Strategic CIO // IT Strategy
Commentary
6/11/2014
10:45 AM
50%
50%

Mobile Business Without The Apps

SAP technology helps Brazilian job site contact workers where they are -- on cellphones, but without apps.

Jacob Rosenbloom approached Brazil's labor market as an investor. He saw, he said last week in a media conference at SAP's SapphireNow conference, a labor market of 102 million people, of whom only about 15 million have any education beyond high school. How could a company build a labor market to serve a laborer who doesn't know what a resumé is and has never used a personal computer? According to Rosenbloom, CEO and co-founder of Emprego Ligado, the largest blue-collar employment site in Brazil, his firm did it by building a company that was mobile from the ground up.

SAP, which announced general availability of the SAP Mobile Platform 3.0 on May 22, provides the backend application that allows Emprego Ligado to take information from cellphones and turn it into records that potential employers can use. The process is complicated by the fact that the workers in Emprego Ligado's target labor pool tend not to have smartphones, so an app isn't a good option. The company turns, instead, to standard SMS messaging to build a profile of each worker and communicate with them concerning job opportunities.

The lack of an app doesn't mean that Emprego Ligado has the luxury of ignoring user interface design. "Customers are so used to being spoiled by beautiful UX that we need to understand the wants and needs of everyone who's going to touch our app. The way the customer interacts with our system is through SMS -- they think they're talking to their mother or a friend. We had to look carefully at the language we use to maintain the relationship," said Rosenbloom.

[Learn more about SAP. See SAP Chairman Hasso Plattner: Exclusive Q&A.]

Careful use of the SMS interface coupled with backend analytics allows Emprego Ligado to match job seekers to jobs based on one of the most important indicators of a successful match: physical proximity to work. "We found that the defining factor in someone's success in interviewing was how close they are to where they'll be working," Rosenbloom said. He explained that this is an issue for both the workers and the companies that are Emprego Ligado's customers. "When turnover is too high, it's a problem for everyone."

Rick Costanzo, executive VP and general manager of global mobility solutions at SAP, pointed out at the media conference that mobile is the most prevalent technology in emerging markets. Rosenbloom agreed, saying, "We looked at the tools available to consumers in the emerging markets: They don't pay to have a professional network profile created, and they don't use mobile professional tools, but they do have mobile devices in their hands."

Rosenbloom's observations are in line with the results of the Pew Research Global Attitudes Project survey on mobile device use. According to the survey, 80% of Brazilians own a cellphone, with only 15% of those qualifying as smartphones. The cellphone ownership numbers compare with 49% of Brazilians who say that they either own a smartphone or occasionally use the Internet in another way. Since smartphone ownership and Internet use are each highly correlated with education, it's obvious that simple cellphone text messaging is the dominant technology for reaching blue-collar workers -- and is likely to remain so for some time to come.

Costanzo says that, while he has no question about the power and impact of the SAP Mobile Platform, there is one aspect of the product line that has a less rosy future: the product description. "Mobility is an archaic term because everything is mobile now," he said.

IBM, Microsoft, Oracle, and SAP are fighting to become your in-memory technology provider. Do you really need the speed? Get the digital In-Memory Databases issue of InformationWeek today.

Curtis Franklin Jr. has been writing about technologies and products in computing and networking since the early 1980s. He contributes to a number of technology-industry publications including Information Week , ChannelWeb , Network ... View Full Bio
Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Oldest First  |  Newest First  |  Threaded View
Page 1 / 6   >   >>
D. Henschen
50%
50%
D. Henschen,
User Rank: Author
6/11/2014 | 1:19:30 PM
It doesn't have to be Brazil
Salesforce.com customer Stanley Black & Decker did a mobile app using SMS right here in the USA. The company's MAC Tools truck drivers, who go from shop to shop delivering tools, wanted something fast and simple to verify deliveries and orders, and not all of them had smart phones. SMS is stupid simple, relaible, and cheap. Those are attributes more businesses should consider before investing a bundle in expensive, hard-to-maintain native apps or even Web apps.
zerox203
50%
50%
zerox203,
User Rank: Ninja
6/12/2014 | 1:04:27 PM
Re: Mobile Business Without The Apps
Seconded on Rich and Mr. Henschens's points both (which really aren't so different, when you think about it). You hear it repeated in meeting rooms across the globe - the key is to understand your target audience, and market something they want to them in the way that they want. A lot of companies give what you've referred to in the past as 'lip service' to that idea, Curt, without really doing it. This is a great example of it being done right. Think about all the money that would have been wasted with a smartphone app!

