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):
- Marketing Directors and Sales Managers
- Business Managers
- IT Managers
- Project Managers and Enterprise Architects
- Security Experts
- Service Managers and HR Managers
- Developers and designers
So, what are they saying?
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!