A short interview with Jasna Sykorova

A short interview for iCon where I’ll be presenting tomorrow. The interview originally took place on January 9th, 2013.

Jasna Sykorova: You have focused on mobile devices for some time now. What made you to start to give a special attention to Apple related data?

I began to look at Apple in 2005; long before they were in the phone market. I had an iPod and liked the Mac but I did not have particular reason to think about the company. You might find it strange that it was the launch of two very peculiar products that caused me to change my perception of the company. They were the iPod Shuffle and the Mac mini.

These are not seen as important today nor were they back then.  But they signaled to me that something dramatic was happening: the company was shedding its “premium” image. This and the earlier move of iTunes to Windows signaled [to me] that Apple was serious about the mass market and the minimum price that a person would need to pay to become an Apple owner.

This was pivotal to me also from the point of view of disruption theory. If a company takes the fight to the low end it means it protects itself from a low end disruptor and may even enter new markets. So if the thinking is that Apple would disrupt then it would have to get into new categories. I then asked myself what it would target. I told myself (again, in 2005) that Apple will do three things:

  1. build a phone
  2. disrupt the PC market
  3. enter the living room.

1 and 2 are well understood to have happened and 3 is nearly here with Apple TV.

Each of these were tremendous opportunities and it’s been fun watching it happen over the last 7 years.

By the way, my expectations were right not because of any insight into the company. I had not studied Apple much at the time. All my expectations came from understanding the psychology of a disruptor. Nor does it mean that what Apple did was deliberately planned. It’s possible to predict what people will do even if they don’t know what they will do themselves.

Can data tell stories? Can you judge just by data?

Data tells amazing stories but not without an interpreter. Having data without a storyteller is like the tree falling in the forest and nobody being there to hear it. If the data’s story is not interpreted then does the story actually exist? Did the data “make a noise”? It’s a question for philosophers.

Practically, it’s important not to base decision making on data alone. Data only exists about the past. Clay Christensen blames God for making us suffer in this cruel way. The past sometimes reveals patterns that help us predict the future, but it’s hard to see some patterns. You may need to look at long time frames and there’s never enough data. What is more helpful is to have a theory.

Science works this way. Data helps build a model and the model helps build a theory and that theory is tested over time and adjusted. Unfortunately, we don’t have very good theories about how businesses should be run. I used to say that if Business Management was a science it would be like medicine in the Middle Ages: mostly superstition and faith in the powers of individuals. [We need to move forward from this.] That’s what I’m doing with my work: trying to build and test management theories. The data is just the first step on that road.

What is the difference between Apple in the time of Steve Jobs and Apple now?

Steve Jobs was a very important influence in the DNA of Apple. I think his influence was so deep that it existed even when he was not there in the 90s and I think it exists to this day. The influence is in the priorities, values and culture of the company. These influences exist in all companies and are very hard to change. They are almost never put in writing or even discussed. They are dogma, constitutions or doctrine by other names.

Processes and assets may change however. I think decision processes will change at Apple. I suspect there will be more discipline in that regard and more rational ways of doing things. That could be good or that could be bad. But the passion to be great will not change. That’s what the brand speaks to each employee. They are there because they want to be part of that greatness.

You will speak about Apple’s strategy for enterprises at the iCon. Do you consider it a “new wave” of activities of Apple? What chance does it have against the strong corporate players like Dell? And what benefit can iPad have for a company, if any?

If you look at my list from 2005 you don’t see Enterprise on there. I think it might have joined the list since then. But it’s not obvious yet. The thing is that Apple’s approach to Enterprise will not be typical. It will be disruptive. It will be subtle and “easily ignored”. This is what I want to discuss. The incumbents are not noticing Apple even as they are losing significant value to Apple in their core markets.

Analysts (and consultants) find all kinds of reasons to downplay Apple’s efforts and comfort the organizations who hire them [which is why the approach is generally unfelt]. Also IT is changing in the jobs it’s hired to do. These are all good signs that something is happening. Something that will become very quickly a fait accompli.

  • Outsourcing IT to Apple?
    For iPads and future post-pc devices.
    Apps control, done by Apple, buy devices and let users install their own stuff together with enterprise data and apps, no harm.
    Training, not needed, really easy to use.
    Security, done by Apple, uhm need improvement but it can be done, if you stay away from the cloud.

    An integration layer with servers is missing, but new tools from Apple could start the tsunami quickly.

    • poke

      Exactly. If you look at the trends – consumerization of the enterprise, cloud computing, mobile – they converge on people bringing personal devices to work that are managed by a third party.

    • Tatil_S

      If Apple was serious, it would have made an enterprise version of Find My iPhone. IT wants the ability to locate and wipe devices as soon as employees report a theft. Most of the hard work is already done, what is left is tying multiple devices into one interface. Without seeing that first step, it is folly to think Apple is about to take any other step into Enterprise.

      • tfd2

        i think users would riot if they knew their employer was watching their movements at all times. wiping, sure. locating, probably not going to happen.

