Genius Bars: The Apple Store Comes to Enterprise Computing


The Apple Store comes to enterprise. This retail-like service desk - introduced by Apple and already being used by SAP - goes beyond technical support and includes interaction, knowledge-sharing and more.

For many years, there has been a divide between IT support staff and operational employees. Whenever a technical issue came up, employees would simply pick up the phone and call into the service desk to have the issue resolved. But in recent years, things have shifted. As a result of the increasing integration of technology with our personal devices – and personal lives – it’s becoming more important that all employees learn how to use their devices and increase productivity. (Read more about some common IT frustrations in 10 Reasons Why It Doesn’t Pay to Be the Computer Guy.)

For the most part, that’s happened naturally as people get to know technology, and the younger workforce brings their native tech savvy to the office. As a result, companies are now dealing with a knowledgeable workforce that can figure things out without having to call in IT support. This represents a change in the traditional face of IT and has led to the introduction of a new way for employees to get the information and help they need: the enterprise Genius Bar. This retail-like service desk – introduced by Apple and already being used by SAP – goes beyond technical support to include interaction, knowledge-sharing and more.

What’s an Enterprise Genius Bar? Well, it’s a lot like the help desk at your local Apple Store. These service stations are conveniently set up inside the workplace, and employees are able to learn more about the devices and software they use. But unlike in a retail environment, the focus is on informing, rather than selling. Traditional technical support is also provided here, such as hardware repair, software updates and system checks. This handy little station functions as an all-in-one solution for today’s tech-integrated workplace. But could it really work? Let’s take a look.

Teach a Man to Fish

We all know the old saying about teaching a man to fish. Well, this applies to technology as well. All too often, the role of the help desk has been to fix technical issues rather than inform employees about enterprise technology. What companies are beginning to realize, however, is that the more employees know about the technology being used in the company, the more likely they will be to care for devices and use all of the tools available to them. A corporate Genius Bar gives employees the opportunity to ask questions and get live demonstrations or tutorials instead of simply handing their devices over to a technician and having everything done for them.

Technology is supposed to make work easier. Teaching employees how to use their devices efficiently increases productivity. It’s as simple as that.

Taking Responsibility

The concept of the Genius Bar played an important role in the growth of BYOD. The iPad and iPhone have been at the forefront of mobile device use in a corporate setting. The help desk at Apple stores provides a place for users to come in and ask questions about how to use their personal devices better and to handle hardware issues that their company might not address. In other words, before companies brought the Genius Bar into the office, employees were seeking it out on their own. (Read more about BYOD in BYOD: What It Means for IT.)


The advantage of incorporating a Genius Bar into a company help desk is that the technical support team is able to help with the enterprise use of devices, unlike the technical support at retail establishments, which is geared toward personal use. A company provided Genius Bar can also help to educate employees on how the help desk software works, how common issues around the office are handled, which issues can be fixed on their own, and other issues that directly relate to the workplace. This is information that an outside provider would not be able to address.

It’s Already Happening

Incorporating a Genius Bar into a workplace setting is possible. The technology firm SAP is probably the most notable company to put the concept into action. SAP placed a mobile solutions center in its headquarters located in Walldorf Germany in 2012.

The center is set up like a retail environment, and employees are encouraged to come by and ask questions, test out new software, and interact with the help desk team. Not only does this allow employees to learn more, but it also brings the help desk and business side together. As a result, other companies are considering offering similar IT service centers.

Bye Bye Help Desk?

One area of concern is what will happen to the traditional help desk if the Genius Bar approach is more widely adopted. It would certainly give support staff new duties, such as educating employees and supplying tutorials, but for the most part, those employees will still have many of the same responsibilities, such as handling hardware/software issues, asset inventory management, and using company-wide IT support software.

The purpose of an internal Genius Bar is to enhance the help desk experience and provide a new level of service. As technology continues to grow, we will see a growing need for a hands-on approach to technical support. But if you work in IT, don’t worry. The Genius Bar might change your job, but it won’t render you obsolete. After all, every Genius Bar still needs a genius behind it.


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Aaron Endré

A poet at heart and technologist by trade, Aaron Endré left his hometown of Kalamazoo, Michigan, in 2008 to join the flourishing tech industry in San Francisco. As the first hire at Bhava Communications, a Bay Area tech PR agency, he helped grow the practice from two people around a kitchen table to more than a dozen experienced professionals. His marketing and PR portfolio includes data infrastructure companies from disruptive startups like Pure Storage, Data Robotics and Cloudera to international public enterprises like Overland Storage and IBM. In 2012, Aaron left agency life to join Huddle, the enterprise content collaboration…