Not content with free food, now Marissa Mayer — Yahoo’s new CEO — is giving all employees brand new smartphones.
And not just any smartphone either. According to Business Insider, Mayer is going to allow employees to choose from an iPhone 5, Galaxy S3, a few HTC devices or Nokia’s Lumia 920.
Notably absent from the list: BlackBerry. Yahoo is going to move its users off of BlackBerry devices in 22 countries and onto something more consumer friendly.
Mayer is encouraging her staff to think and act more like Yahoo’s users. In fact, that was a big part of the rationale for the new smartphone program, aptly named, “Yahoo! Smart Phones, Smart Fun.”
In a memo sent out to staff members about the new plan, it was explained that using the most popular consumer phones would allow employees to “think and work as the majority of [Yahoo’s] users do.”
Bye, Bye BlackBerry
Like lots of other large corporations, Yahoo’s previous IT policy had the majority of its 22,000 employees using BlackBerry devices. For years, BlackBerry’s biggest advantage in the enterprise was that it is easy to mass-deploy phones with certain access settings and security profiles to hundreds or thousands of users.
In spite of the growing BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) movement and the proliferation of MDM (Mobile Device Management) companies such as MobileIron that make it possible for IT teams to manage multiple mobile operating systems, some companies remain locked into the RIM ecosystem.
That can make sense if a company needs a very specific set of security requirements that only BlackBerry can meet, but it doesn’t really work for a company like Yahoo. Why? Because when it comes to consumers, BlackBerry is almost dead.
Globally, the brand has something like 80 million subscribers — but the majority are on low-cost messaging plans in the developing world and emerging markets. A recent smartphone study pegged RIM’s usage share at just 1% in the United States.
For a company like Yahoo — whose business is a purple mix of technology services, display advertising and media — it doesn’t make sense to focus on attracting BlackBerry users. Heck, it’s unlikely that Yahoo sees much of its mobile traffic coming from BlackBerry users.
If a company is going to create consumer facing products and services, it needs to be able to experience those products the same way its users do. When it comes to mobile, more often than not, that means not using a BlackBerry.
See Products and Services As Users See Them
At Google, Mayer was a well-known advocate of dogfooding — that is, using your own product for your own work. Even in her first days at Yahoo’s CEO, it was clear Mayer would carry on with that approach at her new job. With the new smartphone plan, Mayer is taking the dogfooding approach to the next level: She’s making employees not just use their own products, but use those products as a consumer would.
It’s a genius move on the part of Mayer, because not only does it raise morale (who doesn’t like to get the latest, greatest phone for free?), it helps push employees from all parts of the company — from product managers to engineers, from sales to customer support — to look at and approach Yahoo from the point of view of the average user.
That means that instead of accessing Yahoo mail from within a BlackBerry mail client configured to work with a BES email server, employees will access email from either the default mail clients on iOS, Android and Windows Phone — or from a mobile webmail interface.
It means that instead of not using Flickr mobile because there is no BlackBerry app and the mobile website stinks, Flickr team members will be forced to see how lousy the iOS and Android clients really are.
Moreover, using modern tools in the workplace might allow employees at all levels to compare how Yahoo’s various products stack up against the competition.
I look forward to watching what impact the new smartphone program will have on Yahoo’s products. Something tells me that seeing a product through the user’s eye will make it possible for team leaders to focus on crafting better experiences for those users.
What do you think of Marissa Mayer’s smartphone strategy? Is it something other corporations should consider doing? Let us know in the comments.