Data Mesh Architecture in Cloud-Based Data Warehouses

Data Mesh Architecture in Cloud-Based Data Warehouses

Data is the new black gold in business. In this post, we explore how shifts in technology, organization processes, and people are critical to achieving the vision for a data-driven company that deploys data mesh architecture in cloud-based warehouses like Snowflake and Azure Synapse.

The true value of data comes from the insights gained from data that is often siloed and spans across structured, semi-structured, and unstructured storage formats in terabytes and petabytes. Data mining helps companies to gather reliable information, make informed decisions, improve churn rate and increase revenue.

Every company could benefit from a data-first strategy, but without effective data architecture in place, companies fail to achieve data-first status.

For example, a company’s Sales & Marketing team needs data to optimize cross-sell and up-sell channels, while its product teams want cross-domain data exchange for analytics purposes. The entire organization wishes there was a better way to source and manage the data for its needs like real-time streaming and near-real-time analytics. To address the data needs of the various teams, the company needs a paradigm shift to fast adoption of Data Mesh Architecture, which should be scalable & elastic.

Data Mesh architecture is a shift both in technology as well as in organization, processes, and people.

Before we dive into Data Mesh Architecture, let’s understand its 4 core principles:

  1. Domain-oriented decentralized data ownership and architecture
  2. Data as a product
  3. Self-serve data infrastructure as a platform
  4. Federated computational governance

Big data is about Volume, Velocity, Variety & Veracity. The first principle of Data mesh is founded on decentralization and distribution of responsibility to the SME\Domain Experts who own the big data framework.  

This diagram articulates the 4 core principles of Data Mesh and the distribution of responsibility at a high level.

Azure: Each team is responsible for its own domain, and data is decentralized and shared with other domains for data exchange and data as a product.
Snowflake: Each team is responsible for its own domain, and data is decentralized and shared with other domains for data exchange and data as a product.

Each Domain data is decentralized in its own data warehouse cloud. This model applies to all data warehouse clouds, such as Snowflake, Azure Synapse, and AWS Redshift.  

A cloud data warehouse is built on top of a multi-cloud infrastructure like AWS, Azure, and Google Cloud Platform (GCP), which allows compute and storage to scale independently. These data warehouse products are fully managed and provide a single platform for data warehousing, data lakes, data science team and to provide data sharing for external consumers.

As shown below, data storage is backed by cloud storage from AWS S3, Azure Blob, and Google, which makes Snowflake highly scalable and reliable. Snowflake is unique in its architecture and data sharing capabilities. Like Synapse, Snowflake is elastic and can scale up or down as the need arises.

From legacy monolithic data architecture to more scalable & elastic data modeling, organizations can connect decentralized enriched and curated data to make an informed decision across departments. With Data Mesh implementation on Snowflake, Azure Synapse, AWS Redshift, etc., organizations can strike the right balance between allowing domain owners to easily define and apply their own fine-grained policies and having centrally managed governance processes.

Additional resources:

5 Ways to Build Digital Trust

Five Ways to Build Digital Trust

By Malia Jacobson

Combating online misinformation and building digital trust are increasingly important for organizations doing business online. Here are a few ways that our developers and content producers work together to improve access to reliable, trustworthy content for our clients.​

digital trust

The Internet is filled with impressive technology platforms that we use every day. But should we trust their content? For years, content platforms evolved to focus on the technology itself, not the content within. The result: Wary consumers who distrust much of what they read online. False online information costs the global economy $78 billion each year, and three-quarters of Americans believe online misinformation is a big problem. Let’s not forget the “infodemic” of public health misinformation that researchers believe contributed to the spread of COVID-19. 

Per the International Data Corporation (IDC), false information destroys the trust that fuels our digital economy. Simply put, if website visitors don’t trust your organization’s digital content, they won’t stick around long enough to become a customer.

Image source

Organizations can win and keep users’ trust by creating trustworthy, reliable content. How? As developers and content producers, we help organizations improve content quality, clarity, and accuracy with these steps.

1. Include content producers and stakeholders in platform design.

At the beginning of a project, bring stakeholders, content producers, and developers together to identify the platform’s key audiences, desired user experience (UX), and the internal process through which content will be vetted, approved, moved through QA, and posted. Defining a process to validate and approve content prior to publication helps inform the development of the right back-end content management system. This ensures that the finished platform supports the publication of content that’s worthy of users’ time—and trust.

