Has Apple Ended the "Change Management" Nightmare?

The use of user-friendly iPhones and iPads in the enterprise has taken a lot of the pain out of change management, for both workers and IT groups.

The dreaded words "change management" sends shivers down the spines of CIOs. Forcing users to leave comfortable software in favor of new purchases – known as the great tech pivot – is an incredibly difficult process and has directly led to the demise of many tech projects and CIO careers.

But has Apple taken at least some of the fear out of change management?

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I remember the fateful day I was told by IT to change from WordPerfect to Microsoft Word (a long time ago) and from Lotus Notes to Microsoft Outlook (not as long ago as you'd think). The mandated changes involved excessive training and drove an even deeper wedge between IT and the user community.

Change management doesn't seem to be as divisive as it used to be. Case-in-point: One of the most resistant tech adopters in the country is medical doctors, yet they've championed the iPhone and iPad in healthcare. The tech pivot from BlackBerry to iPhone and Android is, in fact, being driven by end users.

In a role reversal, IT is being forced to change.

A mobile manager of a large Silicon Valley company credits Apple for the change in change management. "Apple has done an amazing job at introducing a common design language for mobile," he says, speaking on condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to speak to the press.

Mobile iOS and Android apps behave similarly and are easy to use – that is, every app follows the same user interface guidelines. Apple has designed the interface to be practically intuitive. No training necessary. Hyperlinks, for instance, are always in blue. Users know that when they click on them, something happens.

"This makes it easy to pivot technologies," he says.

Malcolm Collingwood, head of information services at New York-based law firm Proskauer, agrees. Last year, Proskauer embraced the iPad. Collingwood standardized on two iOS apps – GoodReader and Documents to Go – and published a list of 20 recommended apps for business use.

So what happens if circumstances force Collingwood to make a change from Documents to Go to, say, Quickoffice? Such a tech pivot would be a non-issue, Collingwood told me last year. Users could make the switch practically overnight because the interfaces are so much alike.

The biggest hurdle to change management is users' fear that they won't be able to make a smooth and fast transition, not so much that they have a loyalty to a certain piece of code. Once the fear has been blunted, they can readily adopt new software and even look for ways it can benefit them on the job.

That's not to say the trouble with change management no longer exists, particularly when it comes to deeply complicated enterprise software in departments such as human resources, finance and sales.

At least for mobile, though, changing apps isn't a big deal anymore.

Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

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