Birthday Cake

CQL Reaches Adulthood

I will be honest, I got a tad emotional thinking about CQL turning 18 years old. I still fondly remember the “three-guys-in-a-shoebox” years down at 820 Monroe and the times that Kevin and Mike would have to cover their workstations with tarps because the dance-studio above was shaking dust loose from the rafters.

Now, that place would be called an incubator center, but back then, it was just a collection of small businesses trying to figure out this new software economy.

I could talk nostalgically about life before the Internet and the first 9600 baud connection between my business and CQL, or the first time Kevin helped me green-screen-connect to a gopher server in Ann Arbor, but this anniversary makes me think more about what it means to be 18 -- adulthood.

Part of CQL’s success has been about ‘becoming responsible.’ For those of us paying attention, this responsibility means we survived the worst economy in 80 years when many others did not. But being a newly anointed adult also means we have our lives ahead of us and we can leverage our youthful optimism to chart the next chapter.

Over the last few months, many of us at CQL have been re-mapping the front end of the business – how we engage clients, discover big ideas, partner with world-class firms and get better at collaboration. Some days is has felt like being an archaeologist, digging through 4 years of projects looking for a “what worked/what didn’t” pattern in the dirt. But something clicked when I heard about our anniversary and everything started making sense.

Unlike 18 years ago, Software is not a ‘thing’ anymore. We do not buy it shrink-wrapped off a shelf or fire-it-up at 9 and shut it down at 5. It has become part of everything we do.

We stream and like things from coffee shops; when necessary, we attend meetings from 5 time zones away and think nothing of it. We can reduce 200 page reports to a few data-driven webpages and can build custom sandals on our tablets.

Nicolas Negroponte predicted all of this in the 90s - “Technology will become so pervasive that it will be become like air and water – noticeable by its absence more than its presence.”

And that kind of embedded intelligence is no longer developed by backroom hackers any more than it is built for machine-like-tasks of 18 years ago. Today, user experience matters. Business context matters -- and done well, the technology we build is intentionally invisible.

It is just one man’s opinion, but this is why we are seeing an evolution in the front end of our business. Why our customers require us to look broader at the problem. And, most importantly, why this sheds a new light on everything to do with our craft.

And this is why we are ensuring closer collaboration between business strategists, experience designers and software craftsmen. And why this change is rendering some of our traditional baton-style handoffs obsolete.

And this means outcomes are more break-through, the solutions are more elegant and the experience is more joyful for the user.


So thank you Kevin for starting something wonderful and for letting me be a part of it.

Thank you Mike, Mark and Doug helping raise a responsible adult.

And thanks to the entire team for your pie-eyed optimism of what we can become

Photo Credit: Omer Wazir

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