Why I Left the 2.8% Club

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April 03, 2016
Technology | User Experience
Larry Hall - LWH@msn.com

This article has nothing to do with my compensation or net worth – that would represent a rather pretentious statement on my part. It does have everything to do with an event that took place on Nov. 6, 2015, that I never imagined would happen in my lifetime. And with all good stories, there exists a backstory that needs telling.

Microsoft represents an important business partner of Springer-Miller Systems, and in my prior role as the CEO of SMS, I traveled frequently to Microsoft’s headquarters. As such, I felt an obligation to use a Windows phone and an even stronger desire to avoid insulting our partners at Microsoft by using anything other than a Windows phone inside Microsoft’s World Headquarters. One of my colleagues, Victor Vesnaver, did not feel so strongly about his choice of phones and did not hesitate to carry his iPhone® with him every time we visited Microsoft.
Over the course of several years, Victor and I would often debate the merits of the iPhone and the Windows Phone. I actually liked my Windows Phone a great deal and found it highly functional with near seamless integration with the Microsoft Office suite. To me, my Windows Phone represented a utilitarian business tool that satisfied my basic needs. Yet, Victor did not hesitate to subtly and sometimes not so subtly, suggest to me that I would actually like an iPhone and I should abandon my allegiance to Microsoft. His suggestions usually fell on deaf ears.
Then it happened.
On Nov. 6, 2015, I crossed over and passed into the “dark side” and purchased an iPhone 6s. I do not intend to use the remainder of this article to rehash the virtues of the iPhone or the genius of Steve Jobs – we get that!  I intend to share a few thoughts on our industry and, as a member of our community of passionate hospitality technology professionals, look to encourage, poke and prod all of us to stay focused on the right things and the “reminders” I gleaned from my iPhone experience.
My first 90 days as a proud owner of an iPhone 6s produced a number of observations and reinforced my opinion of the hospitality technology industry, the vendors that service the industry, and the buyers of our technology. My first observation suggests that not all apps get created equally. The same app from the same developer generates a far superior user experience for an iPhone user than a Windows Phone user.  Second, the cloud and the ease of integration that it enables opens an extraordinary world of possibilities for our industry that we, as hospitality technologists, must exploit. And,third, speed to market has become an essential and expected practice in software development and product management.
IBM’s recent report on user-centered design states that every $1 invested in “ease of use” generates a return of $10 to $100. Returns come in the form of a reduction in wasted developer time, a reduction in customer support, and increased customer satisfaction. My iPhone experience taught me that the same function (online banking, check the weather, etc.) delivered on a platform that values the user experience not only enriches my experience, but also fundamentally alters my perception of the product, in this case, the iPhone. In his “Thirteen Tenets of User Experience,’’ Robert Hoekman, Jr., describes my point this way: “Every detail of a company and its product says something about it. User experience strategy and design ensures that these messages are put forth with intention and purpose. Design extends into each and every detail, and each and every detail can indeed be designed.” 
It’s no coincidence that the CIO Wall Street Journal poll of 20 CIOs revealed “user experience” as the No.1 objective for 2016. Technology suppliers to our industry who fail to devote considerable resources to their user experience will suffer the consequences of a young, mobile, technology-savvy user base that demands a rich user experience.
When I get on my road bike for a workout, I engage two pieces of technology. First, I turn on my Garmin Edge 810 computer mounted on my handle bars so I can see every imaginable data point during my ride, from speed and cadence, to the weather and amount of force I apply to each pedal. I also turn on my iPhone and launch a program called Garmin Connect. Every five seconds Garmin Connect communicates my precise location to a person of my choosing and uploads my Garmin 810 data to the cloud, as I ride. By the time I finish my ride – literally, before I get off my bike, Garmin Connect has uploaded my data to the Garmin site so I can analyze my workout, and it communicates this same data to the Fitbit site so all my friends can see that I just passed them in our weekly challenge. All fully integrated, all in the cloud, all through my iPhone. Just imagine if our industry possessed a broad passion for innovation, vendors that cooperated and collaborated more fully, buyers that made purchase decisions in hours not months, and an overall willingness to experiment with speed, agility and a tolerance for failure. We have some great examples in our industry of just the type of integration and innovation I describe in my Garmin example, but we can always use more! Incidentally, the Garmin Connect app does not exist on the Windows Phone.
Some criticize Apple® for the frequency of upgrades to its iOS operation system. And with 1.5 million apps available on the iPhone at the end of 2015, the number of updates that potentially occur on a daily basis to one’s mobile device can stagger the mind. Yet, I embrace this frequency because it reminds me of one, very important benefit of owning an iPhone – feature velocity!  Today, it’s all about speed to market – the speed at which a company can produce new products, enhance old products, create services, etc. In other words, figuratively outrun the competition through speed to market. I honestly look forward to installing the enhancements, and bug fixes, when they arrive on my iPhone.
So, why did I leave the Windows Phone with its 2.8 percent market share and buy an iPhone with its 50 percent market share? Not because Victor encouraged me to do so, although I respect his opinion greatly. I did so because I really needed the Garmin Connect app and I got tired of waiting for it on the Windows phone. Did I learn anything new about the iPhone? Not really. I read most of the books on Apple and Steve Jobs and I believe I have a pretty good sense of the device even though I did not own an iPhone. However, my iPhone did surprise me in one sense; it served as a superb reminder of how we need to think and act in the global hospitality technology space: User experience, integration and feature velocity!
         
Following the sale of Springer-Miller Systems in November 2015 where Larry Hall served as the firm’s CEO, he rejoined Trillium Services Group. For comments on this article, he can be reached at LWH@msn.com, at least until he gets an iCloud account.

 
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