I read an article earlier this week that had Bob Collymore, head of Kenya’s largest telco by customers and revenue quoted as saying that his cash cow Mpesa, of mobile money fame is a clumsy product that risks being dethroned from its currently leading and enviable position. You know what? I actually agree with his concerns / sentiments and read the same symptoms across many other enterprise players who have the opportunity to create the future but are seemingly stuck in processes and human intervention that curtail innovation at scale.
Fintech and infrastructure as a service offers probably the best examples to give a good perspective.
Setting up a PayPal account is easy as pie and with a few clicks you are live on an account that is capable of receiving and sending money from a web or mobile interface. A little more time and indulgence to scan additional KYC documents and shoot them off via email and you are now live on a merchant account with more business type features unlocked. Armed with basic knowledge, you can then proceed to create a pay with PayPal button, with a transaction value locked whose embed code you simply copy and paste onto your website and voila! For the more complex integrations there are developer tools, a sandbox, SDK’s and even sample code to get you started. All this time, you are yet to interact with a human. Innovate, build and deploy at your own pace and time. They are keen to be the carrier of that transaction value and now have more than 192 million active accounts in 202 countries.
Amazon is currently the leader in IaaS, offering on demand computing and auxiliary services to both B2B and B2C segments with over 70 services across 14 product lines that can activated and used in production in the space of minutes. Resources and tools, such as my favorite; AWS Architecture Center, abound that give a masterclass type digest that empowers users with the shortest time to live. Again, zero human intervention.
How many times have you thought of or had to call an engineer at Amazon, Google, PayPal, Stripe? Has there been need to?
Coming to the local scene and replicated across many organizations that may have a digital component , the first point of call is often times a human seated behind a corporate email whose response times are irregular. What follows is a barrage of forms and requirements that may take weeks to plough through. God forbid you need a dedicated link, colocation of bare metal and VPN’s configured because by this time you are probably overtime, over budget, bored and if building for a client you are also firefighting. On fintech the issue is alive and thriving at Safaricom, Airtel, Orange and even with the latest entrant…Equity and on IaaS just a handful of new comers are changing the way things work while the older players probably branded as “enterprise” continue to ask for meetings to figure out your needs and have you commit on an ill-fitting service plan.
The human element adds time, cost and complexity to any ecosystem that is looking to innovate. Subjectivity also happens as a default when analyzing applications adding to the friction. Self-service, good documentation and clear pricing is all that’s needed, then get out of the way!
Free the enterprise!