2. Help organizations use and optimize owned media channels.

An organization’s digital marketing efforts include paid, earned, shared, and owned media channels—the organization’s own website, blog, and other outlets within its control. While earned media (press mentions) and shared media (social shares) are exciting, many organizations learn the hard way that information published on external media platforms isn’t always accurate, and fighting misinformation is a draining, costly battle. Organizations with robust owned media channels can build and keep digital trust by carefully and consistently publishing reliable, accurate content on their own platforms to serve as a source of truth for users.

Image source

3. Address racial and gender bias in content platform design.

Poor platform design can invite discrimination and reduce the integrity of digital content. Take AirBnB’s efforts to create a more transparent platform by removing anonymity for both guests and hosts during the booking process. Researchers found that revealing a potential guest’s photo before a booking request was accepted allowed hosts to discriminate based on race. To create more equitable, trustworthy, transparent platforms, consider withholding sensitive information that could enable discrimination; build awareness of algorithmic bias; and measure the effectiveness of different platform design choices. (Find more information here: Harvard Business School: How Online Platforms Can Thwart Discrimination.) 

4. Bridge language barriers.

Online misinformation disproportionately targets users with language and learning differences. Organizations can work to combat online misinformation by using plain language online and addressing language barriers by integrating language translation APIs like Google Translate, Microsoft Translator, and Smartling

5. Make digital content user-friendly.

The most sophisticated platform will inhibit trust if users can’t follow along. We learned how this is especially critical for healthcare organizations, public agencies, and firms operating in the health and wellness industry during the COVID pandemic. Creating platforms that support user-friendly visual aids, symbols, and a clear pathway through complex topics helps users find and understand reliable, trustworthy information they need. (Find more information here: National Institutes of Health: Making Data Talk.)

Prioritizing content quality and accuracy may be new for organizations used to focusing on platform design. But when content producers and developers work together to publish trustworthy, reliable content, organizations and their audiences win. 

Additional resources:

14 Ways to Design and Develop a More Sustainable Website

14 Ways to Design and Develop a More Sustainable Website

By Deborah Keltner

Sustainable Website

Could you have a more sustainable website?

While the shift from analog to digital content has kept trees out of paper mills, it has undoubtedly contributed to the climate crisis because of the carbon footprint of technology. Whether it’s e-waste or energy needed for computing, the tech sector has a huge opportunity to lessen its impact on our earth’s climate.

We need to reach net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by mid-century to keep the global temperature below 1.5 degrees Celsius. You can learn more about Earth Day and its supporting events & initiatives here.

In honor of Earth Day, we are sharing a list of ideas, tips, tricks, and insights to help website designers and developers deliver more sustainable websites. We are still learning more about how to deliver more sustainable technologies, so if you have additional tips and tricks, we want to hear from you!

Let’s get started!

You are reading this on the internet! Did you know that the use of the internet alone causes emissions of approximately 2,330,000 tons of carbon and consumes 2,340,000 MWh of electricity every day? If you found this article via a web search, your search consumed about 0.3 Wh of energy and released 0.2g of carbon into the environment. It’s not much on its own, but it adds up.

Do you want to reduce your website’s carbon emissions?

Did you know: Offsetting the carbon from our website requires the work of 12 trees every year.

You can reduce the carbon emissions associated with your website by reducing the amount of electricity used to load, send, and view a web page, and then ensuring the resulting electricity required to access and use the site comes from clean, renewable resources. 

Designers and developers have a lot of influence over the energy efficiency of the websites they design and create. Here are 14 tips for you to design and develop a greener an more sustainable website:

