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Mobile is not a strategy – go adjectively mobile!

Isolating “mobile” and treating it a separate channel is a mistake I see many companies make. I don’t even believe that mobile in itself can be called a strategy. Instead you gain competitive advantage by viewing mobile as an inherent aspect of all your products and services.

You need to think about strategy from a product and service objective first.

  • What is the goal and purpose with your products and services?
  • What should they deliver and mean for your customers?

Answer those questions with the requirement that your customer should be able to consume what you offer from anywhere and while being mobile. But even if you deliver on that, you still have only taken a small step.

To be successful, you need to think of what new products and services you can offer just because they are available anywhere and through any connected objects. At this point in time you will realize that “mobile strategy” is fundamentally about injecting true mobility into product and service definitions. It then becomes a matter of business strategy.

This brings me to a term I  like: “adjectively mobile”.

“Adjectively mobile” means reclaiming the actual definition of the word mobile. “Mobile” means being movable, it’s about motion. Today many associate the word “mobile” with a mobile device. In some languages, the word “mobile” and “mobile phone” can even be interchanged (for example in Swedish). I believe this thinking is standing in the way of progress.

Truly mobile products and services goes way beyond smartphones and mobile devices. Imagine when all objects around you get connected and start to communicate with you and other objects (from wearable technology to controlling technology with your mind) . We are just about to witness an incredible transformation of society, triggered by the next step of IT. Some call it “The Internet of Things“. I call it “adjectively mobile”, bringing the meaning of the word “mobile” back from substantive (phone/device) to adjective (movable), ie products and services that are easily accessible while you are moving and  don’t necessarily require your attention or hand control.

In ten years, when we look back at 2013, we will say:

The smartphone was to IT what the telegraph and light bulb were to electricity!

Just as the telegraph and light bulb made it clear to everyone that electricity is incredibly valuable, the smartphone has made it clear to many that being connected while mobile (adjectively mobile) is very useful. The smartphone made online services ubiquitous and mass market, and has many expect 24/7 availability of personalized products and services.

Today we don’t think much about all the uses of electricity around us, but it’s obviously everywhere and delivers value to us without us having to interact with it directly. This is where mobile solutions are heading also: adjectively mobile and ubiquitous.

So, in conclusion, “mobile” is not a strategy in itself. You need to figure out what your products and services need to deliver and mean to your mobile customers, make your connected offer adjectively mobile. When you deliver on that, you’re on top!

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My secret sauce (staying on top)

Working with clients in many different sectors and geographies can be challenging. Keeping up with trends and what my clients’ competitors are up to is critical in being a consultant. These are my main tools in staying on top of what’s going on:

  • Twitter – With very few exceptions, I follow only accounts relevant to IT, tech enabled business and mobile solutions. I read all tweets, at least by browsing through all of them. I have found that it’s impossible to keep up with all tweets if I follow many more than 100, so that is my limit. (Yes, I know about lists, but I don’t believe in following anyone if I’m not reading the tweets anyway). If anything of any major magnitude has happened, chances are that more than one will tweet about it. I always follow at least one link in “major magnitude”-tweets to read up on the details behind the 140 characters. Among my favorite Twitter sources are: @ComputerSweden, @Engadget, @WaltMossberg, @HarvardBiz, @Slashdot, @GlobalMoxie, @MaryJoFoley, and @LukeW.
  • Forrester Research – I have a personal Forrester account. Forrester’s analysts publish at least three reports, relevant to my clients, every month. Just recently, I read excellent new Forrester-reports on Mobile Insurance and Mobile Banking, for example.
  • Magazines – I try and pick up every issue of Wired and Fast Company. I used to follow them on Twitter, but their fire hose behavior on Twitter cluttered up my entire feed too often. Plus I like reading magazines. I read the occasional Harvard Business Review, but they
  • App Store – Now, here is my secret sauce. I download (almost) all relevant apps in every sector, especially the apps from the competitors of my clients. I put them in folders with the names: “Banking”, “Insurance”, “Travel”, and so on. I don’t necessarily use the apps, but since I get notified every time there is an update, I can easily keep track of everything that actually goes on in the App Store. I read every update description and often share them with customers in order to keep them advised, too. See below! Right now there are four updates from competitors to my clients! Let’s give them a call!

App Store

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Meetings on Mobility – Part 1

The past two years, I have met literally hundreds of mobility clients, some of the largest companies in the world. As an advisor and consultant, I’ve met the CIOs, CEOs, marketing directors, IT-managers… almost everyone, including the janitor. (I sometimes shoot a photo of the meeting room, just to remember and add to my notes. See some of my meeting photos here…)

I want to share some of my client interaction experiences in a three part blog post series:

Who shows up at the meetings? What are they saying? What are the key topics? What’s a good meeting, and what’s a bad…

Background: The pre-iPhone era

In the pre-iPhone era, mobility was primarily a concern of the IT-department and Field Service-department.
The meetings were internally focused: internal service order processes and internal device standardization (Windows Mobile, anyone?). No one had heard of apps, few tried to reach their mobile customers, few tried to generate revenue using mobility, even fewer tried using mobility for branding purposes. The meetings were very hands on and the highest ranking officer was most often the operational IT-manager or supervisor. The client’s system administrator called the shots, possibly together with a service manager. Project budgets were inherently small.

Background: The post-iPhone era

There is a definite change in the characteristics of mobility related meetings after the launch of the iPhone and the advent of app phones. Hundreds of thousands of apps. Billion downloads. Web sites are hit more by phones than PCs. Customers are looking to interact and transact using their phones, through apps and responsive webs.
All of a sudden mobility is no longer a low priority IT or service order problem. Instead, mobility quickly became a key channel for branding client interaction, and revenue generation.
Mobility moved into the board room.

