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3/22/2010
07:47 AM
Bob Evans
Bob Evans
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Global CIO: Will The Mobile Tipping Point Bury You?

Smartphones and mobile apps are radically changing how business is done. Is your mobile strategy a company-saver or career-killer?

Is it conceivable that your enterprise mobility strategy is somewhere between mediocre and lousy—in spite of your best intentions?

Is it possible that your competitors' sales and product-development teams and engineers and marketers are thrashing your colleagues partly by using powerful new mobile tools and applications to exceed customer expectations, turn collaboration from theory into reality, and lower IT expenses?

If you and your CEO went out and visited several of your biggest customers, and your CEO asked each customer if your company's mobile capabilities make it easier to do business with you, would that automatically trigger a mental review of your severance package?

If you can answer "no" to all of those questions, I'd recommend you drop this column right here and congratulate yourself on a job well done. But if your answer's yes—or even maybe—you might want to keep reading. Because even if much of the mobile action today is taking place on the consumer side, a number of factors indicate that forward-looking enterprises have much to gain by getting out in front of the mobile revolution.

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Let me offer a couple of quick excerpts from a recent seekingalpha.com blog post called "The Smartest Parts of the IT Market" and then I'll share a few other relevant and, I think, valuable indicators of this mobile surge:

"In the notebook segment, the contrast between business and consumer is even more striking: A decade ago consumers represented 32% of total sales; by last year this had risen to 56%," writes fund manager Keith Woolcock. "Mobility and consumers are what drives the IT market. This trend is accelerating as smartphone shipments overtake computer hardware sales over the next two to three years."

Woolcock also offered this high-level perspective on the rapidly shifting fortunes of the PC business: "When speaking in January, Paul Otellini, Intel's chief, answered a question about a likely pick-up in enterprise spending by stating that growth would continue to be dominated by emerging markets and consumers."

Woolcock is speaking as a stock-picker, and his point is that enterprise IT isn't where the action is any more—instead, the vibrancy is in the consumer space and in mobile devices and services.

But set aside that context of investment analysis and look ahead a couple of years to think about what type of online-access devices will be used by the people you hope are buying what your company is selling: through what type of IT device will they interact with the world, view the world, engage with the world, and do business with the world?

If they want to check out some of your products by visiting your company's website, will they be delighted with their experience, or will they immediately hop over to a competitor because your site's not optimized for mobile devices?

If they ask your salespeople to send to their mobile device some proposals or a Powerpoint presentation or any type of data-intensive files, are your company's capabilities up for that or will it be the equivalent of trying to send stone tablets through the ether?

The questions go on—and even if they're painful, they've got to be considered. And while a year ago you might have just rolled your eyes at them, you surely cannot afford to do so now: how well are your IT architecture and infrastructure equipped to handle mobile video, mobile social media, mobile enterprise apps, mobile commerce, and mobile security?

Think about it: SAP says it wants to crank up the number of users it has in the next few users to one billion. I would bet lots and lots of those new users will be accessing corporate databases and applications via mobile devices, and lots of them will be customers of yours—will you and your colleagues be able to keep up?

And Hewlett-Packard CEO Mark Hurd said at the company shareholders' meeting last week that HP is developing a comprehensive set of mobile-IT services to take advantage of the emerging dominance of the sub-netbook devices (you can read all about it at Global CIO: Hewlett-Packard CEO Hurd Shifts Strategy Toward Services):

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