Dennis D. McDonald (ddmcd@outlook.com) is an independent consultant located in Alexandria Virginia. His services and capabilities are described here. Application areas include project, program, and data management; market assessment, digital strategy, and program planning; change and content management; social media; and, technology adoption. Follow him on Google+. He also publishes on CTOvision.com and aNewDomain.

What Should Apple Do To Fix Its Maps Fiasco?

By Dennis D. McDonald

Click or tap image to download a .pdf of this article.What’s next for Apple, now that Tim Cook has apologized for the new Maps app and has suggested alternate or competing products to use while things get fixed?

I’d take a page from what the Obama Administration has been trying with Federal agency programs: open things up.

In Fed-speak this is referred to as “transparency.” Making a government program “transparent” means:

  • making it easier for citizens to know what’s going on,
  • making it easier to engage with government services, and
  • making it possible for data on Government services to be more accessible, usable, and re-usable.

These are related to the “digital strategies” that all Federal agencies are developing.

Apple, of course, is notoriously secretive. Increasing “transparency” might not go down well with Apple’s Old Guard.

That would be a mistake. Apple has stubbed its toe big-time with incorrect data and flawed map displays. Old fashioned PR will not work now.

Unquestionably it’s going to take time to “catch up” with Google Maps, and Google is not standing still.

I really don’t know, though, if “catching up” with Google is what Apple intends to do. There’s also the possibility Apple is trying to develop something new. Separating from Google Maps might have been one of the prices of doing that.

But that’s not the issue. Apple’s reputation is besmirched. Its competitors will take advantage of this. For example, I’ve seen Samsung ads ridiculing Apple customers and I expect there will be a lot more of this.

What would “increased transparency” mean for Apple? Here are some ideas:

  1. Add a tab to the Apple main page called MAPS PROJECT.
  2. Use the new tab as a portal to MAPS Project information including tasks, responsibilities, timelines, internal communications, discussion threads, customer suggestions, and anything having to do with geographic or mapping technologies.
  3. Openly report problems and fixes to the current app.
  4. Identify the people who are working the problem and make them accessible.
  5. Encourage all Apple staff involved to participate in open discussions about map related actions focusing on an improved Maps app.
  6. Expose bug tracking and fix data for the new app.
  7. Regularly post video conferences and chat sessions (weekly at least) to candidly discuss progress.
  8. Listen constantly on all media and respond quickly to comments, suggestions, and criticisms, no matter where or when these occur.
  9. Resist the urge to badmouth Apple competitors or the customers of Apple competitors.

I can hear all the reasons why something like this won’t work. We’ve heard them all before, first about corporate blogging, then about corporate social media policy development, now about “social business.”

Apple should ignore all that and start with a clean sheet. Figure out what employees can and cannot talk about, expose the conversations and collaborative efforts that can be talked about, and where possible, incorporate input and collaboration by partners and customers.

In the end, when a new app is released, track and evaluate its performance openly and honestly. Then decide whether this approach should be followed for other areas of the business. 

I’m under no illusion that this will be easy, and I’m sure that Apple haters might evern try to hijack the process. But taking such an approach to openly solve a public “problem” might just be the most direct way to overcome the burgeoning negativity that has emerged, negativity that will inevitably cut into Apple’s image, profits, and market share.

Copyright (c) 2012 by Dennis D. McDonald, Ph.D. Dennis is a Washington DC area consultant specializing in collaborative project management and new technology adoption. His clients have included the US Department of Veterans Affairs, the US Environmental Protection Agency, Jive Software, the National Library of Medicine, the National Academy of Engineering, Social Media Today and Oracle, and the World Bank Group. Contact Dennis via email at ddmcd@yahoo.com or by phone at 703-402-7382.

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