  1. Get rid of unnecessary code, which uses computing power without benefiting users. If you have large blocks of commented-out code, don’t let it slip into production. Keep code clean and simple, avoid duplication and write efficient queries. This doesn’t just apply to the code you write, but also to the code you borrow. If you use existing frameworks and libraries, ensure that they are also refined and tailored to efficiently deliver the functionality you need and that you are not using over-built code. In cases where you are using a CMS like WordPress, avoid unnecessary plugins that add bloat and choose plugins that minimize server load and don’t add unnecessary weight on the front end.
  2. Use compression. Some compression techniques can save data without compromising quality.
  3. Consider programming language efficiency when choosing between programming languages. Less efficient languages have a higher carbon footprint.
  4. Run computations on the server side. Data centers are more efficient than end-user devices.
  5. Choose green cloud vendors. Ask whether your cloud provider uses sustainable energy sources.
  6. Keep digital efficiency top-of-mind. Every day is Earth Day when you are prioritizing energy-efficient decisions. Our site is run on renewable energy, which helps offset our impact.
  7. The goals of SEO are aligned with the goal of reducing energy consumption. When optimizing a website for search rankings, we help people find the information they want quickly and easily. When SEO is successful, people spend less time looking for information and visiting fewer pages that don’t meet their needs. This means less energy is consumed and the energy that is consumed is used to deliver value to the user.
  8. Copywriting also impacts the amount of time people spend browsing your site. We don’t want people to waste time sifting through content that offers them little value, so clear and efficient copy can reduce wasted time and in turn reduce wasted energy.
  9. Good user experience makes using the web easier and reduces the amount of energy wasted navigating to pages that don’t serve the correct purpose and trying to decipher what they should do next. Obviously, our UX Design team is here to help!
  10. On most websites, images are the single largest contributor to page weight. The more images you use and the larger those image files, the more data needs to be transferred and the more energy is used. Regardless of any technical optimizations, designers and content creators should think carefully about their use of images.
    • Does the image genuinely add value to the user?
    • Does it communicate useful information?
    • Could the same impact be achieved if the image was smaller?
    • Could we reduce images that are not visible to the user, such as in carousels?
    • Could we achieve the same effect with a vector graphic (or even CSS style) instead of a photo?
  11. Video is the most data and processing intensive form of content. As with images, ask yourself if videos are necessary. If they are, reduce the amount of video streamed by removing auto-play from videos and by keeping video content short. A website with video playing can be one or even two orders of magnitude heavier than a website without video in terms of page weight and creates much higher load on the users CPU, resulting in vastly greater energy consumption.
  12. Web fonts can add significant file weight to the websites on which they are used. A single font file could be as much as 250kb, and that might only be for the standard weight. If you want bold, add another 250kb. To reduce the impact on custom web fonts, designers should consider the following options: Use system fonts where possible. Fonts like Arial and Times New Roman can be used without loading any font files at all as they are already on the user’s device, and try to be frugal in the number of typefaces you choose and in the number of different weights that you use for each typeface.
  13. Build static web pages. CMS-powered websites make queries to the website database and dynamically generate pages, so the webserver has to do work thinking about what information to send back to the user each time someone tries to load a page. That causes the server to use more energy. In some cases, it may be possible to simply server static web pages with no database at all by writing the web pages as static files in HTML, CSS, and JS, or by using a static site generator or specialist static web host to convert your CMS-powered website into static files.
  14. Consider reducing white space and embracing dark mode. Dark websites were one of the first techniques popularized for saving energy on websites many years ago and it faded away with the advent of LCD screens, which had a permanent backlight, using the same energy regardless of the color actually visible on the screen. However, with the advent of OLED screens that light up each pixel individually, using darker colors is once again a viable technique to reduce energy on end-user devices.

If you’d like to estimate the carbon footprint of your website, this tool is easy to use. In fact, it’s how we learned that our website needs improvement (we’re currently running dirtier than 78% of similar websites and producing 2.14g of carbon every time someone visits our site).

You may not be able to do every single one of these things, but every action you take to produce a sustainable website adds up, so lean into greener design and engineering on Earth Day and every day!

Additional resources:

Women’s History Month – Let’s Make Tech More Inclusive

It’s Women’s History Month – Let’s Make Tech More Inclusive

By Deborah Keltner

We may be preparing to wrap up Women’s History Month 2022, but we aren’t done working to make tech inclusive. Women’s History Month provides education on how women helped shape the nation and empowers children by introducing them to historical role models. It also inspired us to share practices that make our company and our industry more inclusive to women.

While the month is over, our effort to bring gender equity to our company and our industry is ongoing.  

Women have played a key role in the advancement of technology and computer science since its creation. For example, computer pioneer Grace Hopper devised the theory of machine-independent programming languages, which led to the creation of COBOL. And while women are an ever-growing part of the tech community, inequality in pay and opportunities persists.

women in tech

No matter your gender, here are ways every person can make our industry more inclusive and better for women:

As a professional

  • Mentoring. It’s important that both men and women mentor women in technology. Letting women and girls know that they have a future in technology helps to increase the number of women pursuing careers in computer science. This pillar of support can be offered through professional groups or one-on-one. If you are a woman in tech, making yourself visible will inspire other women and girls. And men in tech should evaluate who you seek out or offer mentorship to, so you can make sure you are doing so equally.
  • Educate yourself. Read books and blogs for, by, and about women in tech. This reading list has some great recommendations. Follow Women in Tech on social media – searching the hashtag #womenintech can get you started.
  • Speak up. Point out non-inclusive behavior, even if it comes from someone above you in the leadership chain.
  • Evaluate your professional circles. Do you find that your network isn’t as diverse as you’d like? Start building professional relationships with women and people of color so your network looks more like your community.

