Apple IBM Partnership: 6 Things to Consider

The Apple IBM part­ner­ship is a big deal. Of course, I have the long view. My wife laughs at my long time hori­zon all the time.

In order to get a feel for why the announce­ment is such a big deal, two things are crit­i­cal to understand:

  1. The way enter­prises acquires, deploys, and sup­ports tech­nol­ogy (it’s like writ­ing an app — it’s one thing to write it, another to do all the QA involved get­ting it into production)
  2. How bad most enter­prise apps are to use (solv­ing your prob­lems, not your users) — and that atti­tude leaks into their con­sumer offer­ings (link to bank­ing updates for iOS7)

The Enter­prise Acqui­si­tion of Technology

The Enter­prise Apple­Care offer­ing is huge in its own. It’s not like 200,000 GE employ­ees can just walk into an Apple Genius Bar if they have a prob­lem. Com­pa­nies need to pro­vide first-line sup­port to their employ­ees, includ­ing hard­ware ser­vice. They need to have a clear path to pro­vi­sion for new employ­ees. They need to under­stand prod­uct roadmaps1.

What­ever these 100 apps they’re cre­at­ing for ver­ti­cals are… they won’t nec­es­sar­ily need to sell them to be suc­cess­ful. Big com­pa­nies like IBM work on ELA’s (Enter­prise License Agree­ments) for soft­ware. And while ELA’s are chang­ing, they’re hardly going away for com­pa­nies as big as IBM and Ora­cle. This means IBM can “sell” what­ever soft­ware they choose to as part of big ELA renewals, and declare vic­tory. It’ll drive the busi­ness… and Apple will benefit.

It’s also impor­tant to remem­ber that it’s one thing to write an app, and a-whole-other thing to run the gaunt­let of test-deploy. In many large com­pa­nies for most of their projects, an after­noon of cod­ing could lead to months of testing/QA and deploy­ment sched­ul­ing2.

The Sad State of the Enter­prise App Experience

I could write a mil­lion words on this alone. But, it’s Fri­day and if I do, it’ll upset me all weekend.

Enter­prise apps, in large part, suck. Full stop.

It’s not because peo­ple are bad, or bad at what they do (though, you might sus­pect the apps could only be this bad if they pur­posely tried to make them so).

Enter­prise apps serve many mas­ters. Let’s take my favorite, expense reports.

Sim­ply put, there are two users — the accoun­tants and the trav­el­ers. The soft­ware is designed for the accoun­tants to track expenses, not for the trav­el­ers who are doing the expense reports.

It’s naïve to think that an employee wast­ing 2 hours per expense report would jus­tify spend­ing money on improv­ing the expe­ri­ence. You’d have to track the sav­ings, jus­tify the time­frame, real­ize that peo­ple fix­ing that prob­lem are not doing some­thing else, etc. Espe­cially since most peo­ple who do their own expense reports prob­a­bly do them on their own time at this point. And, I know peo­ple who don’t do small expense reports and eat the costs them­selves because it’s such a has­sle. Sta­tus quo is good for the enter­prise3.

If IBM can deliver a mobile prac­tice around solv­ing a vari­ety of user per­sona expe­ri­ences… well, that’s what mobile is really about. Unbundling user expe­ri­ences and then pro­vid­ing delight­ful apps for each.

By the way, it took both Fidelity and Bank of Amer­ica a full year to update their sin­gle mobile bank­ing apps to iOS 7. You know what that meant? They updated to iOS7 the week before iOS 8 was announced and every­thing changed again.

If the bank’s pub­lic apps, the ones try­ing to impress cus­tomers, are this behind and we know that enter­prise UX has never been a pri­or­ity what can we infer from enter­prise mobile apps? And, since tablet apps are designed like PC browser apps, why not just use a PC?

What Does This Imply for The Opportunity?

Because Apple has some pres­ence in the enter­prise, its sim­ply wrong to think they’ve cracked the enter­prise to any fair measure.

And, to think that the state of mobile apps in the enter­prise is any­thing like that which we expe­ri­ence in our con­sumer lives is fun­da­men­tally naïve.

