort of theoretical pie-in-the-sky. So I was delighted to come across a recent wired.com story:

"Researchers at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada, are exploring the possibility of a biometric security device that will use a person's thoughts to authenticate her or his identity."
They call this form of authentication "pass-thoughts" (instead of "passwords").

When you want to understand the true requirements for a product and enable your designers to innovate, hire a product manager that understands the distinction between requirements and design.

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