Apple iCloud: An IT nightmare

Apple's 'it just works' philosophy has little place in business, where flexibility to decide what and how everything should work is essential

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Whatever criticisms apply to Google, you can't say that its system architects tell you what platforms to use. Quite the opposite: In Googleland, all technologies are welcome and more or less supported. Luckily, it appears that Chrome OS is going nowhere. It's entirely possible Google would take a different approach, one more similar to Apple's, if Chrome OS catches fire.

Microsoft: Rich tools for high-end customers

Trendspotting notwithstanding, most of us who use computers for work purposes use Microsoft Windows and Office to do it, and so we should also bring Microsoft into this conversation.

Yes, Microsoft appears to have lost interest in helping out consumers and very-small-business customers, judging by the products and services it makes available compared to what Apple and Google have to offer. But in an enterprise setting, when it comes to calendar, contacts, and email, Microsoft offers a rich set of tools for integrating iOS and Android. For access to files, a number of third parties offer iOS and Android apps for SharePoint access. (Full disclosure: Not having used any of them, I can't testify as to their utility.)

If you're running an enterprise and want to maximize user capabilities, you'll find the best collection of core technologies in Microcountry. With Microsoft, "it just works" is not what you get. And it shouldn't be. In an enterprise setting you want tools that let you configure things to work the way you need them to, not the way the vendor has decided you should need them to.

Punchline No. 1: "It just works" isn't good enough for business

Let's assume the consumerization of IT is the big trend many think it is. But using consumer tech in a business environment is a very different matter from being satisfied with consumer tech in a business environment.

One of IT's legitimate gripes is that we're often asked to turn consumer-grade technology into business-grade technology with a wave of our magic wands. On top of the intrinsic technical challenges, there's this: IT doesn't have anything that even resembles a methodology for performing the business analysis we need to figure out what it means to put consumer tech to productive day-to-day use.

Punchline No. 2: What employees want isn't always what's good for them

Consumers want iCloud to be simple and foolproof. Many employees want the same thing. Does that mean you should give it to them?

That depends on the employee. You probably should give production employees, who are paid to perform well-defined tasks over and over again, access to simple, foolproof applications. With production work, there is one right way to do a task -- and lots of wrong alternatives. Your software should make sure employees do things the right way. Flexibility isn't considered a positive attribute in most production settings.

Executives, managers, and knowledge workers are another matter. Many might want simple and foolproof, too. But that's just another way of saying, "Don't ask me to figure out better ways of working."

You certainly have employees with that attitude. That doesn't mean the tools you provide to your employees should frustrate those who take a more forward-looking approach to their work. Quite the opposite: The tools you provide should encourage user-driven innovation. Often, "it just works" does the exact opposite.

This is the 21st century. And while iCloud might rely on 21st-century technologies, it caters to a 20th-century attitude.

That isn't an attitude you can afford to encourage.

This story, "Apple iCloud: An IT nightmare," was originally published at Read more of Bob Lewis's Advice Line blog on For the latest business technology news, follow on Twitter.

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