Category Archives: Mobile-Only

25 Things Influential People Do Better Than Anyone Else

I was honored to find that I was named as part of  the Forbes article 25 Things Influential People Do Better Than Anyone Else. Check out the article and see if you agree!



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Filed under Mobile, Mobile-Only

Stop Wasting Your Time with Mobile

I hate receipts. Not just hate them, I loathe them. They are nothing more than pocket clutter—an anachronistic holdover from an analog age that I can’t wait to disappear. I can envision myriad ways that mobility can improve upon the lowly paper receipt. Electronic payment seems like the obvious answer. Simply walk up to the register, tap/scan, sign, and you are done. No fuss, no muss, and most importantly, no receipt. But, as much as I detest receipts, the current experience of electronic payment is massively underutilizing the platform’s potential. It is akin to using a tower crane to pick up a penny. Mobility must drastically alter the experience or it risks being a waste of time and resources.

I live in Seattle, home of the famed coffee juggernaut Starbucks. Here you can find a Starbucks coffee shop on every corner in downtown, and sometimes two or three. So I was pleased when I learned that Starbucks was partnering with Square Wallet to accept mobile payments. I thought my afternoon coffee experience was going to leap into the future. After the much-publicized bumps in deployment were worked out, I was disappointed to find that there wasn’t much difference in the payment experience. Instead of pulling cash or card out of my pocket I had to pull out my phone. I didn’t have to sign anything but I did have to select the location and slide to pay. Yes, it was a mobile experience, but it had not really made a difference in my life.

Simply replacing the existing process with same process done via a mobile device usually yields no benefit. Yeah, it’s slick and sexy, but it’s only managed to change which piece of plastic we pull out of our pocket. Instead of grabbing a debit card, I grab my phone. In terms of the steps, the experience is basically the same. It lacks innovation, is tied to the way it has been always done, and only puts a fresh coat of paint on an old outhouse.

Besides the fact that you are not improving the approach, you are missing an opportunity to alter the experience, to find efficiencies in the overall process that only a mobile platform could afford. I pick on this aspect of consumer tech to make a point. However, enterprises are no better off. They are making the same mistakes, or worse, in their approach to mobility. In fact, many enterprises aren’t even making it sexy, it’s just the same bad process displayed in a much smaller window. They mistakenly think they are “going mobile” by offering a mobile interface when all they’ve really done is gone small.

You can see where the enterprise would get it wrong. It is too easy a trap for an engineer or analyst collecting business requirements to just ask how the end user is currently doing such and such a task. From that point it just gets coded that way. This is how processes become entrenched. Along with that, many end users worry that efficiency and improvement mean elimination. They are concerned that their job might be cut and don’t realize they might get to work on higher-order problems.

Luckily, the current Starbucks mobile payment experience isn’t the final word. In fact, their mobile payment partner, Square, actually has further functionality that is not yet implemented at Starbucks. Square allows users to set frequented merchants for Hands-Free Checkout. This means you can walk into the store, select what you want, simply say, “Put it on John Smith,” and walk out. Your purchase is then applied to your credit card. Now that is a change in experience. I don’t have to pull anything out of my pocket, I don’t have to sign anything, I don’t have to bother with a receipt. I get what I need and am on my way in a much more efficient manner.

Enterprises should take their cue from this approach to a change in the experience and efficiency. Some enterprises get it and leverage mobility as an opportunity and excuse for a business process re-do. Others only use mobility as a facade. The trick is to stop spending time looking at how we work and start looking at what we are working on. It is easy to get stuck in the “how” rut. This narrows the field of vision to intermediate steps. It restricts our approach to the tactical. But enterprises need to think like Square and look for strategic changes that re-imagine the work experience based on the capabilities of the platform rather than the way the process currently works.

Enterprises must take the time to look at what the end objective is. The resultant change may be bigger in scope than imagined. It may involve business process, it may involve new infrastructure, it may even involve an org change. But to wholesale just swap out the current process to fit on the screen of a mobile device is a waste of resources and, most importantly, opportunity. Those that get it will soar; those that don’t will sink. You will gain very little through porting the same tired process from the PC over to mobile. Stop wasting your time with mobile. If you can’t do it right, don’t bother. You are better off with your existing processes. Like a paper receipt, at least people will know how to ignore it and toss it aside.

Benjamin Robbins is a co-founder at Palador, a mobile strategy and application consultancy located in Seattle, WA. He can be followed on Twitter @PaladorBenjamin.