The Impor­tant Things To Con­sider About the Apple IBM Partnership

  1. Mobile is a new / big thing; and as I’ve said before, Enter­prise doesn’t under­stand it. This is a good strat­egy for IBM, and the Apple IBM part­ner­ship will give them credibility.
  2. It was inter­est­ing that they men­tioned big data min­ing; that hints to me as a unique value propo­si­tion they’re going to try to lever­age (machine learn­ing, and all that mainframe-AI stuff they do)
  3. Remem­ber Enter­prise buy­ing pat­terns – the enter­prise can’t just walk into an Apple Genius Bar for sup­port. This move is crit­i­cal for Apple to pen­e­trate the enter­prise more. ALSO, remem­ber the ELA. Most big soft­ware com­pa­nies don’t actu­ally sell, they run the compliance/ELA-renewal route. This is another big fac­tor for IBM to do dif­fer­ent busi­ness than Apple would.
  4. By the way, we know Apple has good pen­e­tra­tion in the enter­prise, but we all real­ize that it’s mostly the élite. IBM is a com­pany that is sup­pos­edly neu­tral for employ­ees, any employee can get a Mac exactly the same way they get a PC. Very very few com­pa­nies are like that. IBM can help them (and it’s crit­i­cal for the com­pa­nies to do so, because young peo­ple want Macs).
  5. This is huge for Apple’s iPad, and there­fore a huge oppor­tu­nity for IBM. I mean, IBM runs a huge busi­ness on cash reg­is­ters & kiosks – 2 places where tablets would be a much bet­ter solu­tion than a PC. Yet, today, they do it all on PC. Same with enter­prise apps. Using a Mac at at many large com­pa­nies is impos­si­ble with­out Vmware, unless you don’t travel, use con­fer­ence rooms, and so on4. There’s no way peo­ple could use a tablet and get their jobs done. Too hard. Same with iPhones – sure a lot works in the browser. Most peo­ple use them like fancy black­ber­ries – email, cal­en­dar, address book… and what­ever they can also do in a browser and what­ever they can port over from their con­sumer use of technology.
  6. Finally, unless you’re a real nerd, there’s no way you’re using (for exam­ple) salesforce.com’s mobile app. It’s too broad reach­ing. Mobile is about unbundling expe­ri­ences, and the expe­ri­ences need to be tar­geted very specif­i­cally at their user sto­ries. It’s sim­ply impos­si­ble to do that broadly with a small num­ber of apps (with­out adding so much com­plex­ity, that peo­ple sim­ply yearn for their laptop’s big screen and mouse). It’s the Hotel Tonight vs Travel Por­tal exam­ple I like to use. No one would ever go to Con­cur in a browser on their phone or tablet to make a reser­va­tion. Unless they’re jammed up and have to. But, if I were look­ing for a hotel, I’d go to my phone first. There are a few things I use my phone for as my first choice (RSS reader, Twit­ter, con­trol­ling my stereo). That’s what IBM is going for. How do they make the phone/tablet the first com­puter peo­ple reach for? We (as Enter­prise IT) need this. Imag­ine an enter­prise app you’d rather use on your phone than your PC?

Con­clu­sion

Not only is this huge, the tim­ing is good. Tablets are accepted. Exec­u­tives have brought them into the enter­prise. There’s enough ten­sion that it’s clear much more can be done, but no one has really fig­ured it out yet. Wall Street won’t like it because it’s not going to add mil­lions of phone/tablets per quar­ter next quar­ter. The end game though… the end game is beau­ti­ful. Imag­ine the iPad being a peer to a Win­dows desk­top in the enter­prise in a few years. Imag­ine SecureID instead of com­pli­cated pass­words that you have to change all the time? Brilliant.

PS — Of course it depends on how they exe­cute. If any­one can exe­cute, it’s Tim Cook. And, IBM bet­ter be pay­ing atten­tion to HP (and how badly it’s fail­ing)… IBM’s much big­ger, so it’ll be slower to fail. But fail it will if they don’t do some­thing meaningful.

  1. IBM won’t be able to help with hard­ware roadmaps, but they can buffer between IT and Apple in an inter­est­ing way by ball-parking future OS releases and hav­ing mile­stones around them, even though there’s uncer­tainty. It can “check off” future com­pat­i­bil­ity by say­ing “it’s IBM’s prob­lem”. If it’s their own prob­lem, they have to pro­vide the answer to how they’ll do it… but they can’t if they don’t know what new fea­tures are com­ing, etc. []
  2. It may not be 2 months of work, but if you can’t sched­ule deploy­ment until after QA is com­plete… and then if you are sched­uled, but a pri­or­ity fix has to use your deploy­ment win­dow, you get bumped. And so on. []
  3. Just because I’m a con­spir­acy the­o­rist, doesn’t mean there’s not a con­spir­acy. []
  4. Many of these sys­tems have Microsoft back-ends that require IE. []

Seriously Delta?

My beau­ti­ful wife is on the road. In fact, as I write this, she’s on her way home.

I’m try­ing to decide whether or not to keep our baby awake long enough for her to see him. If everything’s on time, it won’t be a prob­lem. But any delay at all, and I’ll want to put him to bed as usual.

Why not setup a flight noti­fi­ca­tion, right?

Clearly, Delta wants to make this as dif­fi­cult as possible.

Delta Airlines Notification UI

 

By way of vent­ing, I’d like to sub­mit the fol­low­ing Cap­tain Obvi­ous ques­tions to prod­uct management:

  1. Why must I select only a depar­ture or arrival noti­fi­ca­tion? I know I can setup up two noti­fi­ca­tions sep­a­rately, but since that requires typ­ing in a lot of extra infor­ma­tion, why can’t I just have an “and” option?
  2. Which City? Depart­ing or Arriv­ing? You do real­ize there are 2 cities involved in each flight. Of course, you have the flight num­ber AND date, so you don’t really need the city.
  3. Enter a Device Address”?!? What planet are you from, and do you need help with your Eng­lish lan­guage skills? You’re send­ing a freak­ing email. Who cares what device?
  4. How about text noti­fi­ca­tions? If you under­stand the social-differences between email­ing and tex­ting, you’d real­ize that noti­fi­ca­tions are more suited to text than email. At least allow an option. I don’t want to have to cycle through all my emails just to see a notification.
  5. PDA Device? Seri­ously?! By the way, do you really send device-dependent mes­sages? No. So why ask?

