I went to McDonalds the other day. Not may favorite culinary locale but a necessary part of my schedule at times. One thing I can say about my job is that, in any given week, I will likely eat at both a 5 star restaurant and at a fast-food place. That is just life in high-tech…
So, I was in a rush and pulled into the drive through. For my diet regime, I have given up sugar and carbs. We all have to have some diet right? My son and I decided to split the #2 meal (for those of you new to fast food jargon, or Earth - that is a Quarter Pounder w/Cheese, Fries, drink). I would take the burger and my son gets the fries (mmm those are still hard for me to resist). Virtually everything possible to drink there I have sworn off so I ordered a water. The speaker crackled out “we e gfarb a ich he ater” (something unintelligible as usual). “What?” I said. “We are going to have to charge you extra for the water” came the reply. “OK..uh.. sure, I said” and off I went. I looked on the receipt and, sure enough, the water was an extra $1.50!
What is wrong with the picture? The mass-marketed, sugar laden (ooops - high fruitcose corn syrup laden), soft drink beverage (aka a Coke) is free with the meal but it costs me a $1.50 to take out all of the crap and give me a water. Wow – what a market.
I got to thinking as I usually do about these things. This is a simple story about value. In technology, we often talk about IT commoditization but it is irrelevant. Sure, most functions become less expensive but the trick is to build value through innovation which is built on understanding the present pain points of your customers.
Maybe less is more?
I think the trend to drinking water is very similar to what folks are looking for in IT - simplicity! It’s not about being cheap or being a commodity – it about providing the function (a liquid to quench the thirst), without the harmful side effects (in this case not having to shop for clothes in larger sizes or having to learn the true meaning of the word Montezuma) – in that, there is value.
Building a simple product is often considered to be easy but it’s just the opposite – it is actually very hard - kind of like getting “pure” water. Sure, water is everywhere, but most of it is not something you would want to drink. Maybe the drink industry foretells the IT industry. We tried adding everything we could to make bad liquids taste better but, maybe, what folks really want is just a good glass of water.