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What does enterprise tech have to learn from Steve Jobs' success?

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With Steve Jobs stepping down, what does enterprise technology have to learn from his success at Apple?

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  • Three lessons:

    1. The KISS principle is a good one.
    2. Never underestimate the value of control.
    3. Sometimes innovation is the best answer, even when it may appear to be technology for technology's sake. (Also known as - never underestimate the end-user's ability to find new ways to use the technology you give them).

  • Actually, I'm not sure. He is known to be rather dictatorial, but because he is charismatic and extremely intelligent, people follow him. As his management team does not have the same charisma, it will be difficult for them to approch things with a different attitude.
    From a technology perspective, his strength was NOT to focus on the enterprise, but rather on the consumer. I believe some of the concepts he created should be adapted for the enterprise, but I don't see Apple capable of doing that. Will probably be somebody else.

  • Steve Jobs created a brand that caused consumers to always take notice. If Apple released a blender, it would immediately rise to the top. Considering when the iPod arrived, mp3 players already existed. When the iPhone popped up, cell phones were twenty years old. When the iPad came, tablets were discouraged.

    Yet, he was able to drive a high price point and create extreme demand.

    Few companies can achieve what Apple achieves. What they touch automatically becomes gold. This success can only be generated by truly understanding your customers needs as well as tagging an emotional element to your brand.

    The mystique and grandeur of the brand is very difficult to match, and I fear with Jobs' absence, Apple may fall back to earth.

  • Put design and user experience at the top of your priority list if you want users to truly benefit from and exploit technology.

    Set the bar on creating tech that users love. Don't settle for 'good enough'.

    Create solutions that solve a few problems really well, instead of solving many problems with mediocrity.

    Having said that, it's important to note that Apple succeeds with products they use themselves (consumer products) where product designers can readily apply instincts and intuition and get firsthand feedback. Not sure how good Apple would be at enterprise products. I suspect an ERP from Apple wouldn't be that much better than ERPs from current enterprise vendors.

  • If you read about Apple's history it is like a mountain train: going high and going down.
    An impressive success story in the last few years, but a lot of failures in other periods.
    Who is resposible for the success story? Steve Jobs.
    Who is responsible for most of the failures? do not be surprised it is Steve Jobs.

    you can Read more... in a post I wrote titled: Will Apple Survive until 2021?

    So the first lesson to learn is that nobody has garantee for success.
    The second lesson: Innovation is a key for success but the innovative company of yesterday (e.g. Nokia) and the innovative company of today (e.g. Apple) may not be the innovative company of the following year.
    The probability that Apple will be as innovative as it today is lower in the age after Steve Jobs stepping down.

  • Apple Inc is worth more than it ever has before, the products are all hitting the mark, people love them. Jobs stepping out at this time, at the absolute pinnacle of success, is eerily like the movie, the Hudsucker Proxy. (Don't jump out the window, Steve!)

    There are very few cases where a company has lost and then later regained a visionary, where we can see the dramatic effect that such a personality has on the success of the entire company. It is incredibly important that someone who really understands the potential and implications be at the helm.

    The iPhone was a bold move, with absolutely no marketing study to back it up, and no proven ROI. More important than the concept of the iPhone, was the incredible investment that Apple had made into making a graphical operating system really work smoothly. Such an investment takes time.

    Somebody said "it takes 20 years to make an overnight success" The iPad is such an example. It take a visionary like Jobs, to guide the investment all that time, to grow from a seed into the bloom we see today.

  • I have a train of thought about apple that has mostly to do with simplicity. two tags on our blog at bp3 will take you to most of these posts:

    Apple is the proof point that better UI/UX can yield a better business. Attention to detail, quality, experience, simplicity - these things really have value. Enterprise software could learn a lot from Apple.

  • I think his biggest lesson is - the importance of sexy in technology.


  • Stve Jobs can wear Black Turtlenecks, have a unique way of presenting his company and products and get people excited, all that marketing Jazz!

    Bur truth is that all of their products are easier-to-use! Note that I did not say Easy to use - They are easier to use than any of the competition in any market for any product. That's the number 1 reason they are successful. That and they keep close control of the hardware and software that ships! Other platforms like Windows or Android have too many dispersed hardware, software makers and so it is very difficult to keep tighter rein over code quality (leading to memory leaks to crashes) or security holes introduced by many makers around the world. On the one hand they make prices go down and take on more market share because of that but people are willing to pay the apple premium to get that extra thing!

    Finally, Consensus building and team decisions' importance are overblown and lead to camels that are horses designed by committee. There are many ways to do something. If a company consistently picks one persons' final approvals and that person is Steve Jobs who has uncanny instincts, you get a blockbuster like Apple!

