In my last blog post I wrote about five roadblocks to the adoption of collaboration systems at work. While there are a range of practical and sociological factors at play in the adoption of collaboration systems, can we observe these same factors at work with mobile devices and apps today? Given that the adoption of mobile devices and apps are exploding, clearly not.
So what do we say is driving this adoption, and how is it different to collaboration systems? Here’s how I think about it.
1. Mobile devices and apps are for individuals. While there is often social pressure from friends and coworkers to buy the latest gear, it’s in an individual capacity that they are used. A mobile phone is a personal device. Any apps purchased are for use by an individual. There are standards that govern the exchange of information across mobile devices (such as email, SMS, or PXT), or apps that work across different types of devices (such as Twitter, Facebook, Evernote, and many others). As a consequence, in most situations, it’s actually irrelevant what someone else is using, because their device of choice doesn’t adversely impact anyone else. Using an “old” device may lose you “cool” points with your friends, but it usually doesn’t stop you from communicating or getting work done. If you do change to a different device, it’s often because you have seen what someone else can do on their device that you want but can’t do on your current device; you want the same ability for yourself, not necessarily the same ability so as to work with someone else better. That’s a very different dynamic from collaboration systems, where how one person uses the software / technology / solution has deep implications for other people, and changes in work and workflow have to be coordinated and new patterns established.
2. Apps are priced to be disposable. With Apple (App Store) and Google (Google Play) creating a global market for buying-and-selling of apps, there’s been an expectation set that apps should be as low cost as possible. Many mainstream apps are in the price range of one to five dollars / pounds / euros, or at most up to tens of dollars / pounds / euros. This means the barrier to purchase is extremely low, and if someone doesn’t like the app they have just purchased, it only cost “less than a cup of coffee.” This general pricing model encourages experimentation by individuals, and the price of a failed experiment is low both financially and socially. Again that’s a very different dynamic to collaborative situations, where the cost of purchase and installation is often very high, and where deep changes in how people work together are required to get the most out of it. It’s financially expensive to start, and socially costly if it fails.
3. Adoption Buys Entry to a Social Group, But Doesn’t Demand Collaboration. Purchasing a new device immediately buys an individual entry into a particular social group; such as the many BlackBerry users who have switched to iPhone and Android devices in the past couple of years. Mere ownership of the device buys access to the social group; it doesn’t matter how you use it as much as that you have the “right” device. So it’s a personal choice, perhaps borne of social pressure, but that has no consequential realignment of social relations with others (how you work with other people). Again that’s different to collaboration systems, where the purchase decision is usually far removed from the individual, comes with organizational pressure to adopt, and that demands a consequential realignment of how people work together.
In closing, there are different dynamics at play for the adoption of mobile devices and apps by individuals, compared to the adoption of collaboration systems by teams and groups. Do the three explanations above mirror your experience? What other factors do you use to explain the differential adoption patterns?