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When iPhone was launched in 2006 – it challenged a compete industry and kick started the digitalization era. It provided a different business model based on customer experience. What can the IT organization learn from Apple and the iPhone? Very much! It is eye opener for the IT organization and how we, among other things, can revolutionise Service Management – if we are ready for it. It is an inspiration!

I few years ago, I meet some friends outside the IT industry – trying to explain how IT works and what I do for a living. How would you explain IT in the digital era? The question is very relevant as we as IT professionals need to, in a easy to understand way, explain the “magic” of IT and how IT supports business or our everyday life. The time when IT consisted of servers and platforms are long gone. I reached down in my pocket and retrieved my iPhone and spun it around for a while. My mind started wondering thinking that business views IT in the same light as people view the iPhone. It is a collection of services “apps” in a digital format that aim to make my life easier – boosting experience. So what can we learn from our iPhone usage?

When the iPhone was launched in 2006, it revolutionized the Telco industry with its new innovative design, functionality and focus on user experience. The main competitor Nokia had outstanding technical performance – and from a logical perspective, the iPhone would not stand a chance. But what the iPhone challenged was how traditional phones created value to its customers. Is value related to technical performance (battery) or to customer experience (user ability)? Obviously, customer won the battle and Nokia is now a shadow of its former self. What is interesting is that when iPhone challenged the market – most traditional phone makers responded in the same way – by adding qualities (technical performance) that the customer no longer wanted. In the end, the traditional producer could only compete with price. This was the beginning of digitalization – which we discuss today.

What I find amazing with the iPhone is the apps. There are in fact “micro services” that the user can add and remove in anyway they please from a huge app library. It gives the consumer freedom to adjust the functionality of the phone in real-time based on mood, location or interest – boosting our experience of life. Another aspect is that Apple do not produce any apps but open for third party vendors to develop apps for the customers. The popular apps will survive while others will be phased out or replaced in the ever evolution of digitalization and customer demand. Amazing!

It is the fact that IT organizations also are moving into a service based offering but IT services (compared to iPhone apps) are mainly static and require enormous efforts to run efficiently and to upgrade. Services are “stored” in a service catalogue and run in an outsourcing environment controlled by a long-term contract. Last week, I meet an IT organization running 100 different IT services – with a spider web of processes, people and coordination. Today we question how well these IT services create value to business. How easy is it actually to change or upgrade a service? How long time does it take? How does this lead-time affect business competitiveness?

My point of view is that we need to learn from the best when it comes to service management in the IT organization – the iPhone! What if we could run service management in the same manner as Apple with third-party suppliers offering a wide range of services that business can pick and choose from? What if there would be a natural selection when it comes to what services would be on the “top list” and what services that will be phased out? It is an interesting idea – and maybe not so far from where we want to be.

Wait a minute! It is a fascinated idea – but how do we manage quality and security of all different services in the service shop? It would be a total mess! Well, yes it would be a mess – if you run service management in the same way and with the same mindset as today. See the opportunities rather than the problems. The only this that stands in our way of a more dynamic “Apple oriented service management” is in fact our own mindset and governance. The question we have to ask ourselves is – what is the purpose and value of the services IT provides? Are we providing a Nokia or iPhone? Are we providing technical performance or customer (business) experience? These are important questions to clarify!

My point of view is that digitalization is changing the expectations on business to produce business value. In our aim to re-brand IT, we need to view the things we do in a completely different light and compare us to the best in the business – regardless of industry and offering. If we continue to view IT service management from an IT perspective – then nothing will happen, but if we view IT service management from an iPhone perspective – magic will happen. We start to define, govern and prioritize ourselves in a different way – challenging our conventional way of working. That is what innovation is all about!

The iPhone comparison has helped me in other areas as well. I actually used the iPhone comparison in describing how IT creates value to business. As iPhone users, we do not really care what is behind the screen (technology) but rather how the iPhone supports our daily life (user ability) – making us successful, relaxed or other experiences. It is our expectations what is managed so brilliantly by Apple by a focusing on customer experience in everything they do. In the same way, the IT organization should be judged on how its services support business competitiveness – based on their expectations. The value IT creates is in direct proportion to business experience of IT – relating to how well IT manages business expectations of the IT role in the value chain. Brilliant!

Further reading: Value of IT Framework https://hansgillior.wordpress.com/2013/09/11/the-value-of-it-the-most-valuable-framework/

My recommendations:

  1. Well looking at your current way of working in IT management – who are your role models? Who are the stars on your horizon? Is the comparison brave enough? What can you learn from their way of working?
  2. What is hindering you from being like your role model? How does the Operating Model support the new generation IT organization? Do we have the right competence, governance and attitude to make that step?
  3. Don’t see the problems – but rather the opportunities! There are amazing opportunities today if we actually look towards the sky and imagine a different way of working. Reach for the sky!
  4. Contact me for a further discussion – let us make magic together!

Back to my discussion with my friends – about what IT is all about. I showed then the iPhone and how it has revolutionized the world – kick-starting the digital era. How the iPhone was changed the way we communicate, interact and consume product and service. It was a great afternoon! In the evening, I started to think about who my role model is and how to challenge my way of working. I have to think about that for a while.