Posted by Matt Egan 02 July 2014
Why 'delivery' is the most important word in tech
Rubbish products don't succeed. But neither do good products, if you can't deliver on a promise.
I recently took delivery of my brand new OnePlus One phone. Very recently. Too recently in fact.
This has been well documented elsewhere, but the OnePlus One phone is a brilliant piece of tech that is dammned hard to get hold of here in the UK. In my case there was a gap of almost three weeks between me parting with money online and finally receiving my handset. In the intervening days there were a couple of issues, and there was not a great deal of communication, culminating with a text message from the courier asking me to pony up an additional £31 to pay import duty before I could get my OnePlus One.
This was okay for me as a tech journalist trying to get in a product to review, but would be not so great if you are a consumer waiting for a new phone. In fact, in that circumstance I'd expect that most people would simply cancel the order.
This is not to make a dig at OnePlus by the way. Support staff are chasing down my £31 as we speak, and the phone is great. But it illustrates a critical point.
As consumer tech has become commoditised, and virtually all computational devices good enough for purpose, the ability to get a product in the hand of the consumer becomes paramount. We live in a world in which people expect their desires to be immediately sated. If you buy something online, you want it tomorrow at the latest. See also: Surface Pro 3: fabulous feat of engineering, mediocre product.
Tim Cook - only the logistics guy
Don't believe me? Consider Apple. Yes, Apple designs and builds great products. It markets them (and itself) beautifully. But Apple is also brilliant at managing its levels of stock, and getting the product you speficied into your clammy mitts within hours of you making a purchase.
This latter aspect was critical to Apple's post-Steve Jobs' return success. Yes, Jobs, Ive and the rest created amazing category-changing products such as the iPod, iPhone and iPad. But it was Tim Cook who made the business aspects work.
Prior to joining Apple, Cook worked for both IBM and Compaq in fulfilment and operations roles. He joined Apple as a senior vice president of Worldwide Operations, and before he was CEO he was Chief Operations Officer. He's the operations guy. The man who looks after logistics. He can be credited with changing Apple from a brilliant but slightly shambollic company into the ruthless corporate machine that can build hundreds of thousands of iPads without the outside world getting a glimpse of what an iPad is. He's the guy who makes sure that Apple never has more than a few days' worth of unsold inventory. He's the reason that Apple makes a billion Dollars a quarter. And that's why the Steve Jobs wanted Cook to follow him as CEO. See also: Five signs that you are doing World Cup social media wrong.
Amazon - only a book store
To find a company-wide example of the importance of delivery, you need look only as far as Amazon.
Amazon was an online book store, remember. But really, from day one, Amazon was about moving product from a to b. Jeff Bezos set up Amazon in Washington DC so that the fewest possible number of his customers would have to pay additional taxes from buying a book within their home state. He was already thinking about logistics. But the genius of Amazon as it grew in the US and beyond was the ability to get you the things you wanted, as soon as possible.
The UK is only a small country, but isn't it staggering that you can buy just about anything from Amazon on one day, and have it at your day the following morning? Logistics is what Amazon excels at, and it's why it has such a huge business. The Kindle, Kindle Fire and Fire Phone ranges builds from this. Yes they are ereaders, tablets and smartphones, but to Amazon they are simply another way of getting virtual products to you. Immediately. (They are also another way of you ordering physical products, which you can receive tomorrow.)
Rubbish products don't sell, but great products rarely succeed if the logistics and operations aren't taken care of. Delivery is not just important, it is the most important word in tech. See also: In defence of the single-use device.
Image by Kevin Dooley