by Mike Lynch

The customer that tech forgot

Apr 26, 20124 mins
IT StrategyMobileMobile Apps

There is an increasing trend towards spec-blindness in the consumer space.

The average man on the street doesn’t want to know that their phone has a dual core processor, 1GB RAM and a WVGA Super AMOLED Plus screen… and they don’t need to know.

All they care about is that it works for whatever they need it for, be it for calls, emails and the odd game of Angry Birds on the train home.

While us more technically-minded people may obsess over the technicalities, it’d be silly to expect the same from everyone else.

Part of the excitement around technology in recent years has been its wide availability and usability. We are told that anyone should be able use our technology systems, and as CIOs, we are under pressure to deliver ever easier-to-use programs and simpler interfaces for the end user.

But the noisy marketing around this positive message of usability can sometimes hinder the objective.

The problem is that the man on the street is also the man in the office. It’s too easy for all the wonderful technology that we have available to us to get lost amid the noise and garbled messaging, putting it beyond the reach of normal people who have to interact with and use it every day.

The hype machine can obfuscate what’s on offer by making it confusing for those who are making purchasing decisions, somewhat defeating the marketers’ best intentions.

Apple is one of the few companies to have got this right. It makes its technology engaging, accessible and attractive.

It doesn’t bombard its potential customers with the nitty-gritty of what goes into its gadgets, instead focussing on what they can do, and what this means for the users.

There are much more powerful tablets on the market than the iPad, but Apple still dominates the tablet space because its tablets do not sell on their tech specs alone.

Apple trades off an image of accessibility and ease of use. It projects the image of making beautiful, sophisticated technology which anyone can use.

Other companies are increasingly following suit, and are opting for clear, customer-friendly messages, looking at the end result and consumer need, rather than the intricacies of the hardware itself.

Enterprise IT is not the same as the consumer space, but that doesn’t mean we can get away with making the same mistakes.

There is a lot to be said for accessibility, Overhyped marketing can be counterproductive, because it can confuse the issue even for those who know what you’re talking about.

IT has to be accessible, if for no other reason than for the sake of the users. They are the ones who have to use these solutions on a day-to-day basis.

Also, because end users, unlike consumer purchasers, aren’t usually given the choice about what systems their company uses, it is even more important for these solutions to be accessible and clear.

If your system isn’t right for your users, they become disinclined to use it and also to follow the procedures that you’ve put in place, undermining what you’ve set out to achieve in the first place.

This is a move towards democratising IT and bringing the established process more in line with how we actually think now.

Because of the history of the industry and the way it has evolved, there are many aspects of the IT world which are based on an older approach around rigid thinking based on how our technology used to work.

These approaches limit what we can achieve, because they neglect what is actually possible now, and they can end up excluding precisely the people who stand to benefit the most.

It’s an obvious lesson that a large number of companies seem to neglect.

Know your audience, know how to give them what they want, and, most importantly, present it to them so that it actually makes sense.

You could make the world’s most technologically-advanced screwdriver, but it’ll do you no good if the world thinks it’s for hammering in nails.

There is so much emphasis on marketing in these areas that the core of the solution can be swept away in the hype and noise, and the end user’s needs forgotten.

The companies offering these solutions face an ongoing battle to be able to differentiate themselves from everyone else occupying the same market space.

The pressure is also on to stay current. The industry is going to change dramatically in the next 10 years and the organisations that will be successful and weather the storm are those that put the customer back in focus and at the heart of the business.