Famed food personality Alton Brown loved to wax philosophical on his show Good Eats about the waste and clutter of what he calls “unitaskers,” implements that can only be used to do one thing. Garlic presses, grenades and miter boxes are counted in this number. But the business world never picked up this idea; entrepreneurs are called all over the web to specialize. Phil Dumontet, founder of the rapid restaurant delivery business DASHED, wrote for Inc. that “if you do too many things at once, you’ll be mediocre at all of them.” He exhorts us to “do one thing, and do it really well.”
In my last post, I talked about Unified Communications and the lackluster reception by users. One of the primary reasons is that users are forced to find unitasker software from multiple vendors and try to piecemeal it together into a solution. The communications industry is rife with discussion and hand-wringing about how to make these solutions work better. At best, these efforts amount to a fast food value meal packaging where the products provided share nothing but packaging. As they say in the infomercials: there HAS to be a better way!
That better way comes in the form of single-sourced solutions, where a single provider delivers multiple services through a single interface. The notion gained increased awareness this month as powerhouse Cisco announced plans to kill off their existing video, audio, and web conferences in favor of providing a unified conferencing solution instead. Certainly this represents a major shift of philosophy in a company which has traditionally kept their peas and carrots neatly subdivided.
It’s easy to understand that products made by a single company can interplay on a level not available to disparate vendors. Microsoft’s Office is a perfect example of this kind of single-sourcing. Installation, support and usage of a single-sourced product are drastically easier. But the cost, in terms of engineering and support resources, is higher and the fear that Mr. Dumontet is right have held vendors back from attempting these feats.
What drives this new thinking for Cisco, even if indirectly, is mobility. Mobile devices will only continue to alter the way we live, the way we behave and the way we think. For those of us in the product management sphere, we're beginning to see products and services and wonder how these might mingle and distill down into a mobile interface people will actually use.
In the mobile device world, there is no patience for having to, for example, exit a document editing application and launch a document sharing app to distribute a file. With ever-clarifying mobile behaviors vendors will be forced to drop the unitasker mentality in order to remain competitive. You’ll increasingly ask yourself: how many unitaskers lurk in your business processes?