Operator Innovation: What would happen if an operator actually thought like Apple?

It’s been a little while since I sat down and wrote an operator innovation post. Today I’m doing a lot of speculating. I’m wondering just what it will take for true, exciting services to be offered by an operator.

I don’t mean unlimited texts, or fancy calling plans — I mean absolutely new products and services that really make you sit back and think, “WOW”.

Why are operators so horrendously rubbish at delivering anything new into market?

Well there’s a whole load of reasons. You can blame the top management. I do, regularly. You can blame the jobsworths sitting having lots of meetings with each other and doing nothing. You might look at the obsessive focus on minutes, texts (and more recently, data revenues). There are hundreds of valid explanations for why comparatively nothing has changed in the operator landscape for years.

Today, however, I’d like you to join me in reading this post by Matthew panzarino at The Next Web: “This is how Apple’s top secret product development process works

If I’ve held your attention this long, please click on the link, read it, and then come back here.

Right then.

Fascinating, isn’t it?

Look at the company’s tenacity and focus. I love each and every single concept. The “new product process” roadmap. The EPM mafia… LOVE that. Someone who’s actually IN control of the project and answerable to the direction team? Genius. I very much like the “Rules of the Road” too, detailing out every single significant milestone with — crucially — a DRI (“Direct Responsible Individual”).

If you’ve ever worked in an operator, or if you’re sitting there employed by one at the moment, I’m willing to bet Matthew’s post will have had you salivating at the possibilities. Can you IMAGINE what it’d be like to work at an operator where the Apple approach was used?

Can you imagine the creativity? The excitement? The flippin’ brilliant innovation that could be delivered?

Of course, you’ll also understand in absolute terms that something like this COULD NEVER HAPPEN HERE.

Unfortunately it seems like most operators are built to make any kind of change or update impossible, usually because of a lack of balls on the part of senior management. Dated billing systems, crippled networks, antiquated budgetary demands, the whole thing is super-depressing.

I routinely sit and listen to many talented folk from the Western mobile operator community describe their complete inability to actually do anything in their roles beyond smile, attend ‘nothing happens’ meetings and send emails to each other.

Over the years we’ve seen glimmers of hope. It’s not all bad. Entire divisions have been established to help boost this kind of thing. However, invariably, the division that’s busy doing all the cool stuff doesn’t ever get the attention of the mothership. Because the mothership’s leaders are either numbskulls, career minute men (obsessed over the sale of minutes) or simply way, way out of their depth.

It does get rather depressing.

It’s not all bad, though. I’ve seen some encouraging signs from one operator group. Another is sort-of getting there.

One of the most interesting moves in recent months came from the freemobile.fr chaps (here’s the FT overview). I’m hopeful that they’ll get the French industry out of it’s current funk and, if we’re lucky, the fever of panic will spread abroad.

One can but hope..

- – - – -

Here are the previous posts in the Operator Innovation series:

- Operator Innovation: Isolate me from the pain of hardware responsibility
- Access any airport lounge with T-Mobile GlobalPlus+
- Let me access my SMS everywhere
One number for all my voice calls
Fancy a MacBook Air, iPhone, iPad for £100/month?
Why can’t my operator talk to my bank when my card declines abroad
Taxis, baby, Taxis!

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  • http://www.i2SMS.com/ Giff Gfroerer, i2SMS

    Excellent article, Ewan.  They sound like a well funded start-up, don’t they!  With the talent to boot.  Too bad the Operators don’t recruit such folks…

  • http://www.mobileindustryreview.com Ewan

    I know!!

  • Drjlrossi

    great comments from your side! thought the same;  I think that, as sound, fascinating and dead-on the Apple model is,  a key component of its success is the people and the rigorous and permanent recruitment  process (alike PG, MARS, GOOGLE; Lufthansa and the list goes on)-  I wonder how successful companies are/might be in simple “cut and pasting” the Apple model (or any other model) to an existing organization that implies doing things in a very different way? 

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