Tag Archives: technology

BYOD is not the solution

BYOD is not the right answer to bad corporate IT.

It isn’t about the technology.

It never was.

The technology is just a tool.

A tool for YOU to use to achieve something.

If you don’t have the right tools, then the problem is NOT the tools, it the process that gave you the poor tools in the first place.

If you have poor tools, it is because someone decided that YOU are not worth spending the money on.

A cost/benefit decision was made … and guess how this worked out …

It is about value. The fact is that you are not valued. Your time is not valued.

If it was, then your employer would want you to be as productive as possible.

They would provide you with the tools to maximise your productivity.

That is why so many smaller advertising and design agencies and creatives have Macs and quickly update to the latest version of kit.

Creatives know that time is money.

Creatives know that better kit means things get done quicker.

Creatives know that quality matters.

Better work means beats the competition.

Better work means you win work and they don’t.

It is about survival.

Better kit = more work = more money

Creative companies have always known that tools matter.

Laptops, projectors, pens, paper … whatever the tools are, they matter.

Desks may be made from doors, but smart companies rarely skimp on productivity tools. Time matters.

But now all companies have to be creative … yet many haven’t realised yet that maximising creativity demands good tools. It doesn’t matter what the field is – music, art, design, engineering, medicine … tools matter. Whilst a good artist or engineer will use what they have, the best ones will demand the best tools, because they know that tools matter. They work faster and the outcome is better.

So, if you don’t have good tools you are not valued.

If the tools are poor, make the case for better tools in a way that people understand … spell it out in simple terms, and focus on one thing:

MONEY, CASH, MOOLAH, DOUGH, WONGA, LOLLY.

This is the only thing that matters.

If you cannot make the case, it doesn’t matter. Stick with what you have.

If you do provide a strong case and are ignored, then you don’t matter.

Now you have a decision to make. Do you want to work in a company that doesn’t value you?

It isn’t about the technology.

Bringing your own kit will not change the fact that you are not valued.

So, BYOD cannot be the solution.

 

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Consumerization and what IT departments still don’t understand

The consumerization discussion in companies always amazes me.

You know, the ‘bring your own device’, ‘iPad’, ’email on Android’ thing …

It is a huge change in the workplace, but so many companies still don’t understand real drivers behind this.

There is a reason that Jobs and Apple did not allow corporate IT departments to easily manage, control and restrict Apple devices .. because Steve Jobs understood that it DESTROYS the usability and performance – not just of the device, but of the user … or to give them their correct name, person (human being is OK too).

The main driver behind consumerization is not people wanting to own your own kit, it is a damning indictment of the failure of corporate IT to understand and enable people to get the job done. People want to use their own technology because they despise everything that corporate technology stands for and consistently the experience that is consistently delivers:

… unusable, slow booting, heavy, ugly (but cheap) laptops with a battery life that can just about survive one meeting, but not an international flight or even a working day.
… unintuitive, cumbersome, bloated, slow software that takes forever to download, requires you suspend common sense in using with the graphical aesthetic that a 4 year old wielding a packet of crayons would be ashamed of
… security policies that in the name of corporate compliance add additional steps that make the most simple of tasks even slower, more painful and more complex than finishing an advanced calculus paper whilst after a bottle of Grey Goose

And corporate IT people think it is about the device.

WRONG.

It is about YOU and what you do.

[Note that I said cheap laptops. The irony of course is that whilst IT departments often buy most of the people poor laptops, the total cost of ownership of these, and the cost of managing them is rediculously high. Not that this would bother IT departments as they buy whatever they want and don’t use the same rubbish that they provide you with. They also get to setup their machines as workable and reasonably usuable. Something that they deny to you].

Years ago, people had no choice. They had to use what they were given, they couldn’t afford the best devices and didn’t always appreciate what was possible.

But now they do, and corporate IT should be worried. Very, very worried. Today, people are working outside the system, focusing on getting the job done. Doing what they need to do to perform at work, keep their job and continue to keep the payslips coming. They are connecting these devices because they need to get to the data and information they need. And this is where most discussion of consumerization stops.

