Monthly Archives: June 2013

How Enterprises Can Achieve a Complete Return on Mobility

Enterprises everywhere are going all-in with mobility. They are arming their sales force with tablets, setting up enterprise app stores, enabling BYOD, and developing a mobile policy. But what does it get them? Sure it’s cool and hip, but do they know what value mobility is intended to bring? What is the real return on investment in mobility?

There are some straightforward and obvious answers depending on one’s role in the organization. The road-warrior sales force is usually the first justifiable use-case to come to mind. These men and women, who spend 85% of their time away from the office, can easily demonstrate a return on investment that the (near) ubiquitous connectivity mobile brings to such tasks as CRM, documentation, and expense reporting.

But what about the rest of us who spend much of our time in the office? If your organization’s idea of mobile value is e-mail, calendar, and contacts, it is just scratching the surface. Yes, there is a convenience factor when it comes to being able to dash off that quick e-mail while at the kid’s soccer game, but that’s just an example of doing things faster, not necessarily better. There is a much greater opportunity in store for those ready to go beyond faster, to go beyond business as usual.

Conducting business differently can be easily summed up in one word: innovation. Innovation is doing and seeing things in a whole new light. Organizations that innovate become leaders, while those that don’t will stagnate. But innovation doesn’t magically appear; it has to be fostered.

How does an organization foster mobile innovation? It first has to be cultivated and supported at the top levels. In a recent interview in Hemispheres (United Airlines, Feb. 2013 issue) Fareed Zakaria had some great insight on the topic of innovation. When asked, “When you see an innovative idea, what’s usually behind it?” he responded:

I think that at a very fundamental level it’s the interaction between human beings. That depends on openness, because open systems tend to be much more innovative. It’s no accident that the Renaissance began in the Mediterranean. I’ve always wondered what brought the Middle Ages to an end, and what you see is that trading began in the Mediterranean when Italy became the center of commerce. Trading took place in Venice and Genoa, and then you start to see it happening in Holland and England. Because seafaring cities were not as brutally suppressive of the merchant class, seaports have always been open and cosmopolitan, and hubs of innovation.

Mobility creates the opportunity to open your systems to much larger networks; to connect, collaborate, and create in ways never before accessible. Historically the enterprise network was a closed and tightly controlled system with the CIO as the ultimate gatekeeper. However, mobility represents an opportunity, for those that embrace it, to tear down the historic boundaries of the network. Do you need the best of the best on a certain project? With an innovated and open organization, that subject matter expert could just as well live in Maine as Manhattan.

Innovation has to start at the top. Specifically, CIOs need to mimic the government of seafaring cities. They should cease acting like prison wardens, setting up an impenetrable perimeter that is meant to keep everything in. Top-down control of every movement of the inmates (employees) will only lead to riot or submission, neither of which will foster innovative environments.

Rather, CIOs should function more as conductors in a symphony, keeping track of the overall picture, guiding the members along in a harmonious fashion. But the notes and expression come from the individual players. If everyone’s part of the whole is valued, they will each be driven to play as best they can with the tool that they have. Employees will discover ways to use mobile devices that you never even dreamed of.

What return you will achieve from the optimal environment isn’t always crystal clear at the start, either. Perhaps your sales team will find better, deeper client engagement opportunities. Perhaps your project management team will manage more with less. Perhaps you will figure out how to combine service offerings with another business to better serve your clients. But for any of this to come to fruition, the organization must be structured in such a way that allows for it.

Whatever return evolves from your open and connected organization, the point is that ideas can come from anyone, anywhere, anytime. Your vision isn’t limited to, and riding on, one executive or limited group of people. It has the potential to come from the level that understands the problems best. It will come from those who look at these tasks on a day-by-day basis knowing there is a better way to do things. Then and only then will you achieve the real return on mobility.

Benjamin Robbins is a co-founder at Palador, a mobile strategy and solutions consultancy located in Seattle. Follow him on Twitter @PaladorBenjamin.


