Analytics, Strategy, and Agriculture

Month: December 2011

What is Mobile? A Definition for Today’s Business World

When meeting with executives in Fortune 500 companies, I’m always presented with the question “I know you’re here to talk about Mobile, but what exactly does that mean?”.

Here is the answer I most often give, to help clarify how you can define “Mobile” as well as the world it fits within.

Production – This is the ability to create new content, publish papers or Power points, and build new digital media for others to consume. Traditional production devices are screens, mice, and keyboards all working with components like hard drives and processors, assembled in both desktop & laptop form. Can you turn an iPad into a production device? Sure, add a keyboard and turn your iPad into a screen – though you have the ability to produce content on tablets, without a physical keyboard, that’s not what it’s ideally built for, which is…..

Consumption – This the ability to view content, movies, power points, etc which is what Tablets were primarily designed to do. Can you write e-mails on it? Sure you can, but it’s typically not a doctoral thesis. Tablets, and devices with just a screen are primarily geared around viewing – reading – watching. What, then, is a mobile device for?

Interaction – This is the ability to interact with content, people, data, etc and is done best on a small pocket-sized device you carry around with you. Blackberry made e-mail an interactive medium, and enhanced it with blackberry messenger, Apple followed with iMessage, and text messaging even before that – and to this day – remains the #1 way in which people worldwide interact with each other without talking. Outside of communication though, we are starting to see people interacting in new ways – mobile payments, RFID, accelerometer-enabled data transactions for information like contact information. Yet, this world is not nearly as well explored as production and consumption, so where does the future belong to? Smart homes give us a small preview into this world, where you use your phone to interact with everything around you – but where do businesses take this? We’re already seeing an example of this at Starbucks, where people are paying with their phones and interacting with the cash register using a bar code generated through Starbuck’s loyalty card program. This I think, is just the beginning, with close to 10% of the world now using smartphones ( we will see companies using these personality-rich devices driving more of the end user experience, and using the data to get smarter on how consumers think.

Though technology will continue to evolve, and devices continue to proliferate – we will see production, consumption, and interaction becoming more advanced (and complimentary) with new interaction methods, like Siri, driving the experience to become more seamless and mature as technology becomes less of an aid and more of a companion. What’s to come is anyone’s guess, but it’s evident that technology is going to continue to surprise – and hopefully enhance – the way we look at mobile.

Building a Strategy that Sticks

What I’ve found more often then not, is that mobile strategy is more about how companies adopt to change and adapt their existing business to something disruptive, then it is about devices or the software running on them.

If a company is seen as innovative, up front, and dynamic then the corporate culture seems more hospitable towards disruption and works to incorporate whatever does the job most effectively as quickly as possible. When a company, in the eyes of the employees, is seen as being “traditional” or slow to pick up change, adopting something like mobile devices becomes more of an issue of buy-off and stakeholder agreement than it is about the technical hurdles to bring the devices into the company.

If strategy is anything, it’s a plan to move in a new direction successfully. Whether you’re talking about merging two disparate companies, or adopting mobile devices, strategy itself is an engine for change and crafting a plan on how to tackle it. Yet, companies can often be their biggest enemies when it comes to executing on a strategy, and successfully adopting whatever goals or principles are being aimed for.

The key I’ve seen in making the strategy engagements I’ve worked with stick is focusing on user adoption and stakeholder involvement, more than it is war rooms with sticky notes and high priced memorandums distributed throughout the entire company. Until a company can effectively traverse the opinions and politics of an organization, understand the triggers towards aligning employees under a unified direction for everyone’s benefit, and clearly outline that strategy is never a silver bullet but rather a target everyone should be shooting for, then even the largest most advanced strategy engagements are doomed to fall short of their target.

A strategy built on quick hits, focused on effective collaboration, with iterative steps is much more effective than a 150-page dissertation outlining massive lists of opportunities. Not to mention, something far more useful for companies, and something we’ve seen work time and time again. By empowering teams, focusing on collaboration, with goals aimed around incentives employees care about, and more importantly helping them feel like it’s something they’ll see the benefits from, then you’re setting up a strategy that is sure to gain traction and help lead to more effective strategy initiatives.

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