★ Taking an Apple Approach to IAM Implementations

This post can also be found here on the Identropy Blog.

Ah, the religious wars: vi vs Emacs (vi!), Republican vs. Democrat (Neither), Mac vs. PC (Mac!)…

Mac vs. PC. We all know the talking points:

  1. Macs are pretty, PCs are not.
  2. PCs can be configured a billion ways, to use a Mac you must do it the way Apple thinks you should.
  3. Macs are easy, PCs can be difficult
  4. Did I mention Macs are pretty?

You may not agree with these assessments, but they’re popular opinions. You might ask why I would be blogging about them in a blog where I typically stick to consulting and Identity Management.

The fact is, we generally take a PC approach to IAM implementations: Here is the product, and these are the 5 million different switches we can flip to customize it for your organization. We have our best practices (default configuration), but ultimately we’re going to customize it the way you want it to be, whether it’s good for you or not. We want to be everything in IAM to everybody who will pay for IAM.

Is this the right approach? I don’t think it is. Why don’t we take a look at how Apple does things?
I recently read an article from Pragmatic Marketing, a journal my wife used to read as a product manager. They go through some of the reasons why Apple is worth billions of dollars and you aren’t.

A few of them stuck out at me:

You need to know your customer and your market.

The point is not to go ask your customers what they want. If you ask that question in the formative stages, then you’re doing it wrong. The point is to go immerse yourself in their environment and ask lots of “why” questions until you have thoroughly explored the ins and outs of their decision making, needs, wants, and problems. At that point, you should be able to break their needs and the opportunities down into a few simple statements of truth.

This is terrific advice. People do not typically know what they want, they only think they do. Invest the time in figuring out what the end goal is, then you can propose the right solution to the problem.

Pony meetings.

These meetings are scheduled every two weeks with the internal clients to educate the decision-makers on the design directions being explored and influence their perception of what the final product should be.

Keep leadership involved, and keep them on your side. Present them with an elegant solution that meets the needs of the organization. As long as they are on board with your solution, you can better drive the project.

Apple focuses on a select group of products.

Apple acts like a small boutique and develops beautiful, artistic products in a manner that makes it very difficult to scale up to broad and extensive product lines.

Dont try to solve every problem. Dont try to work in every vertical. Stick to what you’re good at, and be the best at it. This will actually make future engagements easier as you’ll have some street cred.


Ultimately, if you pay attention to detail and listen for what the customer really wants, not what they think they want, you should be successful. Just don’t be afraid to tell the customer “no” and explain why they need to change course a bit. The end result will be a successful implementation and a happy customer.

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