Vendors – time for them to step up

by Brian Katz on July 30, 2013 · 2 comments

Having returned from vacation yesterday I stepped right into the thick of it with a great conversation with Dave Stafford @dstafford. We happened to be having dinner together for an event and we were talking about IT in the old world (12 years ago) vs IT today and how things have changed. We quickly moved onto tools that were available to simplify and manage mobile for the enterprise and we came up with a surprising conclusion. There is very little of what we see as new today that is really doing anything to move us forward.

This is a strong statement to make but one that I found very compelling as we continued talking and struggled to find tools that were enabling us to move forward as we embraced end user computing and mobility. That isn’t to say that we don’t see some small steps that are definitely moving us in the right direction, but quite a few of the big vendors out there really have no clue in how to move us forward. The goal here isn’t to shame any particular vendor but to understand what we need to start moving forward.

We have moved from a time when the IT department was the gatekeeper to where they have to become enablers. The real question here is what are they enabling. At the end of the day, it is quite simple, IT’s job has to be to enable users to get the right information, at the right time, in the right place on the right device so that they can do their job (4Rs=J). Users are clamoring for the ability to get their jobs done in a more flexible and agile manner. They don’t want to have to worry about going back to their desk to enter data or manipulate a spreadsheet, especially if they are going to use that data somewhere else. They want to do their job when and where it needs to be done. The funny thing is that they aren’t looking for special favors or dispensation from IT. They really aren’t even thinking about IT or Security. They want to use the technology that they have with them everyday and see other people using, to be productive and efficient. They aren’t trying to avoid compliance and security rules, they’re trying to help the patient in front of them, sell the latest product to the buyer, and manufacture the right amount of widgets.

It is a change in approach that IT must embrace but even more, must demand of their vendor partners’ solutions that actually help users achieve this. It’s time to stop looking at separate workspaces on devices, owning devices, creating crapplications and managing users back to essentially feature phones. It’s time for vendors to start ponying up and offering innovation that actually understands how a user works. How many times can we read an email from one vendor or another how their product solves BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) issues or provides a way for people to work anywhere? Just like IT has to get to know their users as well as the business, these vendors need to start spending time not just with the admins that they are selling their product to with glitzy brochures but they have to get in the trenches and see how end users really live. Your customer isn’t the company that buys your product, as much as you think it may be, your customer is the end user that your product enables. It’s not a question of MDM, MAM, Containerization and Virtualization. They can all play a part, but if the experience for the end user isn’t frictionless you won’t last that long.

When enterprises offer these vendor solutions and they get in the way of enablement, users just find a way to go around IT and the products that they require. App developers spend lots of time talking about UX (User experience) but all vendors have to face up to this new reality, that user experience matters. For many, it’s not just the UX of the IT admins who enable the users, but it’s the UX for the users themselves. We all know someone who has an app on his or her device that isn’t kosher with IT. It may even be you. The only reason you did it though was you joined the revolution; you wanted a frictionless enablement experience where the tool disappeared while you got your job done the best way for you. When vendors start to figure this out, we will see true innovation that moves us forward.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Rafal July 31, 2013 at 10:01 pm

Brian – all good points, but I’m stuck on .. “HOW?”. As someone who has worked on the vendor (I know, the dark side) for 5 1/2 years now the last 6 months or so in services, I some many product managers are well-meaning but no one really has the complete vision of “how” the ultimate customer (the employee trying to do their job) will work. The reason for that, I believe, is that this is constantly evolving. We can talk about it abstract terms but at the end of the day we need a platform that meshes “our product” together with every other product that is not even in our space to enrich the end-customer experience, to get a job done.

I just don’t have a vision of being able to do that on any realistic scale, across categories of employees, user-types and even verticals – every single person in a company has slightly different requirements. I don’t envy the Product Manager who has to build a product to meet 100,000,000 requirements, most of which conflict.

It’s easy to talk about it, but very, very, very difficult to do so I think we are where we are, piecemeal. We’re doing it in pieces, and it’s sub-optimal for sure … but it’s a often a best-effort (and I’m giving many of the vendors out there the benefit of the doubt, clearly).

I hope we reach it one day, really I do …

/Raf (FYI I tried to post using my Twitter handle but post-passthru auth on Twitter I’m back to the same page here … and I’m stuck …speaking of user experience…)


Chuck Goldman August 1, 2013 at 8:22 am

Apps are the transformative value proposition of these new devices not mdm. IT has been focused on security first not innovation but that is changing and you will start to see the type of value in mobile that you are looking for Brian.


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