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Google I/O 2016 Takeaways

Like most of you, our company increasingly relies on lines of code. At Decathlon, we are trying to adapt our culture to better prepare ourselves for the digital switch we are all living. In February 2016, we organized our first Hackathlon and Guillaume Gustin (@guillaumegus) and I were lucky to be invited by Google to their annual conference so we thought we would share what we have learned.

Disclosure: Our company hires 80,000 people across 30+ countries. This post may not reflect the opinions of our colleagues or our company. But we sure hope so!

That being said, here’s our 5 takeaways:

1) Forget search, you will get your own Google.

Or how to take personalization a step further.

We didn’t hear the term “Search Engine Optimization” a single time this year. Google thinks that if your users are searching for something it’s eventually too late. They are moving from a “search” to “search assistance” company leveraging voice searches — already representing more than 20% of all searches — and their new Amazon Echo’s clone to enter into the physical world. Google Home.

TAKEAWAY 1: If your company relies on traditional non-personalized search you may have to rethink how to give them a more natural way to access to your services or products.

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2) Apps may not be the real deal anymore.

Who wants to have hundreds apps on his phone anyway?

Google is working really hard to merge the world of apps and the web. Eventually removing the unnecessary frustration you have to go through if you want to access content inside of an app. They want apps to be launchable instantly without any pre-install required.

They call this AMP or Progressive Web Apps and it’s very real.

Takeaway 2: If you are spending money on developing for iOS, Android, Windows and as the same time sustaining a website it may be worth getting your team together and revisit your marketing and your software strategies. There’s some real cost benefits to this approach.

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3) Happy code = happy user.

Or caring about the unseen foundation that delights your users

This may be obvious for many but it’s something we heard repeatedly more from Google employees actually than the main keynote. Their recommendation is clear: you can’t delight your users without having a beautiful technical foundation first, at least for the long term.

Eventually this get worst overtime since internet is a very fast evolving industry and one of the primary factor to keep up is great code. Here are a few examples discussed during our workshops that are facilitated by pretty code:

  • Upgrading to AMP: requires your Android app to be extremely modular so they can only load the required code to launch a single page fast.
  • Releasing a new feature without having to finance one development in each platform: requires a progressive web apps and/or the use a maximum amount of de-centralized APIs.
  • Making your code secure and performant: requires your code to be testable so you can safely upgrade to the latest releases of your libraries, languages, etc.

All this have for consequence not only to make it easier for your team to delight your users but also to facilitate the arrival of new engineers to your project as well as simply providing a great working environment to your team. Most of IT managers know about this but we were just inspired by how much Google managers cared and deeply understood this.

Takeaway 3: Treating your IT architecture and your code well will get you a long way.

Related articles:

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The secret recipe for happy users

4) Developers are managers and managers are Rockstars.

Wait… Since when developers are managers?

Tim O’Reilly gave a fantastic talk inviting organizations to rethink the role of developers. Software takes more and more importance in our lives and we can’t deny the number of daily — most of the time invisible — decisions made by the developers. Eventually making them managers. Developers give dozens of instructions a day through their lines of code. It was an interesting perspective suggesting that we should really select our developers as carefully as you would for our managers.

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Google Product managers are rockstars

Succeeding at building a digital product is something that is becoming increasingly more difficult. You need a technical vision as well as a product vision while planning for built-in marketing. We were blown away by Google Product Managers (Dave Burke, Ellie Power, etc.) and learned than most of them are indeed computer scientists with amazing understanding of engineering, law, design, psychology, marketing, etc. All of them mini-CEOs in a way.

Takeaway 4: Hire developers as if they were managers and product managers as if they were CEOs.

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5) Is this Artificial Intelligence thing just hype?

This year was all able AI. Google suggests that people in the future would want to have natural conversation in order to achieve their daily goals.

  • “My tire is blown up, what should I do?”
  • “My kid wants a bike, where should I go if I’m on budget?”.
  • “Should I eat that?”
  • etc.

Parsing natural languages and knowing how to answer is one of the greatest technical challenges of this time. While we will be able to rely on Google or other third-party services to learn “What was our user intention?” being able to answer them is something only companies with huge amount of data will be able to do since AI main source of learning is data.

Takeway 5: There’s no need to start a project with “How should we use AI?” just because it’s the buzz word of the year. However, if we start with “How can I capture and solve my users’ problems without having them filling a form or doing a complex search?” we will eventually end up using AI.

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Google I/O as an event was a great way to reinforce our convictions. Many of them seems to be a given for people living in Silicon Valley but for the rest of the world it’s much harder to evaluate how important those takeaways are. Obviously they aren’t top priorities for most traditional businesses but it may take decades to catch up on those trends so we may as well start now!

Finally, here’s a lille video to show you the mood of the event. If you want to be in touch feel free to tweet us at @alextoul or @guillaumegus. We are looking to get in touch with software engineers and start-ups who want to make sport more accessible.

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Building technology for Decathlon Canada to make sport more accessible. Say hi!

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