      • Tatil_S

        If you don’t like to be geo-tracked, get your own phone. If you want to keep your net surfing habits hidden from your employer, surf on your own tablet. Regardless of whether we agree with this line of reasoning, if this is why Apple is not cooperating with IT, it is pretty clear it is not planning to get into Enterprise.

      • tfd2

        are there companies that track their employees’ locations 24/7? it seems like that would be a bit of a privacy violation.

      • Tatil_S

        I am sorry but this getting out of hand. I just said IT wants to be able to locate and wipe devices as soon as employees report one stolen. Nothing about any company tracking employees’ locations 24/7.

        Let me rephrase: If you feel uncomfortable with your company having the tools to track you 24/7, even if it did not actually do so, you might want to use your own phone. if Apple does not provide such a basic tool for enterprises to easily locate and wipe data on the devices they own, Apple cannot be serious about enterprise.

      • Tatil_S

        By the way, I don’t know about tracking geo locations, but many (most?) company provided computing devices can and do track online or offline usage 24/7 on or off site.

      • claimchowder

        They already have provided that tool. Don’t remember the name, but I’ve seen it. It is also used to provide masses of iOS devices with their profiles etc.

      • claimchowder

        Here’s the starting point to find it:

      • claimchowder

        Here’s a quote from Apple’s enterprise page:
        Using MDM, IT departments can enroll iOS devices in an enterprise environment, wirelessly configure and update settings, monitor compliance with corporate policies, and even remotely wipe or lock managed devices.

        In addition to enabling access to corporate services like email and VPN, configuration profiles can be used to restrict features like the camera or the ability to take screenshots, if required for use in certain environments.

        …and tons more stuff…

  • Thanks for this interview… See you in Prague!!!

  • stevesup

    Wouldn’t enterprise be a too severe pivot for Apple? It took decades, a reinstated and sainted Steve Jobs and Jonathan Ive, to harness Apple’s engineers to the needs of consumers, to make “best for the rest” computers. When it took “Computer” off its name in 2007, it felt like Apple’s decision to be a Sony, not a SAP.

    • These days it is getting easier to provide your own equipment then get it approved through IT.

    • raycote

      When you scratch a consumers you will often find an enterprise worker hiding just below the surface of that consumer facade.

  • handleym

    Re Apple in the enterprise:
    I’ve long been skeptical of this, but I now see an opening.
    In the wake of the JP Morgan Chase disaster, courtesy of the London Whale, the post-mortem has shown just how problematic is the use of Excel in large organizations. The problems strike me as very analogous to many of the problems with programming tools in the late 80s and early 90s.

    It seems to me there is massive scope for applying what we have learned from programming tools to building a better spreadsheet. This might include things like

    – very easy (and perhaps can be made mandatory) check-in/check-out of spreadsheets, so there is an audit trail

    – a very powerful system for showing the diffs between two spreadsheets

    – aggressive use of “decorations” of cells to show which cells are and are not locked, and which are data vs logic

    – ways to add comments that make those comments very visible, not something hidden away that you have to look for

    – a UI that very much steers one towards naming cells and using those names, rather than using B$3 type references

    – perhaps a new, very different, UI, that allows for a clean separation between data and logic. Professionals can and do use 32″ screens (sometimes two of them). Utilize that space to make them more productive.

    The common thread here is that the most widely used professional app in the world, Excel, is a fossil from the mid-80s. MS has invested effort in the sort of low-level, often poorly done geekery that it loves (macros and scripting language, COM capabilities, ODBC), but has done very little to reconsider the UI and how the app is used.

    It seems to me that there is scope here for Apple to
    (a) maintain numbers as the iMovie of this space (maybe add some of the features I’ve suggested, but keep it easy)
    (b) while publishing the equivalent of Final Cut Pro for professionals, an app that may be more difficult to use and requires a large screen, but which pays for itself in just a few days in increased productivity.

    • ste

      ” a UI that very much steers one towards naming cells and using those names, rather than using B$3 type references”

      Lotus Improv, released 1991, does this. I wonder why we still use B$3 over twenty years later.

    • Sacto_Joe

      I LOVE this post!!!

  • Herve

    Any chances to hear her on High Density in the near future ?

    • kgbraund

      Yes, agree. She sounds like a very interesting/perceptive person.

      • KirkBurgess

        Although hindsight is 20/20, its amusing to see Dell referred to as a “strong corporate player”

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  • KirkBurgess

    Apple is already disrupting enterprise, and it is enabling enterprise solutions to be supplied from non traditional corporate IT providers. Last week the New Zealand police force announced it is equipping all its 6000 frontline staff with an iPhone, and they will share 4000 iPads.

    All of this is a cost cutting measure to reduce the amount of time doing administrative functions, and reducing communication staffing as police will now have the bulk of information in their patrol cars via the iOS devices.

    The “IT company” that is handling all this implementation for the police force is Vodafone, which is not a traditional choice.

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