The discussion focuses on how we can make the devices secure, enforce encryption, remote wipe, add lots of compliance monitoring …

WRONG.

WRONG, WRONG, WRONG.

The correct way to look at this is very different.

Instead of thinking about the solution … start with the cause.

‘Our users, the people we exist to serve are voting with their wallets to NOT use what we provide. What we do isn’t working. Yes, we can show that we are meeting security commitments, but the services and technology that we provide is that BAD that people are choosing to buy their own devices, pay for their own services in order to do what they need to do to get their work done. In some cases, they know they may risk disciplinary action, but they still do it. We must be really failing people’.

You are.

Once you appreciate this, you can start to understand and envision the solution.

It starts with a mindset change of thinking: ‘what can we do to help people?’

– How can we provide great technology?

– How can we protect performance rather than killing it?

– How can we empower people?

– Yes, we have corporate responsibilities for security, but how are these implemented so as to minimise the impact?

Perhaps there is a simpler summary … ‘how can we get out of the way?’

Those that understand this shift will see consumerisation as an opportunity to redefine both the role and the relationship of internal IT departments. They will become teams that empower people, provide help to get things done. Become a department of ‘yes, here is how you can do that’.

My confidence is in this happening is not high though.

Most IT departments will resist this with every tool at their disposal … wanting to install software remotely wipe my personal PC without my approval is a pretty good testament to this.

But consumerization today is only the start of a this wave of change.

The next step should really concern IT departments … because these users, the people you have failed will next start asking very simple ‘why’ questions about corporate IT. They will ask why things take so long, cost so much, have such poor quality. In the past, people could be baffled with technical excuses, but not more. People now know what is possible because they are using this technology themselves in the own lives (and often in their work without telling you).

– They know a PC from a local store (or more likely a Mac from the Apple Store) is often faster, lighter, and pretty much better in all aspects than what is provided at work.

– They know that software as a service (even the enterprise stuff from companies like Salesforce.com) means that installs are not necessary, the patching is not a problem and that they can connect from any device. And they can get it NOW, not in months or years.

– They know that the cost charged by IT is a joke (checkout the price of memory from Crucial vs internal costs). They know the service is abysmal (Apple again) and they know that it doesn’t need to take 2 years to develop useless internal social tools when there are lots live today (Salesforce.com and every other SaaS provider).

So if you work in corporate IT, you either change, or be made irrelevant.

And a quick tip … after a while of you saying ‘no, it cannot be done’. People will not ask you anymore. They will just get on and do it themselves.

No battle, no fight, no executive show down. They just get on with it.

They will then ask ‘why are we paying for corporate IT’.

And then they won’t be.

 

As PC manufacturers suffer in 2011, Apple stormed ahead. Lesson: DESIGN MATTERS

2011 was the second worst year for PC sales in the US.

  • HP fell 5%
  • Dell fell 8%
  • Acer fell 14%
  • Toshiba fell 2%

Q4 figures for 2011 being particularly bad for HP as the botched sale or not of its PC division resulted in a loss of customers confidence and a corresponding fall in sales of 25%.

So, a terrible year all round?

Well … no. Not for everyone.

One company bucked the trend in the US. Increasing sales in Q4 by 18%.

You know the name of course, Apple.

Before you dismiss this, it is worthy of some examination.

In an economically challenged year when consumer confidence fell and jobless figures rose, the company that bucked the trend for sales was a manufacturer of premium products. If you want a computer, whether for work or business Apple is not the cheapest option. Of course, any comparison depends on your requirements, but it would be hard to argue that Apple are the least expensive choice for most requirements.

So at a time when you would expect price sensitive buying the opposite happened.

Or did it?

If you ask look carefully at what people wanted, perhaps this is a clearly predictable outcome.

Instead of focusing (as the PC industry typically does) on chip speeds, memory size, hard drive space, blah blah blah … you focus on long term value, a great user experience, beautiful design, and build quality then you would count out most of the PC industry. Most PCs are functional and provide good bang for the buck, but in the user experience stakes … are awful.

