I have people ask me all the time what smartphone or tablet should they buy. They’re usually disappointed when I don’t have a stock answer. I like to ask them a few questions first. Based on their answers, I usually make a recommendation of one OS or the other. This becomes much more of an issue when you start talking to people in the enterprise. It has a tendency to turn into a religious war, both from the security side and executive side to the users themselves who want to use the device they already have for work.
I have to say, I am really tired of this bickering. I have used both, and to be honest, you can be productive on either one of them. I have gone weeks at a time solely using an Android handset or an iOS handset. I’ve survived. To make it more interesting, there are things I miss from one when I am using the other, and that goes both ways. Any of the premium smartphones out there, whether from Apple or any of the Android OEMs can be used without an issue as far as productivity goes. That doesn’t mean I like every phone I use. I love the feel of the iPhone 5c in my hand, but I always worry that it will slip out due to the smooth surface of it. The Moto X is a terrific phone and feels awesome in the hand. It also has some great features. The Samsung Galaxy Note 3 on the other hand is just too big for me, works well, has some great features but I don’t like holding it in my hand. Guess what, other people love the Galaxy Note. There’s nothing wrong with that. Yet it’s easy to get the haters from both sides mad at you.
Then why do we get into these big arguments when it comes to which device we are going to use in the enterprise? It used to be much easier. You made your decision based upon security and for the longest time it was hard to get an Android device that had a decent default level of security for any company. It was just a basic lack of controls around the device that were missing. That made your default choice an iPhone or an iPad. It was simple. The truth is that has changed over the last year and a half and is about to get even better with the next version of Android that is coming out, Android L.
Once you get past security, why does the device actually matter? We spend so much time picking out devices and justifying our choices, we forget the real reason we are buying them in the first place. The goal of bringing any device into a company is to enable your users. The fact that people focus so much on the device rather than how they enable the users’ themselves is what leads to so many mobile programs failing.
The goal of any mobile program that is successful is enabling people to be more flexible and agile becoming more productive and efficient. The way well designed mobile programs go about doing this is by providing toolkits to the users. These toolkits are just the mobile device. In reality, the mobile device is just a toolbox that holds the missing pieces for enablement. A device moves from being a toolbox to becoming a tool of enablement when it is combined with an app that meets the users’ needs. This is a hard concept for many to grasp as they just bought everyone an iPhone or Android and justified it with a study they read, expecting the users to be good to go. Without apps that have been designed to meet their needs, users are just carrying around a toolbox full of dead weight.
Designing apps by following the FUN (focus on the user needs) principle leads to enablement. When this isn’t done, and apps are just reformatted from the desktop or don’t involve users at all, you end up with crapplications. Crapplications are what lead to shadow innovation. Users will always find a better way to get their job done if you don’t do it for them. They have access to the Apple app store and the Google Play app store. For every app you refuse to spend time fitting to their need, they can find 10 in the app store to do it for them. They aren’t looking at security or cost, they’re looking at what makes them more efficient and gets them home sooner.
It’s time to stop worrying so much about which device you are getting for your enterprise and time to start appifying your business processes. Spend more of your time and effort building secure APIs to data stores and then building secure apps on those APIs that allow your users to turn that data into knowledge. Make sure those apps work on whatever devices you have chosen. It’s just not that hard. Let’s stop this religious war based on devices and do what’s right for the people who are going to end up using them. Or else you can just go back to fighting while people do it themselves.