Dig deeply enough and you’ll find that every knowledge management or IT professional has a story about a deployment gone bad. If you push them hard enough, they might even confess that they were partially responsible for the unsatisfactory results. Of course, the less than honest will blame the vendor or, more often than not, the end-user. But, at the end of the day, shouldn’t adoption by the end-user be the whole point of your project?
If you don’t believe me, consider the Kindle. It wasn’t the first eReader and perhaps wasn’t technologically the best. However, it has been a commanding presence in the world of eReaders, even in the face of competition from acknowledged technology stars such as Sony. According to Adrian Slywotzky, Amazon beat Sony not on the strength of its technology or design but rather on the strength of its vision. Unlike Sony, Amazon envisioned and delivered a complete package. Where Sony offered decent technology to deliver a tiny collection of books. Amazon took that technology and found a way to deliver an enormous collection of books wirelessly. Slywotzky refers to this complete vision and package as the “behind-the-screen elements that make up a product’s backstory” and build consumer demand. In The Real Secret of Kindle’s Success, Slywotzky writes:
Look at the Kindle, and you don’t see the wireless connection, the relationships between Amazon and the publishers, the vast online bookstore, or the personalized book recommendations. But all these backstory elements dramatically enhance the e-reader experience, making Kindle magnetic in a way the [Sony] Librie never was. The first production run of Kindles sold out within five-and-a-half hours.
Now let’s come back to those failed deployments. Did you have all the critical backstory elements in place? Did you have a complete vision, a comprehensive package? Did you offer something that would have a magnetic attraction for the end-user? In other words, was your deployment planned and executed from the perspective of the end-user? Did you figure out what the end-user really wanted? Amazon certainly did. To its credit, Amazon realized that we weren’t really interested in buying eReaders. Rather, we were interested in reading. So Amazon gave us an unrivaled opportunity to read and then supported that with adequate technology.
But here’s the kicker: through Kindle, Amazon made it so easy for people to think about purchasing and reading eBooks that many of us have stopped buying eReaders altogether and simply read eBooks on our smartphones, tablets and computers.** And how do we buy and read books now? Via a free Kindle app that lets Amazon focus on its original business of selling books. However, now it has the added advantage of lower costs since there is no need to store physical inventory.
So in exchange for its complete vision and backstory elements, Amazon has happy customers and a booming business in eBooks. How does your deployment compare?
** If you have an Apple device, you should note the new App Store restrictions on purchasing books from Amazon. (Here’s a work around or do as Amazon suggests and bookmark amazon.com/kindlestore on your iPhone. For the iPad, consider the Kindle Cloud Reader.)
[Photo Credit: K. Todd Storch]