Seri­ously though, I couldn’t get past the “city name” thing. And now have no noti­fi­ca­tions. You might want to think about mak­ing new par­ents your UX advi­sors. We know how to get things done, and move on to the next impor­tant thing. Which is all any­one really wants to do when they deal with your old school organization.

PS Make your fonts bigger.

It’s Not Banking, It’s Personal Finance

Alibaba, China’s Amazon/eBay/PayPal mega-company, just dropped $192 mil­lion on a foot­ball team. Why? Straight from the CEO’s mouth: “We’re not invest­ing in foot­ball, we’re invest­ing in enter­tain­ment. Alibaba’s future strate­gies are health and enter­tain­ment.” (via Tab­Dump)

Banks are soft­ware com­pa­nies. As long as they think small, and refer to them­selves as bank­ing com­pa­nies they’re open to being out­flanked by com­pa­nies who think big­ger. Com­pa­nies that iden­tify with ‘per­sonal finance’ instead of bank­ing are going to win because they’re iden­ti­fy­ing with the cus­tomer expe­ri­ence (all the things one does with money) not with the inter­nal process (banking).

When banks make this men­tal shift, they’ll have the explo­sive growth expe­ri­enced by other sil­i­con val­ley com­pa­nies.

How Will Apple’s WWDC Next Week Impact Enterprise Mobile?

When I talk about mobile I find that I reg­u­larly switch between per­sonas — that of the enter­prise employee1, the enter­prise part­ner (think B2B), and the enter­prise cus­tomer (think B2C).

What’s going on in the con­sumer space seems to be dri­ving a lot of mobile in the enter­prise. How­ever, I don’t believe there’s nearly as much “inno­va­tion” in the enter­prise as there is out­side of it.

This year’s WWDC announce­ments will be excit­ing as a con­sumer. How­ever, they’ll fur­ther frag­ment con­sumer mobile from wide-scale enter­prise mobile capabilities.

I don’t believe IT is ready for the sort of mobile adoption/use that we encounter in our daily lives out­side of work. And IT are los­ing ground.

Why is it eas­ier to get an Über cab than it is to reserve a con­fer­ence room? Why?! [Read more…]

  1. I believe that at a fun­da­men­tal level employ­ers com­pete for employ­ees, and younger more tech­ni­cal savvy employ­ees will start to choose com­pa­nies that enable them to work the way they live which will in turn put a lot of pres­sure on IT to inno­vate. As such, employ­ees make for a very impor­tant per­sona to con­sider when it comes to mobile, UX, and the way we incor­po­rate tech­nol­ogy into our daily lives. []

Mobile Banking Apps, Why Do Banks Think It’s OK to Have Just One?

Mobile Banking AppsI’ve been think­ing about mobile bank­ing apps a lot recently. A cou­ple of weeks ago I saw arti­cles from both Chase & Citi about the impor­tance of their mobile bank­ing app. Each time I was struck by the impli­ca­tion that The App was enough. That The App was the end-game.

I believe this sort of think­ing results from a lack of insight about the true impli­ca­tions of mobile. It’s sim­ple trans­fer­ence — we have a web­site so there­fore we need a mobile app. Done. Let’s move on.

This think­ing is flawed.

I Was At A Loss For Words

My chal­lenge became find­ing the right metaphor to help peo­ple under­stand why this think­ing is flawed (and what to do about it). Espe­cially since I believe it’s urgent that banks under­stand this before they get dis­rupted even further.

I love Face­book as a mobile exam­ple. Post IPO Facebook’s stock price dropped. There was a lot of con­ver­sa­tion around their rel­e­vance in mobile. They’ve since recov­ered and showed incred­i­ble mobile suc­cess, so they’re a com­pany we can look to as an example.

As the world has gone mobile, though, Face­book has famously learned that one app to rule them all sim­ply doesn’t work. Instead, com­plex­ity and inter­con­nect­ed­ness needs to move under the sur­face, con­nect­ing indi­vid­ual apps like a dig­i­tal Pando Tree.

(Ben Thomp­son, report­ing from Face­book F8 Con­fer­ence ’14)

Face­book believes that “one app to rule them all sim­ply doesn’t work”. In fact, other promi­nent com­pa­nies are tak­ing their lead — NY Times, Foursquare, and Google are examples.

As metaphors go, using Face­book, Foursquare, and Google made for a dif­fi­cult leap of faith from the metaphor to bank­ing. I mean, a bank is a very dif­fer­ent com­pany than a software/media com­pany. Or so com­mon think­ing goes1.

I needed a bet­ter exam­ple. I found one in Hotel Tonight. [Read more…]

  1. We may give lip ser­vice to ‘every com­pany is a soft­ware com­pany,’ but it’s a posi­tion that’s not yet embed­ded in our intu­ition or mus­cle mem­ory when we approach banks to sell them soft­ware or solu­tions []