Apple's Success in the Enterprise Won't be Due to Apple

"Teamwork is the ability to work together toward a common vision. The ability to direct individual accomplishments toward organizational objectives. It is the fuel that allows common people to attain uncommon results."

- Andrew Carnegie

Awhile back, I read a heated discussion about Appleis supposed moral obligation to the enterprise. The context was that Apple should endeavor to make products that are both fun to use, compelling and check all the enterprise boxes. The failure to fully penetrate the enterprise was presented as a deficiency of Appleis.

I am going to tell you that the problem is not with Apple, but rather it is a cultural problem that needs to be solved by the Apple community and Apple enthusiasts in the work force. I have the weight of industry experience, ten years of this kind of writing and the experience of others behind me. That includes life both as an Apple customer at Lockheed Martin and as an Apple employee over a period of 20 years. That said, get set for a rocky ride.

Teamwork in the Workforce

The most important thing to know about companies, in the context of this discussion, is that they are an organism. They have a birth date and a date with death -- although some companies have more longevity than others. They consume resources and generate byproducts, notably waste and products.

The role of a manager at every level of a company is to ensure the survival and flourishing of the organism, the mothership. The key distinguishing characteristic between a junior employee and a manager is that the employeeis number one concern is him/herself: their lifestyle, their working conditions, their pay, prestige and benefits. The key concern of the manager is the health and well being of the company.

No one, absolutely no one, gets promoted to a manager unless they demonstrate over a long period of time that the company comes first.

These, gentle readers, are the C-level executives, the senior managers, and yes, the IT managers. These are the people who map out the internal strategies for the success of the company amidst the challenges of technology and competition.

As a result, if you waltz into the office with an iPhone, flash it around, and sarcastically and disrespectfully suggest that all the mobile phones issued by the company are crappy and stupid, I guarantee the result. IT managers, confronted by this infantile challenge, will stay up nights writing documents that demonstrate a significant commitment to the companyis well-being. They will deprecate every feature of the iPhone. Some will be blantant and foolish depending on the time and care taken. Many others, however, will be subtle, powerful, and hard to defeat.

The same goes for the Macintosh.

I remember joining an organization in the early 1990s where, amongst my formal duties, I became the "Macintosh Resource Coordinator." My predecessor had compiled a two inch thick document that explained in great technical detail how Mac OS 7 was far superior to DOS and Windows 3.1. He gave it to the director and waited for him to come to the desired conclusion.

When nothing happened, the Mac fanatic was puzzled and irritated. What had happened was that heid pissed off the Director with his arrogance. Moreover, the Director had correctly surmised that working with PCs and DOS/Windows was of greater business benefit to the organization.

I learned my lesson and set about the business of learning, as fast as I could, what the problems were for the organization and how best to solve them, whether it meant DOS/Windows, Mac OS 7 or UNIX workstations. In fact, they all played an important role.

Technical Leadership

As I see it, one of the most enduring and difficult problems in the U.S. right now is technical leadership. Young people who want to move into leadership positions are frustrated by what they consider to be "political" smooth operators in the workplace, ridicule them, and then wonder why they donit get selected for senior scientific and technical leadership positions. The reasons are clear. After years and years of sarcastic and abrasive life on the Internet, with no repercussions, they move into the workplace terribly ill-prepared to earn the respect of their peers, work as a team member and use their talents to chart the best course for their company. Instead, influenced by many hours of SciFi with fictional, arrogant, abrasive scientists depicted in movies and on TV, they fall into a selfish, lonely demeanor of intellectualism and snide anti-authority.

As a result, only the people whoive demonstrated a calm, sociable, dedicated approach to the companyis problems get promoted into technical leadership positions -- even if theyire not the best qualified. And if you push these people hard enough, theyill push back. Theyill ignore your proposals in meetings. Theyill pass you over for promotions. And theyill most certainly ignore you when you rant and rave about how MS Exchange is ruining the company, the IT staff are all idiots, and by the way, where the hell is my fraking iPhone.

Hereis a better answer. Read the book, Hope is Not a Strategy, by Rick Page. A few years ago, this was the Bible of the Apple field sales force. It outlined how to sell anything to corporations by understanding who in the corporation was in your camp, who was the stakeholder for a problem, and how to prepare and present a solution for the problem for a manager who is "in pain". If you understand the decision makeris pain, youill understand how to sell him the solution.

