Learning the lessons of Apple vs. Blackberry

The crucial lesson that all enterprise solutions must learn – how to balance the ROI and security requirements of the IT department with the user experience that employees will love and want to utilise.

In August of last year, Blackberry put itself up for sale, after years of falling behind to new and technologically superior smartphones from the likes of Samsung and Apple. The common ground? Both were designed, from both a hardware and software perspective, to have end-user appeal above anything else. Today, every application is being re-designed to appeal to the end-user first in order to avoid a BlackBerry-style plummet in their fortunes. But what are the implications of this in a world that also desperately needs robust digital security?

It’s true that consumer desire for sleek sophisticated software and apps is driving a massive shift in the design and development of enterprise-class solutions. This is the legacy we’ve inherited of living in a post-Blackberry world, where the end-user desires have taken precedence over many other factors. As a result developers are also having to bow to their purchasing power. Companies are so concerned about being left behind by the very users that once adored their products that many are willing to pare down their products into something more consumer-esque, in the name of trying to stay ahead of the competition.

>See also: Apple on the slide, COPE on the rise and an IT store for your enterprise

However, in the world of enterprise software and applications, it’s key to strike a balance between usability and secure performance, in order to appeal to both an IT team and end users. While it’s fine for games such as Angry Birds to appeal purely to an end user audience, an app that is created to drive mobile business productivity needs to have some substance behind its style. A sleek user interface is nothing if the solution doesn’t properly support employees in solving their day-to-day issues – which is the core imperative behind enterprise solutions.

I worry that some companies are losing sight of this imperative, and are prioritising their design ahead of their security functionalities, when clearly in the world of NSA PRISM all solutions need to find a balance between the two factors. A clean design experience is always important for user adoption, but for those of us who sell our solutions to massive enterprises and government organisations, providing substantive ROI and top-flight security functionality is just as crucial.

That’s because in the era of BYOD, professionals can access their work information from the palm of their hand, and this puts information at greater risk for data breaches or inadvertent leaks. Just last year there were cyber attacks that are designed to take down systems as large as the British banking system, and European leaders found information being leaked in the wake of the Snowden revelations. A combination of these two trends is pushing security threats to the top of all business leaders’ minds.

>See also: BlackBerry receives offer to be taken private for $4.6 billion

What’s clear is that these leaders can minimise the risk they expose their companies to by being smart about their BYOD policies. There are enterprise solutions available on the market today that provide secure containers for accessing, sharing and editing mobile data, which will keep information private without hampering the productivity that employees achieve by working on a mobile device. If a company provides a few secure apps and solutions to ensure that employees can work from their mobile devices, workers are less likely to download their own consumer-class versions that will increase the risk of a data breach.

I see the downfall of BlackBerry as one that was partially driven by the BYOD movement. BlackBerry devices were at the heart of the mobile era, but they were chosen by the IT department for security functionality. When iPhones hit the market, with all of their flashy consumer features that drove consumers wild, BlackBerry could have pivoted. They could have taken their secure solution and used it as a base to create something just as fun to use as an iPhone, but that was far more secure. However, they didn’t perceive Apple as a threat, and by the time they realised just how much of their market share the iPhone was taking, it was too late.

Companies need to learn from the mistakes that BlackBerry made, and tailor solutions to fit the changing landscape of the mobile world. Businesses need to revolutionise the way that people securely share, sync, edit and collaborate on information via the device of their choice.

That is the crucial lesson that all enterprise solutions must learn – how to balance the ROI and security requirements of the IT department with the user experience that employees will love and want to utilise. Enterprise solutions need to have substance, so that management teams want to deploy them company-wide, but if the design and user experience are subpar, no employee will utilise the solution. Those solutions that achieve this balance will flourish in our ever evolving mobile world, and those that don’t will fall the way of BlackBerry.

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Ben Rossi

Ben was Vitesse Media's editorial director, leading content creation and editorial strategy across all Vitesse products, including its market-leading B2B and consumer magazines, websites, research and...

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