As a manager

  • Eliminate bias in the hiring process. Look for ways to attract qualified candidates from a variety of backgrounds.  Our recruiting team uses several techniques to make the process inclusive to women, including anonymizing applicants, monitoring job descriptions for gendered or exclusive language, encouraging applicants to include their personal pronouns, and setting system reminders to be inclusive while reviewing applicants or completing interview feedback.
  • You can take the Parity Pledge here.
  • Visibility is a serious challenge faced by many women. Women are often tasked with “invisible work” – such as day-to-day tasks and maintenance work – and therefore get credit for being diligent, but not strategic. Managers should make sure that everyone has equal access to strategic projects and that everyone is equally tasked with invisible work.
  • Address pay gaps – female tech workers make anywhere from 10% to 33% less than male counterparts, depending on seniority level. Ask about equity when setting the pay scale for a role so you do not perpetuate unequal pay.

At Work

  • Amplify women’s voices and do your part to ensure women are heard. To amplify a colleague who has shared a good idea in a meeting, speak up, name and credit the woman, and repeat her idea.
  • Use Inclusive language. Favor gender-neutral terms whenever possible. Here’s a guide:
Replace ThisWith This
He, sheThey/them
His, herTheir
GuysFolks, friends, team, y’all
Ladies, galsWomen, folks, people, you all, y’all, friends
ChairmanChair, chairperson
Man, mankindHumanity, humankind
GrandfatheredLegacy status, preexisting
Right-hand manCounterpart, indispensable
Man hours, manpowerPerson hours, engineer hours, level of effort, hours
MiddlemanMediator, liaison
HousekeepingMaintenance, cleanup, overview
Male or female connectors/ fastenersConnector and receptacle, plug and socket
Man (verb, “I will man the desk”)Staffing, working
ManpowerWorkforce, human effort
Preferred pronounsPronouns, personal pronouns
Sexual preferenceSexual orientation
Gay (as a generic term)LGBTQIA+
VirginFirst run, first launch

Challenges within the tech industry make it harder for women to pursue a career in our field, and even once women join tech, they are less likely to stay in it – both because of lack of role models and because it’s often male-dominated and gender exclusive. Valence is working to improve things for women in tech and raising awareness about this issue is one way that we can contribute to progress.

What else should we do to make tech inclusive? We’d love to learn more from others who are supporting women in tech.

Additional Resources:

Cloud Migration and Cloud Services

Cloud Migration and Cloud Services

By Luca Junghans

A look inside these cloud capabilities

By joining forces, Valence and MajorKey offer an even greater set of cloud services for businesses that want to power their digital transformation with cloud technologies. 

MajorKey works with clients to migrate business applications to the cloud, and Valence builds services on the cloud. This is one reason these businesses are such a powerful combined force. 

The cloud refers to software and services that run on a (usually) regionally located server owned by the cloud service provider, instead of on an on-premise server owned by a customer. Cloud servers are in data centers all over the world. By using cloud computing, companies don’t have to manage physical servers or run software applications on their own machines. 

It’s big business. In fact, one of our partners, AWS contributed 14.5% of revenue to Amazon’s overall business in 2021, which would have operated at a $1.8 billion loss in Q4 without it – and AWS revenue was up nearly 39% compared to 2020. 

There are many ways to use and understand the business impact of cloud technology. We are breaking down the distinction between cloud services and cloud migration for you here!  

Cloud Migration and Cloud Services 

Simply put, cloud migration is what happens when a company moves some or all of its software onto cloud servers.

In other words, cloud migration is moving your software to a managed server operated by the cloud provider; and cloud services are technology solutions built on top of those managed servers. There’s a whole range of capabilities bridging the two. 

Let’s take a closer look.  

Cloud services range in how much they abstract away from the customer.  A good example is Amazon Cognito, which is a user management cloud service. Amazon Cognito has implementations of basic user functions such as login, logout, sessions, and security, so a customer doesn’t have to worry about a deeper technical implementation of these features and can focus on managing users.  

