What Apple's latest recruit brings to the table

Apple's decision to hire the former CEO of the fashion house Yves Saint Laurent, Paul Deneve, is intriguing to say the least but what "special projects" does Tim Cook have in mind for his latest pick?

Apple has hired a new VP who will report directly to Tim Cook. Paul Deneve is cited as having responsibility for “special projects” and will report directly to Tim Cook.

The previous roles as a manager in luxury brand companies has led to a great deal of speculation about what new projects Apple could be working on that might also fit this new manager’s background and title.

The most commonly cited speculation is around the iWatch or TV product lines (with some surprised that he will not be heading Retail.)

Although reading “luxury product CEO” and concluding “new luxury products” seems logical, a little knowledge about how Apple is organised dispels this notion. And a little knowledge happens to be about all we have, as Apple’s organisation is one of its most closely guarded secrets. Even employees at Apple have little idea of how the company is organised. What we do know is summarised into this org chart:

Graph for What Apple's latest recruit brings to the table

I’ve taken the liberty of splitting Tim Cook’s direct reports into “Disruptive” and “Sustaining” functions—which I admit is a bit cheeky—but the point is to separate the product creation functions from the management and administrative functions of the organisation.

When seen in this light, the first observation is that there is no “product business” ownership. Schiller’s Marketing function includes product marketing by product line, but these are not business ownership roles (product marketing mostly deals with how products are positioned, promoted, priced, etc.)

There is no “head of devices” or “head of iPhone”. Put more plainly, there is no organisational consistency with how the company reports its financial performance.

So it would make little sense to add a new direct report to this chart that did have a specific product ownership (or creation) role. Product is a “horizontal” responsibility for which every function is partially responsible.

In lieu of this, my reading of the chart shows another function for which there seems to be no leader: brand. Brand management is a crucial function in consumer-facing companies, and many brands-oriented companies orient their organizations (and power) around brand mangers.

In years gone by I would have said that Brand management was Steve Jobs’ direct responsibility. Today I would say that it’s something that needs a direct manager. This is something for which Paul Deneve might be well suited.

Horace Dediu is founder and managing director of Asymco, a Helsinki-based app developer/industry analysis advisory firm. You can find his blog here.