Lean in the digital age: free apps

Lean-educated people will consider value as something a customer is ready to pay for because the product or service has some value from his/her point of view.
Lean-educated people will consider to use just-needed resources and avoid unnecessary storage.
But what about free or almost free apps for smartphones and tablets?
Do the Lean principles apply on the digital side?

Value vs price

Apps come for free or for little money. Not a big deal if a free app is not keeping its promises (most do though, I believe), it’s easy to get rid of it and it didn’t cost a thing. Users may be pickier about apps to purchase, but for less a currency unit a piece, who really cares?

Regardless of their price, many apps are real values. I manage my virtual train tickets and journeys via a well-designed and totally free app provided by the French national railway. I use the equivalent for optimizing my rides on subway, bus, tramway and suburb trains in Paris. Another great free app.

I read newspapers excerpts, listen to podcasts, watch educational videos, all provided for free, in some cases with a minor nuisance of advertising, the counterpart for apps being “free”.

As many smartphone / tablet owners, I have dozens of them.

The perceived value / cost ratio is almost infinite. Something impossible in the material world. So great value “nobody” pays for exists. Time to reflect on the Lean-definition of value..!

Just needed resources

Most of the time not-so-useful and never used-again apps will remain on smartphones and tablets, as long as storage space is not a problem. And it takes lots of apps before they turn into a problem of storage space.

Many Lean principles-aware people I know are real collectors of apps. Useful ones and most doubtful ones. The ones they use constantly and those fancy they once installed, tried, forgot and never deleted.

In strict Lean terms this would be waste. But is it?

Waste of what? A few high-definition pictures taken with the smartphone or tablet occupy more memory space than all apps.
Clutter on the screen? No problem, icons can be rearranged and ordered at will. When it’s difficult to retrieve a seldom used app, just type a search.
Battery life? Yes some apps may shorten it, but those energy drainers can be shut off: GPS location, Wi-fi and Bluetooth, etc.

Act of faith

Consider a Lean-educated promoter trying to convert a digital native to apply Lean principles on his favorite geek tools, I bet he/she would have trouble to demonstrate the rationale behind it.

Keeping Lean principles alive with a smartphone or a tablet, if no in the digital age at large, looks to me as an act of faith.

Related: Minimum Viable Product or just crap?

Chris HOHMANNView Christian HOHMANN's profile on LinkedIn

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