I wrote a few days ago about the Client Experience model, a way of thinking about the elements of your organisation’s client service over and above your core offer.
In it, I gave the example of how EasyJet used the TV programme Airline to help manage down the expectations of air travel amongst their potential customer base. I believe that, as we enter a new, consumer-product led, commoditised world of IT, that our industry needs to find ways to do the same.
Yesterday I had the first request for an iPad from a general (non-Digital content producing) area of the business. Our competitors are starting to turn up to presentations with iPads and are looking cooler than we do with our laptops. Working in an aesthetic-led industry, ‘looker cooler’ is very, very important. IPad’s (do you capitalise the ‘I’ of iPad at the beginning of a sentence?) use in a business context, though, opens up a huge can of worms.
Firstly, like mobile phones, iPads are revenue-generating devices for their vendor, not a piece of distinct capital investment. Whilst Total Cost of Ownership is a concept that has been well known in IT circles for many years, there’s TCO and then there’s TCO. A big lump of capital cost (into something that doesn’t have any real value after you’ve bought it) plus an ongoing subscription (because, if these devices are going to be really used on the road, a generous 3G data allowance is going to be a requirement) is a whole new game. At least we get given mobile phone hardware for free…
Secondly, there’s the “me too!” effect that starting to deploy iPads will have. Apple know how to market – and if you want evidence, just look at all the doey-eyed marketing people lovingly gazing at their latest iPad/iPhone/iPod/iBand in an agency near you. Start deploying a few, and unless you have a strong mechanism to control demand, a floodgate of requests will open. “Me too!”ism had, when I arrived at Imagination, bloated our annual mobile phone spend in the UK to double what it needed to be (and with a poor service being delivered because of the huge diversity of devices which were attempted to be supported).
It is the support of these devices that becomes the real challenge. Apple devices are famed for their ease of use… except, that is, when they maybe aren’t designed with the best ventilation, the right wi-fi aerial, or with ease of handling in mind. If you are a home user and you experience such issues (or challenges with getting data in or out of a notoriously closed environment), you speak to Apple, and Steve usually tells you to, in as many words, eff off.
In a business environment, you tell your IT department that it doesn’t work and that you want it fixed. Now. Because an important piece of work for a client relies on it.
Now, in the old world of IT that would be fine, because all of this would be happening in an environment where change is controlled. Sure, Windows XP is ugly, stupid and full of problems, but we haven’t got around to changing it for ten years so we know how and why it’s ugly, stupid and full of problems.
The supplier-controlled, constantly changing world of consumer devices is one where, if you want to use it for business purposes, two things are going to have to change. First of all, if things break or don’t work like you thought they should, well, tough. Just because it’s your IT team that are getting told to “eff off” by Steve (or Sergey, Larry or Eric, for that matter) isn’t going to make them able to fix it. If you are taking the device into a risky situation, you’re going to need to learn to think on your feet and accept those risks.
But secondly, and more fundamentally, if the devices aren’t designed to be supported by a corporate function, it’s going to be impossible to support them cost-effectively in that old model. Which means that, if you are going to want to use this cool stuff, you are going to need to invest the time to learn to use this cool stuff, because if you don’t, and are expecting someone to come and press all the buttons for you, you’re not going to to look cool. You are going to look like an uncle on the dancefloor at a wedding.
Wearing socks and sandles.