Cloud services are so flexible that there are seemingly infinite ways to deploy them for a business. Cloud services are the infrastructure, platforms, and software hosted by cloud providers, and there are three common solutions:   

  1. Infrastructure as a service: The renting out of virtual machines and space to customers, while providing a way to remotely manage the resource. When a company migrates to the cloud, they are using this service. 
  2. Platforms: Providers like AWS and Azure build specialized software on top of their own cloud hardware and offer the software to customers as a service. These are specialty services and can provide patterns for things such as Data Analysis, Compute, IoT, APIs, Security, Identity, and Containerization. We wrote about Digital Twins in a previous post, which referenced Digital Twin platforms offered by AWS and Azure.  
  3. Software as a service (SaaS): Software can be built on top of the platforms offered by the cloud providers. Software developers can also partner with other third parties to provide fully built instances of software that typically come with subscription rates, customer support, and personal configurations of the software. Examples of this include Atlassian Jira and Confluence, Dropbox, Salesforce, and G suite

These services can be transformative for businesses in general, but it’s not always easy to know the best way for your business to use them. The added benefits to this migration range per case, and here are four examples: 

  • Scalability: Cloud services often offer on demand scaling options that can satisfy unexpected or planned growth. Depending on your product, this can be a lot easier than upgrading on-premise hardware, but not always cheaper. 
  • Cost: Although we expect the costs to be passed to the consumer in some way, the logistics of maintenance and upgrades to the cloud systems is handled by the provider. In many cases this can translate to a huge amount of money saved for the customers. 
  • Performance: Performance enhancing services like CDNs and regional hosting, when understood and configured properly, can have tangible and positive performance impacts. 
  • Local Management: Being on the cloud means access to the digital portals to manage the services (most times). This creates a lower bar of entry for employees to manage and observe the resources. 

Many businesses start their digital transformation journey by migrating infrastructure or applications from on-premises servers to the cloud. Notably, cloud migration can also refer to a situation where a business needs to bring the cloud resources they manage into an on-premises environment. It can also describe a situation where a business moves its data resources from one cloud provider to another.  

Cloud migration to use cloud services is a process that presents many upsides, and is worth investigating!  The process will add additional complexities – specifically, security and governance will generally be instituted upfront as a base for the rest of the migration. We design and engineer performant, scalable, and maintainable applications that save businesses money, fill in knowledge gaps, and provide users with a positive experience.  

Here are two examples of cloud services that we’ve built for clients:  

  • Building cloud applications with AWS lambda: We have bridged the gap between multiple third-party APIs and created new databases that consolidate data and deliver it to a web application. Cloud services remove the need for our clients to interact with these multiple services, which saves them time and money. At the same time, we used AWS Cognito to help our customer manage roles and users in a secure and trusted way. This removed the need for our engineers to write our own user management software, a cumbersome task. 
  • Data pipelines:  We identify problems in our customers’ current database providers and migrate data to a more performant and better structured database in cloud-to-cloud migrations.  

We will continue to build and migrate while we investigate the future of the cloud. What are the new services and platforms? Who can benefit the most from them? How can we do it right? We will be prepared for the cloud migration and services needed from the real world to the metaverse, and beyond.  

Additional Resources:  

Three Ways We Bring a Learning Culture to Our Business

Three Ways We Bring a Learning Culture to Our Business

Learning Culture

One reason that Valence consistently is awarded Best Place to Work by the Business Journal is because we are all about a Learning Culture. A Learning Culture is rooted in a growth mindset where people want to learn and to apply what they have learned to help their organization.

Our team weaves together consulting, design, and engineering practices while staying alert to new technologies and innovations, while also becoming experts in our clients’ industries, business units, and market trends.

That’s a lot to learn.

And rather than being intimidated by all the things we have yet to learn, we encourage our people to stay open and curious. Learning is a core value here, and it’s a key to our company’s success.

“One thing I love about this company is that it’s a learning place. I always feel comfortable calling our designers, architects, and engineers so I can tap their expertise and better understand what matters most. They always make the time and encourage me to ask questions, and it helps me feel confident in my role,” Angela Kaiser, senior project manager.

We leverage each other’s knowledge, and as part of MajorKey, we are exploring exciting ways to broaden our educational platform, especially since we are now a global business with learners and teachers in the US, India, and Argentina.

“I love being a part of the learning culture and I love that I have the freedom to learn, admit what I don’t know, and dig into what I want to know. Valence is a great place for that,” says Renee Christenson, senior project manager at Valence.  Renee also leads up the Valence Lunch and Learn program!

