Netflix a model of convergence for the enterprise

IT would be wise to consider how investments in convenience can stimulate superior levels of productivity.

Convenience trumps everything for the end-user. Add a soupcon of fun, and you have a killer app.

Netflix is the prototype for this rule. Having stepped into a field of competitors built on low price through volume as the One True Faith, Netflix is succeeding by delivering superior convenience. IT would be wise to consider how investments in convenience can stimulate superior levels of productivity.

To make the low-price model work, you have to strip out all costs related to people or product quality, getting rid of "cost centers" such as customer service and technical support. What you can't cut you foist onto the customer; for the remainder, you hire the cheapest replaceable slackers you can. It's an empty, industrial experience for both customer and staff. And once you start, you can't change -- strip-mining is your brand.

The bulk of IT dollars spent in the past decade has been focused on this "more with less" cult crud, not qualitative improvements. "Lean and mean" systems designed to squeeze out costs or dump IT effort onto end-users are undermining organizations in the same way that the practices of video-store chains have, saving immediate dollars but eroding suppleness. And staff tasked with supporting these systems under the "more with less" mantra will be as desultory as Blockbuster clerks.

Netflix is applying technology to add value to process. For example, its catalog app allows buyers to easily surface titles they might have forgotten or never knew existed. If someone wants to see every movie Helen Mirren ever made (omit Bob Guccione's Caligula, trust me), the front end makes it easy. Exploration is part of the "product" customers pay for. The feature that delivers the most convenience, the ability to create a list of rentals in advance, is also fun, allowing customers to curate and anticipate their own private film festivals. Rather than making the search for the next cinematic escape an industrial grind, it's almost entertainment itself.

IT should make a Netflix push, developing and delivering systems that disavow the "more with less" soul-suck mentality and instead increase the quality of the organization's results. Providing end-users with features geared toward convenience -- especially those that integrate functionality with fun -- will make them more productive.

More knowledge management, more interactive BI and BPM, better online education, better solutions to deliver more timely service and support. It's not hard to do. Just stop thinking like a big-box strip miner and start thinking like Netflix.

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