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Don't Be Late For The Mobile Revolution

Mobility has produced some of the most sweeping changes ever in how we work, live, and play.

Eric Openshaw
Eric Openshaw
A commuter glances at her smartphone to see when the next bus will actually arrive. A shopper receives a relevant coupon right at the point of sale. A patient checks in with his doctor in the weeks after surgery. A driver feeds a parking meter with the swipe of a phone.

We're talking about the Mobile Revolution, of course, and these are just a few common examples of how it's transforming behavior and business.

Fake train tickets? That's yesterday's news. Now Amtrak conductors carry devices to scan and verify tickets. Passengers download a mobile app to buy tickets and join a mobile-managed loyalty program. Amtrak now knows its passengers' itineraries and passenger loads in real time. It has even gamified train travel, offering passengers digital "passport" stamps for towns they visit and incenting them to explore new destinations.

[ For more insight on today's changing IT environment, see 4 Ways IT's Role Changing Faster Than Expected. ]

To better manage its truck fleets, Eaton uses embedded devices and mobile apps that maximize real-time routing and save fuel while reducing drivers' paperwork. And Eaton has released a mobile catalog of nearly 140,000 electrical products for its customers and sales personnel, driving efficiencies and new customer experiences.

The enterprise movement to mobile will continue to be iterative and experimental, but no less substantial. Corporate mobile initiatives usually have much shorter timeframes than conventional IT projects, and they require new skill sets. Graphic designers, mobile engineers, industry specialists, and legacy technology teams are scrambling to understand each other as they work together. User and use-case-centric collaboration, speed, and focus on usability are vital.

Bill Briggs
Bill Briggs
History will show that mobility instigated some of the most sweeping changes in how we work, live, and play. Whether we're comparing products or collaborating with far-flung remote workers, we increasingly depend on the easiest, most efficient, and most pleasurable mobile options we can find. Accordingly, every organization must craft a mobile strategy that's better than their competitors'.

As you craft your organization's mobile strategy, consider these three stages of complexity:

1. Commodity. Start with simple services for workers, such as email and calendaring, as well as customer-facing mobile-enhanced websites.

2. Core. Evolve into putting a mobile veneer on existing functions. View possible participants as an untethered user base rather than trying to push the legacy world to mobile devices. Applications envisioned for a world of desktop computers, where users point, click, and type must be re-imagined for the mobile world of touch, swipe, and talk.

3. Innovation. Experiment with specialized mobile capacity that makes your company stand out in its existing markets or drives entry into new markets. In other words, move beyond doing the same things differently to doing different things.

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Consider these three factors in forging your mobile strategy

1. Ubiquity. Mobile devices are everywhere. Re-imagine how your company can empower customers, employees, and partners where business actually occurs. Amtrak's conductors now have access to real-time data and customer histories--standing in the aisles of trains moving at a hundred miles an hour.

2. Immediacy. Mobile deconstructs the concept of "office hours" by erasing physical limitations to where and when business can be conducted. Leading-edge companies are moving to impulse computing. Insurance companies empower agents to generate quotes at a client's kitchen table. Retailers offer "social savings" to customers as they're walking a competitor's aisles. Companies of all stripes give sales reps the ability to access a customer's service history as they enter a meeting.

3. Context. From social hooks to location-based services, mobility is all about context. It links the physical world with your enterprise technology and information assets. Mobile can also be the Trojan horse for cloud, analytics, and social networking initiatives.

So as you plan the first or next stage of your company's mobile usage, learn from these four trends:

1. Elegant, easy-to-use design is now a must. We are past the early, sometimes clunky, stage of mobility experience. People and organizations have higher expectations and more choices, raising the bar for design-led mobile execution.

2. Company-wide performance improvements are now possible. Out of companies' early experiments in providing mobile services have emerged more complex, value-chain innovation and integration. These changes call for greater security, integration, and cross-functional management.

3. Deep integration of IT and mobile will continue to get more complex and valuable to the core business. The exciting news for some companies is that "mobile first" is becoming a reality. Your company may have a native mobile platform of choice, with mobile-enhanced Web, or it may adopt a hybrid approach. With the evolution of cross-platform, multi-environment application suites, "develop once, deploy many" approaches to mobile are worth exploring.

4. The C-suite must become involved in your company's mobile journey. As mobility reaches critical mass, top management teams must participate in crafting your company's mobile strategy. They must understand their options. They must take the lead in navigating the company through a convergence (or controlled collision) of mobile with cloud, social, and analytics in order to improve the company's operating and business models.

Top management must decide on the best times to shift enterprise mobile capabilities from "good to have" to "must have." That's the challenge and the opportunity. Experiment sooner rather than later. We'd rather see our glass as always half full of opportunity--and we hope you feel the same way.

Eric Openshaw is vice chairman and U.S. technology, media & telecommunications leader for Deloitte LLP. Bill Briggs is a director and deputy CTO for Deloitte Consulting LLP.

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