For Your Mobile Enterprise, Build a Genius Bar, NOT A Help Desk

For Your Mobile Enterprise, Build a Genius Bar, NOT A Help Desk

Summary: As companies go mobile and allow employees to Bring Your Own Device (BYOD), they need to change how they provide technical support. Here’s a friendlier, better way of doing it.


Everyone’s suffered through an unpleasant encounter with a member of your company's technical help desk. Some young, would-be Alpha Geek who sarcastically overwhelms you with jargon while he – and it’s always a he – condescends to fix your laptop or printer.

I think Jimmy Fallon nailed it in the late 1990s with his “Nick Burns, Your Company's Computer Guy” character on Saturday Night Live.


nick burns

Oh, By the Way, You’re Welcome

That was then. In the mobile age, we aren’t so easily intimidated. Gadgets are not only easier to use, but – let's face it – we as a society are tech-savvier (read: geekier) than ever before. In a BYOD age, we are adept at solving our own tech issues using Google, user forum or pal. Indeed, we often know more about our devices than our alleged technical betters.

Corporate help desks need to adapt to the post-PC age. Out with the patronizing Nick Burns-types; in with advisors who know better than to treat us as idiots, but instead as valued customers and partners.

This is the experience that SAP is trying to create with its newly-opened Mobility Solutions Centers.


(If you happen to be an SAP employee, check out the excellent overview of the MSCs by Jerry Janda here: https://blogs.wdf.sap.corp/sapnews_en/2012/07/global-it-opens-new-one-stop-mobile-shops/)

SAP employees can walk in and get in-person advice from mobile experts in Bangalore, London, Mumbai, Paris and our headquarters, Walldorf. They can also try out smartphones and tablets to see what makes the best sense for their workstyle.

"I rented an Ipad for 2 weeks in order to 'train' myself on the device here in MSC Paris," one employee wrote in reaction to Janda's article. "Knowledgable, friendly and cool staff helped to get the device ready very quickly. The center is equiped with a good range of devices and the design of the MSC is modern and young. Well done! Keep it up guys :)" 

Employees can also get support or training for their devices or apps – all in a stylish environment that recalls the Genius Bar environment at an Apple Store.

“These are cool places where you can come and feel comfortable to ask any question you want,” said SAP CIO Oliver Bussmann. His team runs the 5 existing MSCs, and plans to have a total of 11 running worldwide soon, including Palo Alto, Vancouver, Sao Paulo (Brazil) and, starting July 16, at the North American headquarters in Newtown Square, Pennsylvania.

Service Without The Snark

Before opening the MSCs, SAP had locations where employees could bring their mobile devices to IT staffers. But as Bussmann admits, “these were typical repair shops, some not much more than a closet in size.”

That wouldn’t do, not when SAP employees carry more than 51,000 devices today (19,000 BlackBerries, 17,000 iPads, 13,000 iPhones and 1,500 Android devices, primarily Samsung Galaxy S devices, including the Galaxy S III and the Galaxy Note).


And unlike typical help desks, MSC experts aren’t under pressure to fix problems quickly and move onto the next trouble ticket, according to Bussmann. That creates the friendlier vibe that will encourage experts to spend more time with each employee and help him or her try out productivity-enhancing apps they might not have previously considered.

Indeed, the MSCs will be showcases for SAP apps for not only internal workers, but also visiting customers.

Remote employees – and SAP has many of those – can still opt to get phone or e-mail support for their mobile devices. Bussmann encourages them to stop by an MSC if they have the chance.

The next step? Turning the MSCs into the primary provider of front-line, hands-on support for SAP employees with laptop troubles. Though in the post-PC age, Bussmann said providing laptop support is becoming a moot point.

“There is more and more discussion we are having about moving certain groups of employees entirely away from laptops,” he said.

Topics: ÜberTech, Apps, CXO, iPad, Mobility, SAP

Eric Lai

About Eric Lai

I have tracked technology for more than 15 years, as an award-winning journalist and now as in-house thought leader on the mobile enterprise for SAP. Follow me here at ÜberMobile as well as my even less-filtered musings on Twitter @ericylai

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  • "we often know more about our devices than our alleged technical betters."

    Thats great, but it is also something I have yet to see. I often have to look at a device or software that the customer uses EVERY SINGLE DAY, but which I have never seen before, familiarise myself with the layout, the issue and solve the problem for them, usually in minutes. There is a difference between using a Facebook app and being able to solve a problem I'm afraid!

    I honestly don't think that is ever likely to change a great deal. Cars have been around for a hundred years and most people still struggle with the most basic tasks. Computers have been around for 30 years and although the basic functionality remains the same, people need training every time a GUI element moves 3 pixels from where it used to be on screen. Printers have been around just as long and people still rely on IT support in order to switch between colour/grayscale.

    The myth that people are more tech savvy is simply in the heads of those who think they have a clue now that they can use Google.
    • I'm glass half-full on this

      Perhaps you are on the front lines and see the ugly truth day in day out. But while there may be oldsters who still need the same old technical help, I honestly believe that on the whole Gen X and Gen Y are much more proficient and proactive abt supporting themselves, esp on mobile. This is how many BYOD rollouts manage to work today, after all.
  • For Your Mobile Enterprise, Build a Genius Bar, NOT A Help Desk

    This would only work if you have the man power to do it.

    "And unlike typical help desks, MSC experts aren’t under pressure to fix problems quickly and move onto the next trouble ticket, according to Bussmann."

    We'll see how long that lasts when they start looking at individual's performance at review time.
    Loverock Davidson-
    • Hopefully, performance tracking is more subtle than that.

      The mobile experts have a lot of duties - introducing apps, running group training classes, speaking with customers, loaning out devices - apart from troubleshooting devices. Linking performance too strictly to time of clearing tickets would discourage them from offering good service. I think Bussmann and his team have already thought this through.
      • Performance tracking is smoke and mirrors

        "Linking performance too strictly to time of clearing tickets would discourage them from offering good service."

        Yes, that is what it does and yet, that is how every single helpdesk, police force, school, in fact, how every workforce on this planet is being pain stakingly monitored, measured and KPI'd to death.... Management always seem to prefer the logging of something, to the actually doing something :)
  • Easy for SAP, hard for others

    This is a pretty straightforward business decision for SAP. With their Afaria product they sell to the BYOD market, so this is showroom/product dev stuff and costs can be justified/shared/managed with that in mind. It'll be interesting to see if large companies will bear the upfront $$ decision to enable this and to go as far with it. As for the anonymous youngster who placed blame for higher support needs on us oldsters, as a late-boomer who has supported his own Palm Pilot/Treo/BlackBerry, Windows CE and now Android, I say I've forgotten more than you know so lay off the ignorant ageism, eh?
  • If money were no object this is a great idea

    In the real world, IT departments are overworked and understaffed. No chance anyone is going to be setting up a genius bar when they don't have enough staff to handle day to day operations.
    What a la-dee-da job that would be. Sit around all day and play with tablets.