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Mobility – thinking out loud

June 7, 2012

I’m speaking on mobility next week at the Info360 conference, and I figured I’d think out loud a bit here both to get inspired as well as to give folks a chance to let me know what’s on their minds so I can try to speak to it in my session.

With that in mind, here’s some of my emerging directions for the presentation next Wednesday.

What do you mean by mobile?

I always like to ground conversations of mobility in the distinction between the mobile approach to doing business on the one hand and specific mobile technologies on the other.

The first is a philosophy, one that has been developing for decades now, and although it relies on technologies to support it, has more to do with organizational culture issues, e.g., levels of trust, working preferences, collaboration styles, communication channels, etc.

The second are things like smart phones, tablets, VPN, the Internet, cars, telegraphs, and so on, that allow employees to get work done with each other when not co-located.

The reason why I think it’s important to keep this distinction in mind is that we often think that technology is the driver for mobility, and that newer and better technology is sufficient for making us more mobile—not true. Without the philosophical change in how we view employees, the work they do, and how they do it, no amount of technology will “make” an enterprise mobile.

The world turned upside down

There’s a lot of talk about the consumerization of the enterprise these days, and with good reason: employees have been responsible for some dramatic changes in the modern American corporation over the last few years, from the rapid adoption of social media tools and methods (aka, Enterprise 2.0), to bring your own device (BYOD) approaches to end-user computing and virtual work structures.

Particularly in terms of technology, this is a significant shift from how things have been over the last 50 years, although not an unprecedented one.

During the advent of the computer age, the government was on the forefront of technology: the development of all those bleeding edge, building-sized mainframes with vacuum tubes and punch cards was driven by government projects; it was only later that this technology trickled down to businesses and then eventually consumers.

With the advent of micro- and personal computing, the balance shifted away from governments to businesses: corporations stepped up as the entities on the vanguard, funding bleeding edge tech developments that eventually made their way into government and consumer hands.

Today, however, consumer is king. We have devices and technologies in our home that put us far ahead of what employees have even at the most sophisticated corporation. All you need is a $500 iPad, some free (or extremely inexpensive) apps, and connectivity and you’re light years ahead of where you are at work, even with the same device. And don’t even get me started on Government—most of the government entities I bump into are wrestling with mobility questions that most corporations settled years ago.

Given that, it’s no wonder that the maturity of consumer mobility is much, much higher than corporate mobility. The figure below shows the relative maturity of one aspect of mobility, mobile content management (MCM), which is the ability to deliver content (documents, pictures, data, etc.) to a mobile device.

Figure 1 – Relative Maturity of Consumer versus Enterprise Mobile Content Management

If it wasn’t hard, everyone would do it

The last concept I want to mull over here is kind of obvious, but none the less important for being obvious: enabling mobile business processes is not easy, and the more difficult the process to deliver in a mobile way the greater the reward (and, of course, risk of failure).

Take a look at the figure below, which plots out some business processes that are good candidates for mobility.

Figure 2 – Benefit, Risk, Complexity, and Cost of Typical Mobile Business Processes

As you can see, relatively generic business processes like viewing reports or documents are the easiest to make mobile, but they deliver the lowest benefit. More complex processes like administrative workflows (T&E, timesheets) or collaboration deliver more benefit, but with an increase in risk, complexity, and cost. And at the top right are those processes that are most business specific, carry the greatest risk, complexity, and cost…but therefore hold out the promise of the most benefit: customer- or partner-facing, self-service applications that shift operational work out of the organization, improve cycle time and quality, and improve overall customer experience—the holy grail of mobility.

The final word

Anyway, just some thoughts as I prepare for Info360 next week. Would love to hear what you all think out there—so jump in and get the conversation started…and let me know if you’ll be in NY next week and want to connect…would love to!

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One Comment leave one →
  1. June 12, 2012 3:43 pm

    Come by Colligo, would love to hear your thoughts around SharePoint and mobility

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