Just a few shots from the Mastering Mobility conference in Melbourne Australia. It was a lot of fun to have the opportunity to deliver the opening keynote on mobile strategy. Big thanks to the folks at the Eventful Group for putting on such a great event!
Category Archives: Strategy
For the 2nd year in a row remotelyMOBILE has been named one of the 50 must read IT blogs by Biztech Magazine.
I am honored to share the list with such other great blogs as:
- A Screw’s Loose – Brian Katz
- Sepharim Group – Bob Egan
- Chief Mobility Officer – Visage
- Mobile Edge – Galen Gruman
- Data Center Pulse – Mark Thiele
- Rob Tiffany – Mobile Strategist
Thanks to everyone who voted! Check out the full list here.
This article was originally published on Sept 3 2011 on HP’s September issue of Discover Performance
Mobile influencer Benjamin Robbins describes how enterprises can approach mobility to improve the enterprise, revitalize IT, and, most importantly, serve the user. There isn’t an enterprise on the planet today that doesn’t recognize the value of mobility—not just to customers but also to employees. But mobile has emerged as such an important way of transacting business that some organizations get psyched out when they try to define their approach it. We spoke with Benjamin Robbins, co-founder of enterprise mobility consultancy Palador, on how enterprises should think about mobile and the role that IT leadership can play in a self-service world of cloud and automation. Perhaps surprisingly, he said that, in some ways, mobile is no big deal.
Q: How do most enterprises view mobile? How does that contrast with how they should view mobile?
Benjamin Robbins: Companies should not look at mobile as a separate, siloed piece of technology. Mobile should, at its core, support the company’s objectives. Companies don’t have a laptop strategy or a PC strategy. Mobile is no different—it’s just a technology that needs to support the business. The way to avoid that is to always ask why. Why are we doing this? How does it support whatever aspect of the business we want to support? How does it help move us forward?
Q: Why do most enterprises have a hard time seeing mobile as just another tool in the toolbox?
BR: People get excited and think of it as special because anytime, anywhere connectivity to apps and services is a different compute paradigm. When you’re at a client site, you used to say, “I can send you that file when I get back to the office.” But mobile shortens the cycle. Whenever there’s a need, the ability to execute is much shorter. That’s exciting for organizations, but they have to stick to the core mission and ensure that mobility supports those core business processes.
Q: Where are enterprises messing up mobility?
BR: They’re tripping up in a few areas. First, there’s the traditional way of doing IT that has a really PC-centric sense of things like security and network. But now you have people bringing their own devices to work, and IT doesn’t always want to make the shift to handle it. Second, employees can now be their own IT. Everybody doesn’t have to have the same app—maybe you like QuickOffice, maybe I like something else—and IT doesn’t intuitively know how to handle that. Third, the whole idea of “network” is changing. Network used to be a physically bounded thing you had to plug into. All of that is changing, and organizations are tripping up because the mentality of IT isn’t changing.
Q: That seems like an issue for IT leadership.
BR: Yes, I think enterprises need to get to a place where IT leadership understands that IT’s role is changing but it’s not being eliminated. Business units have the knowledge and budget to drive services they need. However, they lack the technical heft. IT’s role is to enable those services, guide those services, understand existing capabilities in the marketplace, and play a support role in implementation. Business units don’t normally have the expertise to manage those things long term, so they need a partnership with IT. You really need IT leaders who don’t view their primary job function as cost cutting. It’s got to be about enabling people, not saving money.
Q: How does a visionary IT leader get the CIO and CFO to agree that cutting costs, or languishing with flat budgets, is not the way to manage IT?
BR: It is very simple. It involves the right attitude combined with the right metrics. First, organizations need a CIO and CFO who understand that there is a shift taking place, where technology is first being approached as an operational expense rather than a capital expense. Businesses need to exit the business of owning technology and spend the cycles instead on figuring out how services will advance the core business. This eliminates the attitude of treating technology as just another utility to be managed, like electricity or garbage. Second, as with any technical project, the “why” must be tied to ROI. CIOs should be able to answer how any project, be it mobile or not, advances the mission of the organization, and what sort of metrics are being used to measure the success of the investment. Mobile in no way should eliminate the need for fiduciary responsibility. The CIO should have no trouble drawing a line between technical budgets and organizational need.
Q: What kind of expertise will IT bring to the table, now that the business can generally help itself to the services it needs?
BR: The BUs get really excited about something, but might not see the bigger picture. One BU might get super-excited about a service and dump a bunch of data into it, and use it for a year before realizing it’s not what they need. Then they have to get that data out and don’t know how. IT can help with that—and help prevent that from happening in the first place. Plus, you need people who can go deep into the data. Data streams are at the core of business value, so it’s imperative to have people who can manipulate and manage data beyond an Excel level of expertise.