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Filed under Mobile, Mobile-Only, Productivity

Adoption is Not the New ROI

Recently I have attended several conferences that have focused on mobile and consumerization. A recurring theme has come up, either onstage or in conversation, that when it comes to mobility, “adoption is the new ROI.” There is this sense that if we can just get people to use a particular app or service, it will be good for the business, and a return will just invariably follow. It is also often claimed that, in the case of mobility, measuring success or return is too difficult or not possible. Therefore, it is believed, we should focus our efforts instead on just getting people to use the technology and not concern ourselves with establishing a return. However, using adoption as the measuring stick of enterprise mobility spend and success is nothing short of fiduciary recklessness buoyed by sheer laziness.

Measuring return of a technology project isn’t just the practice dictated by the outdated IT department. It is the natural output of a well-thought-out project. It is simply the quantitative correlation to the qualitative question of why. Any technology project needs to be able to answer the question of why. Why is this a viable project for the business? What is the desired outcome? How is this going to make end users more productive? If you can answer why, it can be measured. The technology that follows consumerization cannot be used as an excuse to abandon asking why.

The sole purpose of an enterprise is to make money. Consumerization has not changed that. It has made great strides in altering how we go about supporting that purpose, but it has not, and never will, replace it. Getting people to use technology is not enough. It has to be the right technology. It has to support the overall business goals and objectives. A lot of people performing a particular action is not the same as the right people performing the right action. Technology has to advance the underlying business objective. No amount of adoption will overcome misdirection.

Using adoption as a measure of return is an indication of piss-poor planning. Projects should include your end users from the start. If you are wondering whether your users will adopt what you’ve built then you’ve already failed. There should be no question in your mind what you are building will be adopted because the decision to do so wasn’t done in a vacuum. This fact alone should make adoption a silly measure of return. If you have thought through the why, then adoption will be a no-brainer.

Also, just because the reason for return is difficult to measure doesn’t mean we should abandon it altogether or offer up a poor substitute. In the end, mobility, or any consumer tech, is technology just like any other. Enterprises have a responsibility and a right to demand an accounting of how budgets were spent and how it affects the bottom line. Your project may not have a direct impact on the bottom line, but it can’t just be technology for technology’s sake. It has to support a business process or users that do. It should make a difference and improve how users get their job done.

Measuring ROI is going to take a partnership between business units and IT. This is because the lines of business seldom have the technical expertise, analytical skills, or monitoring capabilities to measure a return on a technology project. Even adoption itself can rarely be measured by an individual business group with any more accuracy than a show of hands or gut feel of how many people are using the new solution.

As much as BYOD and the consumerization of IT have meant a new frontier for businesses, it can’t mean a mobile and technology free-for-all. In the end, consumerization is not about relinquishing all sense of technical and financial responsibly to the end users, but about partnering with those in the know to build the right solutions. The lines of business end users know what they need and IT should (hopefully) know how to support and measure it.

Consumerization shouldn’t drive organizations to fall into the average consumer’s irresponsible spending and tracking habits. Instead it should demand an ease of use of technology in the enterprise that aligns with the goals of the business. It should encourage a partnership between those with the business need and knowledge and those who have the technical competency. Both IT and the line of business should, without hesitation, be able to answer the “why.” Most importantly, when a business spends a dollar it should understand the return.


Benjamin Robbins is a co-founder at Palador, a mobile consultancy located in Seattle, WA. He can be followed on Twitter @PaladorBenjamin.



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Filed under Apps, Ecosystem, Mobile, Mobile-Only, Productivity, 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

Taking the Mobile Office with You

MobileOnlyEpisode5Benjamin Robbins is asked to put togeth a presentation on mobile strategy at very short notice. He can’t get hold of the team in time, but corners them one by one to get their insight in some pretty unusual settings, thanks to the joy of working mobile only. A film made in its entirety on mobile devices. Check it out on the Guardian!


Benjamin Robbins is a Co-Founder of Palador, a consulting firm that focuses on providing strategic guidance to enterprises in the areas of mobile strategy, policy, apps, and data. You can follow him on Twitter or connect on LinkedIn.

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Filed under Mobile, Mobile-Only

MobileOnly Episode 4 – Can you ski and video conference at the same time?

Mobile Only Episode 4 screengrabWith built in audio and video, mobile devices easily allow for on-the-fly video conferencing. But what happens when you try and use that technology to play hooky from work? Watch the latest MobileOnly video short, Mobile Hooky, on the Guardian to find out!

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Filed under Mobile, Mobile-Only

Mobile Killed the PC Star

Is there any difference between a laptop and a tablet with a keyboard? Does mobile really not mean much other than a touch screen? With the official death of the Netbook class of device it is a great opportunity to compare device capabilities and the implications ahead for the PC. Check out Mobile Killed the PC Star to see just how quickly the computing world is changing!

Benjamin Robbins is a Co-Founder of Palador, a consulting firm that focuses on providing strategic guidance to enterprises in the areas of mobile strategy, policy, apps, and data. You can follow him on Twitter or connect on LinkedIn.

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Filed under Mobile, Mobile-Only