Learning happens formally and informally here, whether it comes through moments in spontaneous conversations, as part of a scheduled deep dive with a colleague, at one of our monthly lunch and learn meetings, at a conference, or through collaboration with clients and partners.

Senior Content Writer, Malia Jacobson says, “I have a quote by author Annie Dillard framed in my office. The final lines are ‘Anything you do not give freely and abundantly becomes lost to you. You open your safe and find ashes.’ It reminds me that it’s not enough to continually develop new knowledge in our fields—we also need to share what we’re learning. I’ve learned so much from my Valence team members and colleagues, and I’m grateful for the opportunity to share, engage, and pay it forward.”  

A scene from Malia’s office

Here are three tips to bring a learning culture into your company:

  1. A flat structure will encourage people to ask questions and show their curiosity.

We need each other’s knowledge, and with a flat organizational structure, anyone can share what they’ve learned and what they are passionate about with confidence.

Lunch and learn sessions offer a formalized process with an informal interaction, which helps people to feel comfortable presenting and attending. People respect each other and lead with kindness and respect, so whether you are a presenter with a bit of stage fright, or an attendee nervous to ask a question, everyone is welcome and respected.  

2. Invest resources into your Learning Culture and put someone in charge of it.

Valence runs a monthly Lunch and Learn program, which is managed a senior project manager who collaborates with our People team. The Lunch and Learn program typically requires about 4 hours of management time each month.

When a team member delivers a Lunch and Learn presentation, they typically spend up to 40 hours putting the content together, rehearsing, and preparing to present it over several weeks.

The ad hoc requests for education and cross-team sharing are harder to measure, but it’s safe to say that subject matter experts share and seek expertise as part of their work.

We should mention a secondary culture benefit when your company prioritizes learning and teaching, which is that it creates new avenues for employees to know each other and build meaningful relationships, which are crucial for mental health and workplace satisfaction (and harder to come by in remote work situations.)

3. Teach and learn about more than technical topics.

Naturally our monthly Lunch and Learn program covers topics like Artificial Intelligence, 5G, and data governance; but it has also covers topics like Crossfit, perfecting your LinkedIn profile, and making the most of video conferencing. Our upcoming lunch and learn schedule covers topics as varying as DEI (diversity, equity, and inclusion) and the evolution of digital content?

Showcase your Learning Culture by creating a platform for employees to share their passions.

By operating like a campus-less campus, everyone is a student, and everyone is a teacher so we can all come together around learning.

“People are encouraged to share their knowledge and be an educator for the company, which is why you never know what you can learn here,” said Valence President, Jim Darrin.

If you are a knowledge seeker, you’ve got a growth mindset, and you love a learning culture, check out our careers page! At Valence, you might find a career where you can tackle challenges, learn, grow, and develop professionally!

Additional Resources:

Valence Careers Page

Designing for Good: User-Centered Design

Designing For Good: User-Centered Design

User-centered design

We’re talking about user-centered design because ideas succeed when they translate to products, services, and experiences that users love.

So what does “user-centered design” really mean, and why is it so important right now?

To understand user-centered design, look back to the time when digital products didn’t focus on the user experience like they do today. Just 10 years ago, digital products like websites, apps, and software didn’t need to perform on multiple screen sizes or resolutions because devices were mostly standardized. Companies could create a version of their digital product for desktop devices, a distinct version for phones, and possibly another version for tablets. Many companies didn’t address accessibility and they primarily designed digital products for a single operating system. As a result, many users found technology frustrating, hindering, and downright irritating, which hindered adoption.

Kelly La Belle, Designer

A great product is a product people want to use.

Thankfully, companies addressed the user frustration, and the design process for digital products has been evolving to prioritize users ever since.

People value products that are easy to use, simple to set up, and have a logical progression. User-centered design isolates the users’ specific needs down to granular steps, then we design to be aesthetically pleasing and intuitive. To really understand the users, the design process requires user research, which can include user surveys, brainstorming, testing, and more.

There is no single approach to user-centered design. Most digital products have unique experiences that require unique solutions. An investment in a great user experience and user interface design can make the difference between success and failure.

