What IT can learn from Apple’s Genius Bar

This may sound like hyperbole, but I really think the Apple Genius Bar is a brilliant creation. You can take your Apple device - whether it’s an iPhone, iPad or a MacBook laptop - and workers at the Genius Bar will use their knowledge of Apple’s hardware and software to diagnose the problem and fix it, often very quickly and at no cost.

It got me thinking about how this experience can be replicated in the enterprise. The rise of BYOD means many workers are now bringing their own devices - smartphones, laptops, tablets etc - into the office and using them for work purposes. This is creating a problem for the IT department, where worries about un-managed devices accessing the corporate network and sensitive data are understandable.

But what if the IT department became more like an Apple Genius Bar? Workers could bring their own devices into the office and IT would help set them up for business use. But rather than just installing something on the device and handing it back, IT would walk the worker through how to, for example, download, install and use business-approved applications. Workers could also take their devices to IT for repair when there is a problem.

Employees get to use the phone of their choice for pleasure and business, while IT - because it has set up the device itself - knows that the security of the company is not threatened. Everyone wins in this situation.

If the IT department is to become more like the Apple Genius Bar then Mobile Application Management (MAM) will play a vital role. This is what enables both the user and IT to treat the device like they own it, so they both get what they want. 

MAM creates a secure VPN for each business-oriented application, ensuring it is secure and meets all necessary IT policies. This essentially creates two identities on the device: one for business and one for personal. The worker can use the personal side of the device however they want, while IT still controls the business side of it.

The idea of an enterprise Genius Bar along with BYOD and MAM gives IT the chance to move beyond being a passive body handing out unpopular devices to workers who just want to use their own technology. It gives them a chance to become much more involved in the day-to-day working of the business and to help employees become much more productive. 

A Genius Bar for the enterprise may be a long way off at the moment but businesses can start to plan for it. Training IT staff to act more like retail staff will help, as will making all employees aware of the Genius Bar’s existence.
Published Aug 20, 2013
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