For many people, price will have been critical, so however much they may have wanted an iMac or Air, the price of the Apple world was simply too much, so PC sales have not completely collapsed.

An analyst would point to a number of supporting factors for this: A new operating system, value of Apple stores, strong marketing and the not least the benefits of a very positive brand. They may also talk about a competitors’ lack of vision or the growth of the Apple ecosystem and the resulting pull through effects.

But they would be missing the real driver. All of these matter, but there is a much stronger one.

Anyone who has spoken to a recent switcher from PC to Mac would tell a different story. New to Apple buyers talk about the user experience (they don’t call it this of course), the design, the beauty, the ease of use. Seriously – they do. People who don’t care about computers become attached to Apple products. It happened with the iPod, the iPhone and is pulling through to the desktop and laptop. It is also why Apple dominates the tablet market despite hundreds of much cheaper competitors.

This change is not good news for the PC industry, because most PC makers are really bad at the things that Apple is great at. I don’t just mean poor, or not very good, I mean BAD. Products keep being released with the most basic of design flaws.

Manufacturers scrimp on design throughout the whole process, they cut corners on build quality to save a few cents, install junk-ware which kills speed and offer support that is usually painful for most.

And they wonder why they are losing business?

And here is the bad news. It  is only going to get worse; as people tell their friends, as they become part of the Apple closed wall ecosystem the personal switching costs to go back to the PC increase. With disjointed and badly designed ecosystems  and no added value from competitors they are not even going to be contenders. Talking a good story doesn’t cut it. Most Mac buyers have PCs at home at the bottom of draws that testify to the failure of the PC as a long term investment. The performance slowdown, the problems with rogue code and viruses and the slow start times being ecliped by the Apple experience.

Companies should pray that Apple decides to stay a premium provider, because if Apple decides to go for growth by releasing a lower priced range, then there will be a bloodbath in the PC market.

So is this a fait accompli?

Is the end nigh?

Are there any routes to survive?

How to compete

Option A – innovate product+service

  1. STOP looking only at the product, look at the whole product+service experience from pre- to post- sales
  2. Focus on the experience. Be the company YOU would want to buy from. Fix your service problems.
  3. Find the gaps, segments and customers where you can improve and then innovate, innovate, innovate (the process and experience)
  4. Focus on designing excellent, fun and rewarding experiences (remember, it is not just about the product, but product+service)
  5. Build on these, keep innovating and develop passionate buyers
Difficulty: Hard
Reward if successful: Your business stays alive to grow and has a solid base of buyers. You may be a smaller company, but if executed well should be more profitable and stable.
Answer this question: If I was a buyer, would I buy this? Why? Then test this with real customers.

Option B – Business as usual

  1. Focus on reducing costs to win on price. Fail to develop a service mentality.
  2. Ignore Apple, continue on with business as usual. (You may talk about design, but this is likely to be copying Apple)

Difficulty: Easy
Reward if successful: Cut-throat competition and no ability to value add. Highly volatile business with high costs, ever reducing margins. What you do win will be hard fought and low profit.

Answer this question: Can I control and manage my costs better than my competition? Do I have a predictable and flexible build model?

 

So is the lesson, innovate or die?

No. You can carry on as usual, but are going to find life very challenging. Margins will continue to be under pressure, you will be worried about another competitor making a slightly better product and at a slightly cheaper price, but you can continue. Of course this a challenging life, as you have no long term value to bring. You know this and so do your customers. Should the market suddenly shift, you will be unable to compete.

If you are a PC manufacturer you should be calling Microsoft now and demanding that it pulls its finger out and starts getting products out of the labs and into the OS.

The game is not over yet, but it is not getting easier.

