How Apple Reduces Time To Value (and what your IT can learn from them)

Apple has a reputation for the right products at the right time. What can IT learn from Apple about creating raving fans by reducing Time to Value?

Christopher Meyer did a great piece on Apple’s Most Obvious Secret: Reducing Time to Value.IT Time to Value

Apple has built a corporate culture around customer value. It’s not how quickly you bring a product to market, but how quickly those products produce compelling value for customers.

Apple customers are raving fans because of what the products do for them. They love the value of Apple products.

Focus on the good stuff

When Mark Parker took the helm of Nike, Steve Jobs gave him one bit of advice –

…get rid of the crappy stuff and focus on the good stuff.

-Steve Jobs

IT organizations must look at themselves as their customers do. If we’re brutally honest,  we’ll see that a lot of what we do is what Gartner GVP Mark McDonald calls “tending to IT’s current responsibilities” in their 2013 CIO Agenda Report.

In other words, we’re so  busy managing and optimizing the what is,  that we miss the good stuff.

He goes on to say that IT needs to focus on Hunting and Harvesting – finding new opportunities to provide value to the business, leveraging new digital technologies. These are what the business sees as The Good Stuff.

Creating Raving Fans of IT

The idea of Time to Value is pretty straightforward – how long between when the business says ‘go’ until they start seeing real business value from the requested change.

But it isn’t just about rapid project delivery. For our customers,  the clock starts when they are struggling with business problems where technology can help. Even if they don’t know exactly how.

Take mobility as an example. There was a time not so long ago, when IT really struggled with if and how to support mobility. The business saw  new opportunities, and didn’t understand why it wasn’t as easy as a trip to the Verizon Wireless Store. (Like they did last weekend to get their teenager a smartphone.)

When IT delivered a mobility solution in record time it’s not seen as rapid Time to Value. Why? Because IT should have delivered it long ago. By the time it gets here, they have been waiting a long time. Day late; dollar short. The time that’s passed without the business value is forever lost.

Want raving fans? Get them what then need, when they need it, and they’ll love you.

I know, I know…. there are thousands of complex technical and security issues with mobility that the business will never understand. Think developing the iPad was a walk in the park?

It takes technical brilliance to solve these problems. If your brilliant technical folks are solving yesterday’s problems, you’re destine to play catchup the rest of your career.

Get rid of the crap, and focus on the good stuff.

I’ve been in the right place, but musta been the wrong time…

That’s why I love Time to Value – it’s really more of a mindset than an actual metric. Is IT delivering business-value solutions at the right time? How do we know?

By the way, business value is not just that business people are happy with it, or even that it’s what they asked for. Business value is – did the IT solution enable the business to achieve their goals. Did the new customer portal increase visitor conversions. Did the new CRM tool actually increase sales and profitability?

Take another lesson from Apple – if you wait for your customers to tell you what they want, it’s too late.

You can’t just ask customers what they want and then try to give that to them. By the time you get it built, they’ll want something new.

– Steve Jobs

The Apple Newton is a great case-in-point. Innovative product ahead of it’s time; failure.  A decade later; the iPad – a runaway success.

The right place at the right time.

The wrong solution on time doesn’t produce value, and the right solution too late isn’t much better.

Hunters and harvesters are actively looking for opportunities to bring business value in new and creative ways.

Time to Value and IT Service Management

Time to Value is my favorite “metric” because it’s IT Service Management in a nutshell. It..

  • Is customer relationship oriented.
  • Demands operational excellence.
  • Requires strategic alignment with customers’ real needs.
  • Focuses IT resources on the highest business-value activities (and gets rid of “the crap”)
  • Drives continual improvement because business needs are ever changing.

It’s the right frame of mind for IT professionals.

Want a more in depth read on Time to Value? Check out David Greenwood’s excellent article Understanding & Defining Time to Value – A powerful metric for Enterprise IT Success

You may never track Time to Value as a mathematical metric, but getting IT staff to think more broadly about their role is pretty radical stuff.

And it goes a long way toward creating a culture that’s fixated on customer value.

Create a culture of customer value in your IT organization, and your business will love you!

By Greg Sanker

Photo Credit: kenjonbro via Compfight cc