  • (Excerpt from my blog and upcoming book):

    Steve Jobs did not all-out invent a single thing. He just took existing products (PCs, MP3 players, Napster, laptops, phones, tablets, and now even the Cloud) and made them incredibly user-friendly and appealing. Jobs knows that simplicity gains adoption and that this needs complex technology that empowers people.

    Product innovation from Apple and its iOS developer community is driven by highly skilled and motivated individuals who thrive on autonomy. There is no change methodology that forces individuals to do anything except for some guiding rules. Their innovation is in principle just gradual improvement like all of Apple’s successes. One product may be radically new, but it represents a gradual improvement of the Apple mobile ecosystem IF it finds adoption with consumers. No one forces an iPhone owner to use anything. No executive sponsorship needed.

    Apple could not and did not have to predict which Apps the now 300.000 developers for the AppStore would develop. They just created the infrastructure for a huge, fairly open social network of developers and customers, only providing the security for money and information. They also made it simple and cool-looking on the surface, while the underlying technology is immensely complicated. But the AppStore ecosystem and rule set does not prohibit social complexity. It is now obvious as a hindsight that 300.000 motivated programmers would easily outsmart those rigidly organized Microsoft software labs that don’t really listen to consumers. The Appstore was the innovation phase transition that enabled Apple to jump to the next level of growth.

    What can a business executive learn from that?
    If you want to turn your business into an innovation powerhouse, process creation and innovation must become simple for the business performer. Simplifying (meaning dumbing down) and enforcing process execution will just ruin people motivation. Innovation happens where the problems are by people who understand how to solve them and not in some governance bureaucracy ivory tower. Empower people to embrace socially emerging complexity by creating and using process building blocks that they can assemble at will. The key to wide-spread user-adoption and thus success is simple user guidance, process transparency and performer ratings which allow the selection and reuse of goal-achieving activities.

  • user-pic

    Max - Great article! The wisdom of the app developer crowd is immensely greater than product managers in a single behemoth company making decisions.


  • Apple helped us to realize the importance of User Experience. In the BPM world user experience has often been ignored for general purpose automation. We're learning that an extra focus on user experience can make the difference in user acceptance and be the trigger to many more future projects.

  • @Garth - you beat me to it! Exactly right, Apple highlighted the importance of user experience and also the vital role of design in product development. Couple of points on that - the user experience is detailed and comprehensive. It's not just about the product user experience but it moves across the entire lifecycle - from the store experience -> the purchase experience -> the product experience -> customer support experience.

    In defining Apple, some have called them a marketing company, others call them the ultimate hardware vendor... but what they really are is the pre-eminent design company in America - and Steve Jobs led the way.

  • 1. Form is just as important as function - people like (and like to use) well designed products. Ease-of-Use isn't enough, you really want Joy-of-Use.

    2. Being first doesn't matter - instead make sure you have the pieces in place to ensure that your products provide easily accessible value. If that makes you second to market, or tenth,so be it.

    3. Create an ecosystem around your products - with IPOD\ITUNES he was to first to sign the music labels and make it easy get music on a portable device. Afterwards he invented the AppStore to make sure that you have plenty of interesting interactive stuff to put on your device.

    4. Owning the whole value chain enables you to build a better product - but be careful not to use that power to gouge your customers.

  • I've been using Steve Jobs and Apple as examples in my software blog dedicated to the creation of Great software.

    Apple doesn't just build products. They understand the market and the consumers better than anyone else. And then they create something to define and own that market.

    Almost every software company has it backwards, and could learn from Steve Jobs.

    More at http://www.softwaremarketingexperts.com

  • Design kept coming up in this thread but more as in the design of the Apple products. What Steve Jobs has demonstrated to the business world is that when you run the business like a designer everybody comes up on top. I am sure that his design sense did not only result in the products we are all surrounded by, but also in the business he built and the industries he helped reshape.
    Traces of his attention to detail, failing often through prototyping, obsession with only the best can probably be seen in the org chart and financial models just as much as they can be seen in the products. Apple as a company was built by design, just as much as their products have.

  • Oh, and one last thing, a very good professor and friend of mine, drew my attention to the fact that Steve Jobs is a magician. From the secrecy with which the company is being run to the big reveals on stage, Apple is magic...and I'm sure that a lot of this magic comes from his dual role at Pixar where they had to learn how to deliver on that magical moment. We're all kids inside...he just knows how to bring out the kids in all of us.
    "Stay hungry and foolish"...words that will always stay with me.

  • So far, I think Andrew McAfee captured it best highlighting the virtues of simplicity when he wrote on his blog:

    "Jobs and Apple have done the best job of answering with their products the question posed by wiki inventory Ward Cunningham: What’s the simplest thing that could possibly work? "

    Powerful creative truths that often escape technologists in general.

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