Tuesday, June 12, 2012

iTravel: Demonstrating Apple's level of agility?

As rumors whirl around the capabilities of Apple's iOS 6 (due for release in Q4 2012), new features and speculation are continually surfacing on blogs and news sites. One such feature is the new "Passbook" which provides digital versions of boarding passes, membership cards, movie tickets, and could be the first step towards Apple's all-encompassing iTravel ecosystem (Flynn, 2012).

As stated by Sull (2006), there are three distinct types of organizational agility; strategic, portfolio, and operational. Each with their own sources and dangers. In order for Apple to continually remain at the top of their industry, and introduce new technologies to better the lives of their customers, all three levels of Apple's agility are paramount to continued success.

Strategic agility states that given the unpredictable nature and uneven distribution of golden opportunities, a combination of patience (to wait for the right time to strike) and boldness (acting when the time arises) is crucial (Sull, 2006). The idea of digital / mobile boarding passes is not new, but by Apple providing native integration into their iPhone / iPad, as well as leveraging a new technology (available in the iPhone 5 or iPad 4), Near Field Communications (NFC), would prove that the organization has the agility to be patient and capitalize on the niche when the time is right. NFC is a set of standards for mobile devices that establish communication with one-another by touching them together into close proximity.

Portfolio agility requires a large, and unique shift in an organizations culture. Middle managers are required to base their decisions on logic and data rather than emotion and politics. Top executives need to be empowered to allocate key personnel at the group level rather than at the division level. Companies must reallocate both cash and people to properly cultivate a cadre of leaders who understand the business and markets as a whole, and become agile enough to be reallocated to crucial teams to drive innovation in emerging opportunities.Not only has Apple done this, they have perfected it. Apple has no divisions, no departments, no middle managers. Workers are kept in stressful tightly controlled boxes (by product), who somehow remain passionately engaged and continually meet their deadlines (Denning, 2012).

Operational agility is an organization's ability to exploit both revenue-enhancing and cost-cutting opportunities within its core business more quickly, effectively, and consistently than their rivals (Sull, 2006). Two key steps executives must undertake to gain operational agility are: (1) putting in place systems to gather and share the information required to spot opportunities and (2) building process to translate corporate priorities into focused action (Sull, 2006). Uniquely, to maximize operational agility, Apple does no market research.
Quote Steve Jobs, "We do no market research. We don't hire consultants. The only consultants I've ever hired in my 10 years is one firm to analyze Gateway's retail strategy so I would not make some of the same mistakes they made [when launching Apple's retail stores]. But we never hire consultants, per se. We just want to make great products"
 Apple's staff primarily want to make great products for themselves (Henning, 2009):
"We did iTunes because we all love music. We made what we thought was the best jukebox in iTunes. Then we all wanted to carry our whole music libraries around with us. The team worked really hard. And the reason that they worked so hard is because we all wanted one. You know? I mean, the first few hundred customers were us."
With Apple's successful mastering of all three levels of strategic agility, this is why so many rumors swirl around their business decisions and product releases (hardware / software). They have created an aura of unpredictability that leaves consumers and competitors watching, listening, and speculating on their next move.

What say you? Can the Passbook be another example of their agility in the market place? In my opinion, only time will tell.

Denning, S. (Feb. 2012). Inside Apple: Can It Thrive Without Steve?.
          Retreived June 12th, 2012 from:  

Flynn, D. (June 2012). Apple iOS 6 Passbook: the first step towards the iTravel era?.
          Retreived June 12th, 2012 from:

Henning, J. (Apr. 2009). Apple Does "No Market Research", So You Don't Have To Either.
          Retreived June 12th, 2012 from:

Sull, D. (2006).  Competing through organizational agility.
          McKinsey Quarterly. Volume: 1, Issue: July, Pages: 1-9

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