Two Things You Can Learn From a Stupid Commercial

Image: Via YouTube
Years ago, there was a schmaltzy commercial on television where one person gnawing on a chocolate bar the size of a refrigerator collided into another person who happened to be eating straight from the largest jar of peanut butter you've ever seen.

Their serendipitous accident showed us unknowing masses how delightful the combination of peanut butter and chocolate could be, and that you could conveniently buy a pack of peanut butter cups rather than run around the town with a big jar of peanut butter hoping to bump into someone.

While I don’t for a moment believe that the commercial was ‘based on a true story’, I do see it having two important teachings for IT leaders.

The first is the importance of messaging. This was a stupid, stupid commercial.  But years later, I remember it, and even know what product they were advertising.  The marketers found a way to take the thought of mixing two ‘incompatible’ products in a way that I would actually try the combined product.  There was little science behind their message, and I clearly understood what they expected me to do.

In IT, we too often take the “If we build it, they will come…” attitude and expect users to just understand all the wonderful things they can do with our ‘solutions’.  We do not take the time to understand how we should best introduce our new systems, products and services in a way that is understood by those who are going to use them.  Quit talking about feeds and speeds, big data, IoE, SasS, Cloud, RoI, etc. and find a way to put it into terms they will understand… like chocolate bars and peanut butter.

The second thing we can learn from this commercial is that integration is as important today in the world of apps, BYOD and hosted services as it has ever been.

The late Peter Drucker once said “Work is easy. Just get the right information to the right people at the right time.”  In IT, one of our key responsibilities is making it easier for people to do the work they were hired to do.  Having them log into several different systems using the apps of their choice on devices of their choice is completely counterproductive… never mind the loss of sleep for CIOs as corporate information is being shared and stored on various ‘open’ platforms.

That’s not to say you should outlaw BYOD, but instead have a platform that gathers (and protects) your corporate information and gets it out to the people who need to use it.  To make that happen, you need people on your team who can build the bridges and glue, and make them work together well – like chocolate and peanut butter.

In the old days, we used to call these people ‘system integrators’.  I’m not sure what you would call it today, but I do know that as my team have built an integrated, open platform that seamlessly glues together institutional data across multiple devices, we see a whole lot more tangible innovation coming from our users.  The ‘blended’ systems and apps enable the magic to happen.

I’m not implying that this is easy to implement, but it is certainly necessary, and it’s less work than running around town with a large jar of peanut butter hoping to run into someone with a gargantuan chocolate bar.


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