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10/7/2013
10:13 AM
Chris Murphy
Chris Murphy
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From Beer To Bureaucracy, Mobile Strategy Matters

You aren't tracking your Buds with a smartphone?

While watching football on Sunday, I discovered that by visiting TrackYourBuds.com, I can learn where in the U.S. a bottle of Budweiser was made and who the brewmaster was. My life is now more complete knowing that my beer bottle can do party tricks with the help of my smartphone.

For Budweiser, the marketing message is that Bud is a local and fresh beer, the company's attempt to check the rising appeal of local, craft beers and to build a closer connection with customers.

Connection, or gimmick? Regardless of what you think, the challenge for IT leaders is this: Are we using mobile technology to build new ties with our customers? Is there data we have, and that we could expose via a mobile app, that might change how would-be buyers think of us or how loyal customers are to us?

[ There are a lot of questions to answer when you dive into mobile. Read Do You Need Mobile Middleware? ]

Not impressed by TrackYourBuds? At the InformationWeek CIO Summit last week at Interop New York, three IT leaders discussed how they're using mobile in very different industries -- healthcare, insurance and government -- in hopes of getting closer to their customers.

Getting hospital patients hooked on digital records.

Picture the typical hospital "media" setup -- an old TV on the far wall, used with a remote-control channel-clicker not seen since the days of The Rockford Files. It doesn't exactly convey the image of a technologically cutting-edge facility.

Aurelia Boyer, CIO of New York-Presbyterian Hospital, saw the opportunity to do more than upgrade patients' viewing experience. She saw a chance to get patients more familiar with their electronic medical records. So her team is running a pilot test at two of its hospitals that puts a tablet computer in every room, on which people can access entertainment but also their medical record.

New York-Presbyterian patients have for several years been able to download a copy of their record when they're discharged, but the numbers doing so haven't been as high as the hospital would like. Boyer's team hopes that if more patients see and use their digital record during their hospital stay, hospital clinicians will get those patients more involved in their care while in the hospital and they'll be better informed once they're discharged. Patients haven't been eager users of their electronic records, so the pressure is on healthcare providers to light a spark. "In healthcare, consumerization has been really late to the game," Boyer said.

Helping people save digital memories.

Insurance company MetLife introduced in August a consumer mobile app for iOS and Android called MetLife Infinity that lets people upload precious data such as official documents, photos and videos to share with only select people, either now or at some future date. One possible use is a life insurance holder who wants to release a cache of information upon his or her death. But users don't have to be MetLife customers, so people can use it for whatever ideas they dream up. The app is about changing what people expect from a financial services company.

But it's also about changing what the company expects from IT, said Gary Hoberman, MetLife senior VP and CIO of regional application development. The company's IT pros are trying to not just implement what business units ask for, but to also be in a position "where we're bringing our own ideas forward," Hoberman said.

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MetLife also shows a common theme for mobile development: It must move fast. MetLife completed the entire project in nine months. And that's on the high end of its mobile projects, since it involved complex storage and policy issues.

Mobile app for New York transportation.

The New York City Department of Transportation's first big foray into mobile development came in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, when it had to quickly craft an iPad app for employees in the field to document damage, using the tablet's camera and geolocation services.

But NYCDOT made sure the Sandy app was more than a one-off. It used that mobile development platform to launch iRideNYC, an app that layers onto a map the city's bus and subway routes, station locations and even some real-time data on train delays. And it offers locations for CitiBike (its bike-sharing program) and calculates walk times. The Web app uses a responsive, HTML5-based design that formats to the smartphone, tablet or PC screen of the user accessing it.

Most recently, NYCDOT used the platform to develop a mobile app that helps inspectors track whether restaurants have posted new bike messenger rules. Back to that speed factor: NYCDOT was able to whip up the app in three weeks.

None of these mobile efforts is an easy win. New York-Presbyterian, like all hospitals, still faces an uphill fight getting people to get more involved in their healthcare. iRideNYC is handy, but is there enough data there for locals to come back regularly, and enough marketing resources to let visitors know it's there? And while MetLife has put out an impressive app, is it too big a leap for people to make MetLife their digital archive, rather than an app vendor such as Dropbox? Infinity is brand new, having launched in late August, but it doesn't yet have any reviews in the iTunes store.

