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Apple's Mobile Strategy Had Profound Influence on Enterprise Software


ios family picture. jpgWhen you think of the late Steve Jobs, he clearly had a huge influence on consumer devices and software, but after watching The Lost Steve Jobs interview last night, it occurred to me the huge impact he had on enterprise software too.

Before you think I'm a bit daft, (although that might not be anything new), bear with me for moment and consider the whole consumerization trend. Over the last several years users' expectations about how their enterprise software should operation have changed, and they've evolved precisely because of Jobs and Apple's design sensibilities.

Before the iPad and the iPhone and touch screens with simple apps, software was as Jobs said in the interview tolerated (and this was in 1995 while he was still at NeXT), but nobody loved their computers -- with the exception of Macs of course.

But after Jobs came back to Apple and launched a mobile revolution, it began to have an impact on user expectations and ended up causing a sea change in Enterprise IT where we went from command and control to leaving users with a lot more choices. And in large part, this was due to the creation Apple's development tools, software and devices under Jobs' watch.

Art King, who is global infrastructure architecture lead at Nike, was speaking at the Mobile Connect conferencein Boston this week. King spoke about the irony that today we consider consumer software to be the model for enterprise software. That's because enterprise software was always sophisticated and secure and consumer software couldn't compare, but today everything has changed.

King pointed out that the contrast is startling:

  • Instead of IT pushing applications to users, users are installing apps they need themselves.
  • Instead of IT dictating the apps, users are *choosing* apps.
  • Instead of users calling IT for support, they are finding support on a Wiki and embracing super users for help.

And a lot of this happened because of Jobs and his team's design sensibilities. For Jobs, aesthetics and ease of use mattered. He said that his team members were more artists than engineers (and this was well before the mobile revolution he helped define).

That's why, King said, users today used to working on simple, intuitive devices and software are coming into work with the same expectations. They don't want software that requires training or that's so complicated it requires IT to configure and update for them.

They want to download the app, open it and use it. King said it was up to IT to gracefully cede control to users because ultimately, there was really nothing malicious about this change. It was simply about people trying to solve business problems.

But King also said to make sure you have the adult supervisors on board with whatever you do, whether that's security, governance, legal or HR. He said, it's crucial they are behind what you are doing.

Finally, he recommended launching a lot of pilots because a lot of times you are going to be wrong, and that's fine. Jobs said in the 1995 interview that he was not afraid to admit when he was wrong because he didn't care about being right. He cared about getting the product right and building successful products.

If you have a chance to see this interview, I highly recommend it. Jobs comes off as much softer, likeable and thoughtful, then he does in the recent biography. And even though it's from 1995, you can see the seeds of the ideas that would later transform our lives so dramatically that it would blow beyond the consumer space and extend its influence deep into the enterprise -- and change enterprise software and IT forever.

Photo courtesy of Apple.

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