Snapchat, one of the most popular mobile apps amongst teenage girls, can teach CIOs a thing or three about technology and communication.

1. Data should have a shelf-life

The flagship feature of Snapchat is ephemerality. Snaps are designed to disappear forever* in 10 seconds or less. This cuts against the grain of most social services like Facebook and Instagram which are designed with permanence in mind.

I can’t think of any ephemeral-by-design applications for business, but it might be time to explore the possibilities. I wish 99% of of my emails would disappear after 10 seconds.

For the executive and legal teams, data permanency represents risk. For a storage teams, permanency represents cost. Data retention policies are designed to deal with this issue, but they’re just policies after all. And the reality is that most IT departments don’t have an easy way to implement data retention policies.

2. Zero friction = rabid usage

The Snapchat app is remarkably simple and fast. The speed at which a user can create and consume messages is what makes it so addicting. Anything that distracts the user from sending or receiving Snaps has been unmercifully cut from the UI. This isn’t by accident – it’s a result of excellent product design. The result? 350 million images sentper day.

It’s a different story in the enterprise where many internal software projects die due tocomplexity and friction. Perhaps CIOs and others who direct enterprise software projects should take a cue from B2C apps like Snapchat or Path and focus more heavily on design and user experience and, as a result, get more usage and buy-in for their services.

3. Mobile, mobile, mobile

There’s a reason Snapchat is mobile only. It’s a messaging app and, well, even my two year-old realizes that the way we communicate with people that aren’t in the room is through the little rectangles in our pockets.

I’ll give CIOs credit for this one, though. Blackberry was clearly the best way to do mobile messaging for the better part of a decade and enterprises wisely hopped on that bandwagon (many are still on it). And even though Blackberry has waned, most enterprises are dealing with BYOD head on, empowering a mobile workforce to get things done on the move.

But there’s still work to be done. While it might be difficult to find anyone in business who can’t access email on their mobile device, many employees still can’t securely access their work documents or real-time message co-workers from them—the technology exists, but rollout is a work in progress.

It will be interesting to observe how CIOs attempt to walk the line between productivity and security as we move into an age of wearable tech and biometrics. Even the fun, affable Snapchat has to mind its Ps and Qs.


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