Often, that solution is an Apple product.

Next, look around your own company and observe who the decision makers are for both technology and personnel. Figure out what their problems are. Then figure out what solutions solve those problems. Often, Microsoft, Sun, HP, IBM, Cisco and Linux products will solve those problems. Often, Apple products will solve the problems. Demonstrate vendor neutrality and your company foremost.

Slow down, think about teamwork, and reveal a deep understanding of the technologies. In time, youill become a trusted member of the inner circle, and youill find yourself more and more involved in decision making. However, with power comes responsibility. The first time you abuse that power for your own tastes, youill lose your lead off position and be sent back to the dugout.

The next thing you must do is find a guardian angel. Itis just not possible to go against the grain of a corporation alone. With restraint, judgment and superior knowledge of your companyis needs and problems, sooner or later, someone in a senior position will take a liking to you. Cultivate that relationship so that when push comes to shove in a meeting, that senior person will slow down the vultures and give you a chance to make your case. If only one senior person appreciates your perspective, your credibility increases a hundred fold.

Another issue is known as protective coloration. If you have an ill-acquired tatoo, have it removed. Lose the body piercings. Dress like a business professional: Dockers and a buttoned dress shirt works in most cases. If you have a Macintosh in your office, and someone asks you about it, the correct response is: "Iim evaluating the Mac for certain specific solutions within the company." When the conversation is over, shut the door and go back to Safari, The Mac Observer, and iWork in private. No lectures. If the prospect of behaving like this appalls you, then think about a different career than technical business leadership.

The absence of basic people skills, lack self-discipline all combined with bad teamwork by technically trained individuals has led to a technical leadership vacuum in the U.S. As a result, the United States has suffered from a long string of disastrous technical decisions in space, technology, the environment and political affairs.

Changing the Apple Culture

For twenty years, there has been a war of wits, technology and preference between the Mac and the Windows community. Itis often fun on the Internet, and itis always good for the ego when your personal choice is confirmed by your favorite Websites.

However, businesses have bigger fish to fry. Theyire deluged by technical issues in a fast paced Internet world, and attackers from all over the world are assaulting their intellectual property, trade secrets, and even the well-being of their network. They often require genuine business partners, not just products, to help them through those ordeals. No one product or company can meet all those challenges, and the sooner Macintosh advocates realize that, the sooner theyill be in a position to help their company.

Those who earn the respect of their peers and grant respect to those who are put into leadership positions will also move up in the organization. That said, technical disagreement in a gentlemanly fashion is good so long as itis understood that not every team decision will always go with your recommendation. Thatis part of working as a team.

At some point, youill wake up one day and discover that you have been entrusted with the health and well-being of your company. Your decisions will reflect deep technical insights tempered with an understanding of what your company truly needs to succeed. Some companies can do this, like Apple, by being 100% Apple. Most other companies just cannot. While you may need to move around a bit to find the environment that suits you, never forget that youill never move into a technical leadership position in government or business by throwing sticks of pseudo-intellectual dynamite through the corridors of the company.

And that, gentle readers, is the cultural change thatis required before Apple can truly penetrate the Enterprise. Thatis when senior managers, trained in Unix, Apple, Linux and Microsoft think and work smart to bring the best technologies together for the survival of the company. Then, the best that Apple has to offer will be warmly embraced instead of being declared as toys.

Thatis a code word youill need to decipher. When IT managers call Macs and maybe even iPhones "toys," they donit literally mean a childis toy. They mean that those Apple products are the calling cards of the alienated, arrogant, combative, and selfish employees who donit consider the big picture. (Toys are played with by children.) Apple products will lose this cultural stigma and start to flourish in the enterprise when young, aspiring technical leaders start to put their company first and leave their personal preferences at home.

When that happens, and when Apple has double digit market share in a few years, Apple will succeed in the Enterprise. Weill all look back with amusement on the pre-historic days when Macintoshes were associated with the wrong kind of crowd in the business world and smile.

Itill require the next generation of Macintosh gurus. Are you preparing to be one of them?