10 other ideas to help:

  1. Hire passionate people – find young smart people and hire them. Then LISTEN to them
  2. Build diverse teams. If you have a team of engineers you will build things may be efficient, but are ugly and will fail in the market. Hire designers, artists and people who care about people.
  3. Travel the world, watch, learn and understand. Embrace ideas.
  4. Start breathing design, understand it, live it, demand it.
  5. Cut your development and prototype timescales, build or partner to be able to quickly prototype. What is your MPT (minimum pro
  6. Release innovative ideas and prototypes – build energy, interest and passion in your company
  7. Test new ideas live, release products under other brands if you need to, make limited editions, test the market with live products
  8. Make feedback as honest as possible, setup user panels, hear the harsh truth first hand, encourage honesty
  9. Find partners … be open-minded and innovative in who these are
  10. Set metrics that encourage innovation and the changes that you want.

So no easy answers or magic bullets (there never are – which is why they are called magic!), but there are options to survive.

One final point to executives in the PC market, whether software or hardware …

Don’t complain about Apple. You could see this was happening. Everyone else did.

Now the question is whether you want to sit back and let this happen, or are going to embrace the challenges and innovate and design a way out of this? Your call.

 

The hardest job in the world … Windows phone product manager

If you are a Windows mobile/phone/whatever 7 or 8 Product Manager, life cannot be easy.

Android announced 3.7m activations over the Christmas weekend of 24th and 25th December 2011

Apple are estimated to have activated 4.58m iOS devices on Christmas Day alone

… and Windows Phone 7 … no data yet, but it is a world away from these figures

Fact: Windows phone is getting a kicking.

These figures cover not just phones but tablets as well, but that doesn’t really matter, because the core fact is that millions of dollars and billions of data points are heading to Apple, Google and the Android ecosystem, not to Microsoft. Yes, I know that Microsoft makes some money from IP licensing fees, but that is missing the point. The mobile platform machine is in full swing, generating cash AND data for Microsoft’s competition. This is not just a problem for today, but also for the future as Google and Apple leverage the platform insights and the data to improve services and create walls around their platforms.

But Microsoft seems unable to halt these two juggernauts in mobile.

Why?

These sales figures are all the more amazing given that Microsoft had a head start of several years on both of these companies and at one time had a 20% share in certain markets with Windows Mobile.

But in a year that has seen RIM and Nokia face collapsing market shares and rock bottom investor confidence, Microsoft has a major challenge ahead in mobile.

An article by Jay Yarow from Business Insider summarises the problem very simply – It’s That The Phones Aren’t That Great. Spot on Jay.

What Microsoft has done has allowed itself to lose the low end of the market (to Android), whilst the user experience, platform and ecosystem simply isn’t good enough to win the high end and effectively compete with Apple. Microsoft may think it can compete. It can’t. Not yet.

Where Microsoft is now is the one place that Harvard Professor Michael Porter famously described as being, ‘the one place you don’t want to be’. The reason is that you can make good products, have good service, and a competitive price, but fail spectacularly. You fail to lead on any area, have no distinguishing innovation and throw money into marketing and development and see absolutely no effect.

Jay offers some ideas, but the challenge facing the Product Teams is deeper than the product features. It needs to define a proposition for Windows Phone in the eyes of customers. Microsoft is not competing against a static competitor, it is competing against a whole industry of providers in Android and the leader in consumer electronics in Apple. The fact today is that Microsoft, it simply isn’t a serious option for buyers, or developers.

For anyone working in Microsoft this is more frustrating that you can imagine. This is because Microsoft is not short of great innovations, ideas or smart people in mobile. Many of the features you seen in Android, in Apple phones and in a range of other mobile solutions were in Microsoft labs years ago. Microsoft labs are full of innovation. Microsoft as a company is innovative. Internally it really is. Not that you would know it as a customer.

The core problem is getting this innovation out of the lab and into products … QUICKLY. A Microsoft release cycle can (and does) take years. This delay means that career Product Managers can avoid taking responsibility for abject failures in the market by moving around and changing roles. By the time a feature has been released it is either already in the market, or has been normalised to the point of banal (read irrelevant) in an effort to avoid offending any other Product Group inside Microsoft (or more accurately any senior Exec from any other group). Lets be clear though, I am not blaming the Product Managers, I am blaming the Executive. The Exec takes the responsibility for the culture inside the company. Product Managers have my sympathy, but this is a two way street. You cannot expect support when lacklustre products fail to sell.