And Budweiser? Well, I tried the app and learned some things about its brewing and distribution, but I didn't (yet) go out and stock up on Buds.

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RobPreston
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RobPreston,
User Rank: Author
10/9/2013 | 8:07:40 PM
re: From Beer To Bureaucracy, Mobile Strategy Matters
Too much information. Where does it all end? How about an app that shows the location of the field where the hops for your Bud were harvested, which fertilizers were used and how much the farm hands make per hour?
WKash
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WKash,
User Rank: Author
10/8/2013 | 9:14:02 PM
re: From Beer To Bureaucracy, Mobile Strategy Matters
One thing that is encouraging on the app adoption front is how organizations like Code for America are bringing app developers into the picture. Apps are sometimes prototyped in a weekend, and fielded in 30 days. The challenge is, even the best apps tend to be useful the first few times, then the novelty wears off. Unless it becomes a part of our life, even a great app faces a short romance with most of us.
OtherJimDonahue
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OtherJimDonahue,
User Rank: Apprentice
10/8/2013 | 8:09:41 PM
re: From Beer To Bureaucracy, Mobile Strategy Matters
"I could see a standards-based approach whereby content origin and labor practices are also displayed"

OK, that I would download!
D. Henschen
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D. Henschen,
User Rank: Author
10/8/2013 | 6:56:54 PM
re: From Beer To Bureaucracy, Mobile Strategy Matters
MetLife's 360-degree customer view project called the MetLife Wall took only three months because it was internal only. Customer-facing apps that involve long-term obligations are going to take longer, but not for technical reasons.
D. Henschen
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D. Henschen,
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10/8/2013 | 6:53:58 PM
re: From Beer To Bureaucracy, Mobile Strategy Matters
Freshness is crucial where beer is concerned. I buy brands that have freshness dating and avoid those that don't. I doubt I'd download an app for this purpose, but if I could just snap a picture of a bacode or text a code to certain number, I might go to the trouble. I could see a standards-based approach whereby content origin and labor practices are also displayed. When people buy clothes, they now want to know it wasn't made in some unsafe sweat shop with substandard wages. Give me one app that cuts across product categories!
OtherJimDonahue
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OtherJimDonahue,
User Rank: Apprentice
10/8/2013 | 6:48:27 PM
re: From Beer To Bureaucracy, Mobile Strategy Matters
Can you imagine anyone using the TrackYourBuds app more than once?

Is that enough? Maybe it's like a commercial, made to be consumed in passing (or passed to a friend, who also would use it once).
Shane M. O'Neill
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Shane M. O'Neill,
User Rank: Author
10/8/2013 | 3:48:53 PM
re: From Beer To Bureaucracy, Mobile Strategy Matters
As Chris mentions in the 2nd to last paragraph, no mobile app is an easy win. Enterprises and
government agencies should (need to) to develop a mobile app quickly but I bet it's really frustrating when a good app falls on deaf ears. Strategy and foresight matter as much as development speed. A mobile app has to be a useful and unique or it doesn't stand a chance.
Greg MacSweeney
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Greg MacSweeney,
User Rank: Apprentice
10/8/2013 | 10:25:18 AM
re: From Beer To Bureaucracy, Mobile Strategy Matters
Very true. For a big enterprise, MetLife is moving fast with a 9-month time frame. While that is good for today, I have a feeling that a year from now, 9-months will seems slow. Enterprise IT shops are competing against each other, against the expectations of users (who all want things 'yesterday'), and with mobile app vendors who claim they can do everything in 1/2 the time.

I wouldn't be surprised to see MetLife turning around big mobile projects in 3-4 months if we talk to them again in late 2014. Hoberman and his team seems to get it.
Laurianne
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Laurianne,
User Rank: Author
10/7/2013 | 4:35:38 PM
re: From Beer To Bureaucracy, Mobile Strategy Matters
MetLife is demanding speed, which is the right frame of mind for mobile projects. That 9 months is considered a long project is notable. Think of how many mobile project winners a CIO could create in a 3-year tenure. This is a whole new IT ballgame, pace-wise.
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