Roles in the meeting

The mobility meetings and projects now engage every part of the company.
My experience is that as soon a mobility meeting is scheduled and meeting invites are sent out, more people from the client shows up than were actually called. Everyone wants to take part, express their ideas, take ownership or just simply learn.

The roles that typically participate in mobility related meetings are (in order of frequency):

  • CIOs
  • Marketing Directors and Sales Managers
  • Business Managers
  • IT Managers
  • Project Managers and Enterprise Architects
  • CEOs
  • Security Experts
  • Service Managers and HR Managers
  • Developers and designers

So, what are they saying?

The CIO

The CIO’s approach in the meeting is often either proactive or reactive.
The proactive CIO says:

I need to get my company to realize the potential of mobility, both internal and external opportunities. I also need to get my IT staff on board and trained to meet the new market demands such as responsive web, cross platform apps, security and system integration.

The reactive CIO says

I don’t know how to manage the demands from the company’s sales, marketing, business teams. They come up with new ideas all over the place, and I can’t keep up. Security is an issue and it worries me so much that I try to slow down the process.

As an consultant, it’s important advise the CIO to engage with the rest of the organization in a facilitative way. Many companies regard their CIO office as an inherent facilitator of business vs IT, and whether it is the case or not: The majority of CIOs really want (and need) to play that role related to mobile solutions.
I advise the CIO to make sure there is an architecture in place for system integration between external webs and apps, and the supporting back office systems. It’s important to focus on building and maintaining a service oriented architecture, with as much reusable components as possible, and to put a “mobile service” in front of the back office systems to make sure scalability, security and data format transformations don’t affect the core systems.

The Marketing Director

The marketing department quickly saw the app as a branding and marketing vehicle. Internet agencies woke up and their default answer to the question: “How can we strengthen our brand?”, went from “Facebook!” to “Apps and Facebook!”.
The Marketing Director says any number of the below options:

  • “We need to get our brand out there. Just create any type of app, get it out quickly, and we’ll have a press release and campaign ready!”
  • “I want our site to look OK on my iPhone.”
  • “We need a corporate app with feeds from our existing web site, news and Facebook-posts.”
  • “Can we get an event app before the event next month?”
  • “It’s a mess. We already have four company accounts on the Apple App Store and everyone in the company seem to think it’s ok to just publish whatever app under our name.”

I first and foremost advise the Marketing Director to start use mobility as a two way street. It’s not just about getting the brand out, it’s about interacting with your customers. Use apps and mobile webs to interact in a way that focuses on a rich contextual user experience. That means integrating the device’s characteristics (location, camera, screen, touch, etc) into pretty looking interaction features. Nothing builds your brand better than that.

I also advise the Marketing Director to expand the scope of the marketing strategy to include mobility and to expand the scope of existing branding guidelines. Add whatever needed to enable the rest of the company to the right thing with regards to user experience, user interface, colors, fonts, and so on. It’s easier to assist everyone else in doing the right thing first, than to run around correcting everyone else’s mistakes. Participate in the mobility catalyst team, and if there is no such team, create it and invite people from the business, sales and IT. Use apps and mobile webs for both short lived marketing campaigns and long term client relationship initiatives.

And don’t break the user experience in any of the apps you create, by trying to short cut the projects in just wrapping desktop web pages. Your customers will throw out your app and won’t use your mobile webs, if they don’t look great.

Meetings on Mobility – Part 2

In part 2 of this series, I will discuss the CEO and Business Manager! Stay tuned!

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2012 in review (yes, already)

Fast forward one year. We’re just in 2013. The following are the highlights of 2012:

  • the app was established as a business critical channel for client interaction
  • business apps were used primarily for transactions, selling products and services, and strengthening brand
  • from company internal perspectives, social collaboration and business intelligence initiatives leveraged the new channel established by app phones and tablets
  • in the second half of 2012, HTML5 became a mainstream option in app projects enabling not only a higher rate of reuse between app phone platforms but also new responsive and adaptive web implementations
  • Microsoft, IBM and Adobe are now at the forefront in cross platform HTML5 developer tools, closing the opportunities for niche vendors
  • new iPhone and iPad models were released and kept Apple’s market share on steady levels in competition primarily with Android, although the Apple app market and ecosystem proved to still be stronger and vibrant than its competitors’
  • Android became the largest app phone platform, but its tablet siblings continued to struggle below ten percent of the market
  • Windows Phone established itself as a strong third platform and managed to grab twenty percent of Q4 sales
  • Microsoft made a strong come back with a bold new Windows 8, that will have components spaning across server, desktop, the new Xbox and the coming Windows Phone
  • NFC (Near Field Communication) continued to be mostly a hype, since it takes time to change methods of payments given the vast hardware infrastructure investments required across all channels

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Friday quiz: What company reinvented what in the last three years?

There’s been a lot of reinventing (and inventing) going on the last three years. Can you figure out who did what?

  • What company reinvented the telecom industry by providing handset makers an open platform, leading to the retirement of countless proprietary platforms and leading to less fragmentation?
  • What company invented a new form factor?
  • What company is in the process of reinventing itself by killing its own platform and partnering with its long time foe?
  • What company reinvented itself by killing its own platform and rewriting a new from scratch?
  • What company reinvented the telecom industry by showing how the carrier is just a bit pipe?
  • What company reinvented user experience through radically improving graphical user interface and the introduction of multi touch?
  • What company reinvented software distribution through a global app store that supports micro payments?
  • What current major mobile market company has yet to reinvent anything?

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