Filed under Mobile, Strategy

Is Your Smartphone Making you Stupid?

If you are over the age of 30 you can probably recall the days of having to memorize phone numbers. You probably also can remember having to struggle to re-fold a paper map. You perhaps even gave directions that included something to the tune of, “1.2 miles after the big yellow sign turn left onto Jackson Road.” However those days are long gone. Mobile has obliterated entire swaths of cognitive functions. No longer burdened by such paltry mental tasks, we rely heavily on our mobile devices to handle such inconsequential details.

Mobile devices provide a level of connectedness and convenience never before experienced by the masses. Late for a meeting? With just a click of a button you can instantly let everyone know you are running 5 minutes late. Trying to find that new cool restaurant? Not only can your mobile device give you turn-by-turn directions but it also warns you not to order the Tuna Tartare.

But what does this do to our intellectual function? As we supplant memorization tasks to technology are we better or worse off because of it? Is there value to memorizing phone numbers or appointments in our calendar/diary? I would bet good money that your day would go seriously sideways if you lost your mobile device.

Storing information “off-site” from our brain has been an evolving (and derided) practice since the time Gutenberg. Our brains have limited memorization capacity. The ability to save information outside our brain is the biological equivalent to a memory upgrade. Besides allow us to remember more than humanly possible, our bodies are not immortal, so the ability capture thoughts outside of ourselves allow them to persist beyond our lifetime.

Another advantage to leveraging mobile devices and services is the unreliability of human recollection.  When it comes to memorizing large chunks of information we are good, but not great. We forget certain pieces over time.  From this perspective a pointer to the information is infinitely better than attempting to remember the information. That is – it is much easier to remember where you captured and left all the information than remembering all the information itself.

By offloading some of the brain drain of memorizing menial details, we create the space to conceptualize larger sets of data into higher order ideas. Much the same way that we can work of higher order math problems because we can use a calculator rather than memorize multiplication tables, mobile device create the opportunity to spend time thinking about bigger and more complex problems. But do we?

I have noticed major changes in my behavior in how I live, work, and travel. For example, I recently attended a conference in San Francisco. In trips past before the days of mobile proliferation I would have had looked up the schedule for the plane and train, reviewed directions to the hotel and conference, as well as review the conference schedule.

But for this trip I had registered for the event, bought the ticket, and accommodations months before and threw links to the information in a calendar/diary appointment. I didn’t review a single thing before leaving. I didn’t even look at the departure time for the very early 5AM flight until I was getting into bed and setting the alarm on my phone. When the taxi driver asked which airline I was flying I had to look at my phone. When I arrived at SFO I clicked on the link for the conference to get the address and used the GPS on my phone to orient myself.

My old self would have surely panicked in the above scenario upon realizing I had no idea where I was going. But my mobile self had no concerns what-so-ever. I nonchalantly sauntered into the convention only to realize I didn’t know the agenda either. Luckily I just clicked the link, decided which session to attend, and off I went.

If you take this experience as a model for mobile lifestyle it is easy to see that decision making and action being delayed until the last possible moment. How are using the extra mental cycles? How do we fill the space and time that the convenience of mobility brings? Are we experiencing a dramatic shift in how the human population uses its mental capacity?

What is potentially lost is time spent being able to combine ideas, concepts, and locations. This sense of delayed implementation does not allow time for ideas to “simmer” in our heads. We tend to just react more rather than think. Turn left now, go to this meeting now, and respond to this message popped up in front of you.

The hope is that by delaying this decision and action process we can collect as much information as possible to be able to make better decisions. But what does this instant answer technology say about the value of thinking over possible paths? If we rely too heavily on technology do we fully grasp concepts and ideas? Is someone or something always right there to tell us the answer? Do we lose the ability to synthesize information? What do you think, are we worse off intellectually because of smartphones?











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Filed under Future, Mobile, Mobile-Only