Products that incorporate user-centered design have been proven to:

  • Cut down on customer service costs. More intuitive workflows result in less customer frustration and fewer service calls.
  • Increase sales. Customers conduct research before committing to a new product or service so first impressions online are key. A few bad online reviews about your product will result in lost sales. Rather than hire a PR firm to fix your product’s reputation, invest in a great user experience upfront to reduce the cost of sale.
  • Reduce lawsuits. Companies can be held legally responsible if their digital products aren’t usable for people with disabilities. Having an inaccessible digital product is in the same vein as having an inaccessible storefront. User-centered design will address accessibility as a top priority.

User-centered design is popular because it works. The digital landscape is constantly changing, so keep the user at the center of the change to ensure a great product and strong business.

Want to know more about our user-focused design capabilities?

Additional Resources:

Designing for Good: Equitable Design

Designing For Good: Equitable Design

The terms Equity and Equitable Design come up with increasing frequency as businesses are asked to be transparent about efforts to support diversity, equity, and inclusion by investors, customers, and employees.

Our designers want to make equitable designs for every client, so we have worked to understand what it means to design equitably.

To quote Jennifer Wright of Designers Build, “The term equity is often used interchangeably with equality, but it is a fundamentally different concept. Equality is giving everyone the same thing. Equity is giving everyone what they need to be successful.”

This does not mean that we design everything to be equal or the same for everyone regardless of their needs. Equitable design also does not mean that we have a diversity checklist for your stock photo library.

This is not equitable design

“From my perspective, equitable design has three levels of impact: Representational, Experiential, and Cognitive-behavioral,” says Valence UX Designer, Jacob Lowry.  In the context of equitable design, we like to define the three levels of impact like this:

  • Representational design authentically and positively challenges societal defaults and expectations.
  • Experiential design focuses on accessibility, beyond WCAG or ADA accessibility to include social, cultural, and technological access. With experiential design, we design for user needs and emotions.
  • Cognitive-Behavioral design influences how people think and behave. In this case, to use design to help people to think and act in a way that contributes and supports a more equitable society.

Bringing Equity to Your Next Design Problem

Everyone consumes content, and designers are in the unique position of helping create that content. As Christopher Paul discusses in his book Wordplay and the Discourse of Video Games: Analyzing Words, Design, and Play, design is a powerful and important societal role – it isn’t isolated.

Most design is built for business needs and for-profit content. However, being driven by profit is not in conflict with equitable design. In fact, there is a mountain of evidence to back up the link between business effectiveness and equitable design. Companies that integrate social responsibility into their operations can expect positive financial returns. These companies also increase sales and prices while reducing employee turnover.

It happens in big and small moments.

Designers can have the ambition for large, systematic change while operating on a niche, local, brand, or worldwide level. 

Designer Rie Nørregaard said in “Designing for Humanity,” that designers should shift away from “designing for” to “designing with” by connecting with different people and contexts. When designers step back from their own experiences to connect with the user and their perspective, we can design more equitably. This is especially true for designers that are members of the default norms (white, male, able-bodied, English speaking, etc.). How do we connect with other user experiences and needs? It can be through interviews, observations, conversations, research, and more. This is informed at Valence by our User Research team, too.

It’s simple to include equitable design in your next project because it doesn’t require a lot of research or professional development (though those can help). Equitable design simply requires a commitment to look outside of a limited world view to find the right way to approach solutions for a more diverse set of users.

In closing

Valence creates digital experiences that are used by companies and people across every industry and experienced by users around the world. In addition to our own sense of social responsibility, by considering equitable design in our work, we also meet our responsibility to produce commercially successful solutions.

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Valence Announces Lindsay Cox Appointment to Executive Team as Vice President of Sales

Valence Announces Lindsay Cox Appointment to Executive Team as Vice President of Sales

Lindsay Cox

BELLEVUE, Washington – January 10, 2022 – Valence, a business working at the leading edge of transformational technologies with strong consulting, user-centered design, and engineering capabilities, today announced that Lindsay Cox has been named as Vice President of Sales, bringing her experience and expertise to the company’s executive leadership team.

Lindsay Cox has approximately twenty years of senior management, sales, and business development experience, working in the Pacific Northwest technology market, including ten years of strategic client development and market leadership for technology brands, most recently as Technology Sales Director at Accenture.  Prior to that, Cox served as Client Leader & Executive at IBM. Cox has established her market reputation thanks to her experience building high-performing sales teams and being instrumental in driving revenue for her clients.

“Lindsay is the right leader for Valence,” said Jim Darrin, Valence CEO, “Lindsay bridges a deep understanding of enterprise technology with a commitment to client outcomes and successful solutions. She will help Valence to strengthen customer and partner connections while developing strategic alliances that expand our company’s market presence.”