Q: You spent a full year working only on a mobile device. What were the biggest insights you gleaned that might be helpful to enterprises working on a mobile strategy?
BR: I think that organizations, as part of their mobile policy, should advocate that it’s really important to maintain a healthy connected balance. If you say “we don’t need mobile,” you’ll fail, because competition will fly by you and you won’t know what happened. But by the same token, if you expect people to be connected 24/7, you’ll burn people out, and the organization will suffer, too. If you send someone an email, does it really matter that they get back to you in two minutes vs. two hours? The important thing about mobile isn’t making people use it all the time—it’s using it in the right instances. Here’s an example. There’s a medical device company and their sales team had to get in front of surgeons. They found that with mobile devices, they could get right in front of surgeons while they’re scrubbing up for the next surgery. You couldn’t do that with computers, but with a tablet you can do that. A mobile strategy shouldn’t be about being constantly connected; it should be about using the technology in the right way at the right time.
EA games (Electronic Arts, Inc.) recently released Plants vs. Zombies 2. Plants vs. Zombies has to be one of my favorite games to play on my mobile device. For those of you that don’t know, Plants vs Zombies is what’s known as a tower defense game. The object is to eliminate enemies as they attempt to cross a map. This is done by strategically placing artillery, mines, walls, etc. in the path of the approaching enemy. In the case of Plants vs. Zombies, instead of artillery, players place objects like pea-shooting plants to defeat zombies as they try to reach your house and eat your brains.
This follow-up to the extremely popular first version achieved over 16 million downloads in less than a week. However, there is one catch—it’s only available on iOS. For those of us on the Android platform, which by the way has almost 80% of the global mobile market share, we are out of luck. And with no Android release date in sight, non-iOS users are left in the lurch (bad zombie pun intended).
There are definitely financial reasons for this approach with consumer apps. For example, iOS users spend more money on apps and in-app purchases. Also, many organizations are allowing consumerization practices to influence business methodology and decision making. However, this single OS approach to app development should, categorically, not be followed by the enterprise.
Enterprise app development must take a very broad device approach. In the world of Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) there is no guarantee what devices employees will show up to work with. In order to achieve the most return on your mobile investment you should aim to support the most number of users. The allure of the simplicity and controlled nature of devices’ homogeneity is a limited strategic approach. The popular device of today will be replaced by the next cool device of tomorrow. This will lead to a never-ending cycle of playing catch-up that will be cost prohibitive.
Enterprises need to anticipate supporting the vast array of ever-changing devices on the market. Combine BYOD with the notion of the Internet of Things, and enterprises have even stronger justification for a diverse mobile approach. Anything short of a heterogeneous approach to mobile devices, apps, data, and management will paint your mobile strategy into a digital corner where you will be stuck waiting for the paint to dry.
When it comes to mobile app development, how can businesses overcome and address an ever-expanding ecosystem of device proliferation? There are platforms available for developers that do a decent job of bridging the gap between the different mobile operating systems. Platforms such as PhoneGap, Appcelerator, and Sencha allow developers to write the application in a single language that then compiles to a native app. There are some drawbacks to this approach. As much as we love the development process to be write once, use many times, cross-platform development tools still require some tweaking per OS. However, these platforms will get you 95% of the way there.
Your device management strategy needs to be heterogeneous as well. While Samsung and the upcoming iOS 7 release will offer device management and enterprise services, a single platform approach to managing devices is a step in the wrong direction. This convenience of built-in services that are vendor-based is greatly outweighed by the need to have an enterprise mobility management strategy that is flexible for the future. Organizations would be better served to explore one of the many mobile management solutions available to support a wide variety of devices, have app management, and ultimately provide information management.
As hardware diversity increases, organizations need to not only display data on various devices, but also collect data from an ever-increasing range of devices. This could include IT infrastructure, manufacturing equipment, and even display cases. The cost of embedding Internet connectivity is approaching negligible. With this hurdle removed, the matrix of connected devices in an organization is only going to grow. Is your organization prepared for this sort of dynamic addition of mobility? Are you thinking A to Z or just Apple and Android?
The consumerization of IT does not have to mean that the enterprise takes every aspect of the consumer approach and translates it directly into a business strategy. Enterprises that approach BYOD as BY-iOS-D will find they have a left-out and frustrated user base alongside an inferior position for the future. Like tower defense games such as Plants vs. Zombies, organizations need a broad heterogeneous strategy to anticipate and manage the onslaught of mobility. The inability to predict new devices and methods of connectivity necessitates this approach. There is and will be no single dominant mobile end point. Why play like there is?
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.
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.
If you were not able to attend the webinar this past week on Mobile Trends Through 2014 with Bzur Haun and myself don’t worry – it was recorded for your convenience! We had a great time, turn-out, and content. We even through in a crazy prediction or two.
Watch it here and let me know what you think!