The Applefication of the Enterprise, Part VI: Looking Towards the Future

In Part V of this series, I provided an example of an organization in dire need of some Applefication. In this concluding part, I look at what could derail Apple’s charge in the enteprise.

Challenges and the Future

For a wide variety of reasons, not every enterprise is ready to embrace Applefication. Beyond the cost of buying and deploying new technologies, significant issues still to be addressed. As I look toward the future, consider a few things that may hinder Apple’s growth in the enterprise.

First, Apple may well nowhere to go but down. What’s more, the company might have a hard time meeting demand for its products, especially when natural disasters take place (read: Thailand) Beyond that, in a sense nothing has changed: Organizations that insist upon superfluous complexity will certainly have it. Buying iPads doesn’t fix broken companies.

More generally, as others have pointed out, culture eats strategy for lunch. It isn’t easy to convince  old-school IT employees and departments that simple is better—when their jobs depend upon complex. And not every organization has the budget for pricier (if superior) iProducts. Sometimes, good enough is exactly that, particularly in cash-strapped and low-margin industries.

And let’s not forget forthcoming product introductions from companies like Microsoft. Now that Apple has led the way with tablets and smart phones, expect forthcoming improvements from more traditional enterprise vendors.

Platforms Guarantee Nothing

Perhaps the most significant challenge to Apple is Apple itself–specifically, the tendency for successful companies do the following:

  • become complacent
  • ignore The Innovator’s Dilemma
  • misunderstand its ecosystem.

These first two have been well studied and documented. With respect to the third, Ron Adner recently wrote an excellent piece in HBR. To me, the key piece is this:

In the rush to match the pieces, most of Apple’s rivals have missed the critical connections that draw the entire ecosystem together into a coherent whole.

What if Apple loses touch with its ecosystem? Likely? No. Possible. You better believe it. Look at RIM. Some claim that RIM has really done nothing wrong; it has merely been surpassed. Today, its smartphone market share has dropped to 12 percent (although it’s probably much higher with enterprises.) More alarming, that number may plummet further.

Even if RIM develops sleek new product, the company’s apps are anything but cutting edge. Ecosystems are arguably just as important as the products they support.

Final Thoughts

As discussed in this series, Apple is firing on all cylinders these days. It clearly understands the power of its platform and ecosystem , the consumerization of IT, and the criticality of an optimal end-user experience.

The platform business model fundamentally differs from other, more internally based business models. A company can do everything “right” (read: strategy and execution) and still fall from grace because its ecosystem changes. To guarantee Apple’s continued success in the enterprise would be the acme of foolishness. In at least the short and mid terms, however, expect more large organizations to go Apple.


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