“I’m very excited to be part of the Valence team at this critical time in the company’s growth,” said Cox, “I believe Valance and MajorKey have a compelling business model and a talented management team that uniquely positions us to capitalize on the rapidly accelerating digital transformation environment. Valence can provide unrivaled technology solutions to help businesses achieve their full potential. I am delighted to be a part of this team.”

About Valence

A MajorKey company, Valence is a digital transformation solutions provider focused on helping enterprise customers understand and apply next-generation technologies in a smart and innovative way to advance their business goals. From cloud enablement to cutting-edge, Valence operates across all stages of the digital transformation journey with integrated creative, consulting, and engineering services. Its team takes pride in its ability to provide new perspectives and build solutions that result in operational efficiencies and improved user experiences. For more information, visit

Digital Twins, Machine Learning, and IoT

Digital Twins, Machine Learning, and IoT

Digital twins are part of the Internet of Things (IoT) interconnected system. In 2021, Accenture positioned them as one of the top five strategic technology trends to watch.

Image credit: Noria Corporation

As the name suggests, a digital twin is a virtual model designed to reflect a physical object. Companies like Chevron are using digital twins to predict maintenance issues faster, and Unilever used one on the Azure IoT platform to analyze and fine-tune factory operations such as temperatures and production cycle times.

With a digital twin, the object being studied is outfitted with sensors related to key areas of functionality to produce data about aspects of the physical object’s performance, such as energy output, temperature, and weather conditions. The data is relayed to a processing system and applied to the twin. 

Once informed with this data, the digital twin can run simulations, study performance issues, and generate possible improvements, all while generating insights that can be applied to the physical object.

Sometimes digital twins include a rich immersive visual experience, but that’s not always the case. Sometimes they have a simple interface or no interface at all.

Digital Twins are part of the evolution of IoT within the digital transformation. They are used often today in commercial real estate and facilities planning, and as we think about the metaverse, digital twins take on increasing importance with virtual spaces. When you think about the implications of machine learning on digital twins and the IoT, the possibilities for real-time smart monitoring get very interesting.

Imagine a large corporate campus that has been turned into an enormous digital twin that expands to other campuses and physical locations. What if that digital twin uses machine learning to optimize things like traffic, utilities, and weather? How could a global company use digital twins to have a complete model of the physical world?

Here is our biggest tip for anyone considering digital twins as part of a project strategy:

We like to start by considering the existing tools. A robust set of tools already exists through companies like Microsoft and Amazon Web Services TwinMaker (both of which are Valence partners).

Leverage existing industry ontologies (data dictionaries) like schema and naming systems and data formats for interchange within communities. You’ll benefit from established best practices and from broader operability between third-party vendors.

Microsoft contributed industry standards for digital twin definition language that make it simpler to build, use, and maintain digital twins.

The underlying services are provisioned automatically so developers can build upon a platform of services and extend the existing Microsoft or Amazon product. The process isn’t turnkey, and you won’t be able to create a digital twin using completely out-of-the-box tools, but the platform is managed for you, which lowers the operation costs. The platforms are also more secure and designed with best-operating practices in mind such as automatic back-up and built-in deployment automation.

Building upon industry standards will also save you time. For example, if you want to create a smart building solution and need to describe a building’s physical space, industry standards will help since software developers don’t usually have a facilities or building management background. An industry-standard model gives developers an advantage when creating a digital twin that their clients can understand and use.  

Data-driven solution

Digital twins create a platform to measure and store data. With the data available, you can test and answer both operational and business questions. For example, you can investigate fragile risky components in your supply/production system and explore opportunities to improve and expand new services. The key is that measuring and storing the data are essential steps before using any analytical tool.

Digital Twins are Evolving

While building a digital twin is more difficult than what can be done by a typical business user, we can develop these complex systems with a modest team of developers and designers. We typically only need to bring in highly specialized engineers when there are heavy integration and interoperability challenges with several vendors.

The technology is evolving, and early-stage challenges with vendor integration will improve over time, making it easier to transition a digital twin solution from one cloud provider to another.

One of the keys to digital transformation is challenging how we do things today to explore how to get more computerization and automation involved. Can digital twins improve your organization’s warehousing and distribution? Can digital twins improve the challenges faced in the supply chain? Can your sustainability goals be tested with a digital twin? There are many possibilities to consider!

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