Close your eyes and think about the Apps you enjoy the most.
Now open your eyes and write them down. They are going to be Pinterest and Twitter and Dropbox and Waze and Facebook (well, for some of us) and Instagram and Proust and Vine and Google and WhatsApp, or some similar list.
What will not be on the list are 99% of the business applications that you are forced to sit in front of at work. What will not be on the list are 99% of the mobile applications that businesses lobbed out there. What will not be on the list are 99% of the websites that you are forced to sit in front of when you do your banking or insurance or flight planning or income taxes or anything at all to do with the US Government or just about any other government on the planet. Maybe with the exception of the City of Cape Town, South Africa.
What is going on? Have all of the great minds fled corporate IT? Are they all in a narrow strip between San Jose and San Francisco, Tel Aviv and Herzliah? Or is it that our precious IT staff is underfunded, our CIO tasked with too many projects with too few resources, and turning to large software vendors focused on the status quo?
I get around quite a bit, visiting businesses. There are also the nearly 600 phone calls that I had with clients in 2013 alone. And the 1-1s at Symposia and conferences. We all meet superb talent at all levels of IT. Brains and passion are not the problem. The issue is, and will remain, that innovation and investment in innovative ideas follows the money. Nobody believes that the next multi-billion dollar valuation is going to go to the company that builds a better customer-centric website application, or a brand new desktop for our dedicated and under-compensated customer support agents.
Corporate IT needs a shot in the arm from the CEO, and a bit more support, to take more risks that might be really cool, but not immediately translate into revenue. In the amazing 1994 film Don Juan de Marco, where Don Juan is telling Dr. Jack Mickler, the aging burnout played by a brilliant Marlon Brando, “You need me! For a transfusion, because your own blood has turned to dust and clogged your heart.” And Brando/Mickler stumbles for a moment and admits, in a moment of dawning awareness, “You’re right, my, er, my world is not perfect.”
Has the CEO asked the rank and file employee, or the customer, lately: do you love the tools and applications that we have put in front of you? Or has he/she been so beholden to shareholders that it is all about profit margins, squeezing the employee, and lip service to the customer? Rather than ask them, ask the employees, and ask the customers, and ask prospective customers – and then display the results on your corporate facebook page or website. (Please do not try this unless you a) like Siberia, b) are ready for retirement, c) have another job offer in hand.)
So: How can you become as great an app provider to your customer and employee as Pinterest or Uber?
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