So, the market is dominated by two players (lets ignore RIM because everyone else is for now). It is challenging innovative, well funded agile and successful platform players.

So how do you compete in this environment?

One option is to look at one of the few consumer successes Microsoft has had … Xbox, and more recently Xbox Kinect and see if there are lessons to be learned from this.

Yes, Xbox has had significant problems with early production quality, but it handled this well and has shown with Kinect that it can introduce game-changer products and reinvigorate older platforms. What Microsoft did with Kinect is put innovation at the top of the list and deliver on this. It needs to do the same in mobile. STOP following in the tyre tracks of the competition. STOP allowing them to define the market, and start to drive YOUR innovation into your products. If you need to, commit to production. If you can partner, great, but don’t wait for partners to catch-up. Focus on winning mindshare and market-share before you worry about complete Windows system integration – you can fix this later in software updates. You need integration, but get the consumer proposition right first.

More than anything, answer this question:

The reason I should buy a Windows phone is???

Today I don’t know the answer, and neither do your potential customers. If you don’t believe me, then ask people. I did. I asked friends, and they didn’t know. I can tell you the answer for Apple and Android. I can even tell you the one for RIM. I cannot tell you the Windows Phone answer.

So how can you fix this?

Start looking at this less as a technical problem and more as a customer satisfaction opportunity.

Sell products by making things that do stuff that people want. It isn’t any more complex than that. Ok, it is, but the core point is correct. Start with the user. Live, eat, breathe, their world. And make it better. Solve their problems. Help with with their lives. And do this better than the competition. This is absolutely possible.

5 ways to fix Microsoft mobile:

  1. GET CREATIVE – Employ some designers and start buying up some top talent in the mobile space. Don’t let career old-timer PdMs prioritise features. Leverage their experience, then dump it if it isn’t working. Have some young talent challenge the old guard. Once you have a building, stop corporate Microsoft decorating it. Once you don’t it will be professional, boring, functional, dull and utterly useless as a creative space. Give budgets to managers and delegate. Build cool spaces. This is not about money, but about ownership of creativity.
  2. STAY FOCUSED – Keep the group away both physically and structurally from the rest of Microsoft as you can (I was tempted to say if Ballmer thinks it is a good idea, do the opposite). Seriously, any team needs to stay away from the rest of Microsoft as much as it can. Microsoft is a mature, fiscally disciplined and predictable well managed company. It is everything that a startup group needs to eventually be, but not at the start. Not if the cost of this is a lack of innovation and a delay in delivery (which it is).
  3. BE AGILE – Set aggressive timescales (by Microsoft standards), then halve them. Beat the competition. Simple. Be quicker. You cannot do this following a traditional Microsoft clock. Get a faster one.
  4. INNOVATE – Define metrics that reward innovation and game-changing (there is no point defining metrics that you will miss by a mile such as market share … please). Don’t focus on the product alone, innovate across the ecosystem. CHANGE THE GAME. Normal = waste of time. Look at the work by Doblin to understand this better, but don’t just make a better phone, this is not enough.
  5. TEST – Get the value propositions tested early, and keep testing them and refining them. Write the sales material (not word documents, but living demos and mockups) before you seriously commit to building anything, and test this. And test again. If no one cares or is excited, rip it up and start again. Seriously, test this. Ask yourself why would FastCompany, Wired, NYT, and a million websites want to talk about what you are doing? If you cannot answer this, no one cares. Seriously, they don’t. The most important test yet … test with kids aged 9-19. If they don’t get it, change it.

 

Microsoft is not out of the mobile game … yet, but cannot wait forever to start to get serious about addressing this.

If you need a reminder … try this: Last weekend, 7m prospective customers committed their cash and credit card details and all future revenues to your competition. How much longer before you become a viable competitor?

The clock is running.