The Black & Decker example brings up another great case. It doesn't have to be simply that you're reaching for a lower level of customer for you to choose a simpler solution. If you have a variety of customers, the simple solution may still be the best. The question is whether it will save you time, money, and effort, while still maximizing success (although, hitting your lowest common denominator is part of that). In the end, nothing else really matters, does it? Nobody's going to look at your flashy accelerated graphics when your department's in the red, are they?
David Wagner
50%
50%
David Wagner,
User Rank: Strategist
6/12/2014 | 1:22:04 PM
Re: Brilliant
This is certianly quite clever. I guess I only have one question-- if everyone in Brazil had smart phones would they have selected a different strategy, because appless to me sounds good under any circumstances.
Susan_Nunziata
50%
50%
Susan_Nunziata,
User Rank: Strategist
6/12/2014 | 1:23:58 PM
Everything is mobile now
Costanzo nails it with this closing comment:  "Mobility is an archaic term because everything is mobile now."

Right on, and this project is an excellent example of how smart use of technology can not only serve business needs but actually change people's livees for the better by opening them up to employment oppoortunities.

@Curt (+ rest of community): Do you see opportunities for applying a similar approach to other markets (I'm thinking of Detroit for starters). If so, what would be the key differences between doing this in a US market versus the market served here?
Curt Franklin
50%
50%
Curt Franklin,
User Rank: Strategist
6/12/2014 | 2:41:23 PM
Re: It doesn't have to be Brazil
@Doug, "KISS" is one of those design principles that too many app designers jettison when they become lead on a project. One of the things that impressed me was that they haven't forgotten about user interface: It's still quite critical to their success, it's just expressed in a much simpler way than most of us think about.
Curt Franklin
50%
50%
Curt Franklin,
User Rank: Strategist
6/12/2014 | 2:42:23 PM
Re: Brilliant
@Rich, it's amazing the kind of things you can do if you take the time to learn about your audience, isn't it? I might be thinking about things too simply, but it seems to me that there might just be a lesson in the way they're doing things.
Curt Franklin
50%
50%
Curt Franklin,
User Rank: Strategist
6/12/2014 | 4:11:25 PM
Re: Mobile Business Without The Apps
@zerox203, I think that the idea is wrapped up in a design principle I learned early in my software dev career: Make things as simple as possible, and no simpler. There are still too many designers who equate simplicity with a lack of sophistication: I think they're quite mistaken in that belief.
Curt Franklin
50%
50%
Curt Franklin,
User Rank: Strategist
6/13/2014 | 8:15:31 AM
Re: Brilliant
@Dave, if everyone in Brazil had a smartphone I'm guessing that they would have made a different choice -- though if everyone in Brazil had a smartphone it would be a much different country. The Pew research showed an amazingly high correlation between smarphone use and higher levels of education: Those who stopped their education earlier skew heavily toward feature phone use.

There are all sorts of other implications for that correlation, but I think the real takeaway is that the company took the time to learn about their target market and used the right technology to reach them. That's a solid lesson for just about any enterprise.
Curt Franklin
50%
50%
Curt Franklin,
User Rank: Strategist
6/13/2014 | 8:22:57 AM
Re: Everything is mobile now
@Susan, I think the principle of finding the right technology would certainly work, but the US market is much different than Brazil's when it comes to cell phones. According to Gartner (and others), smartphone sales passed feature phone sales in the US a couple of years ago. Now, we're still much less likely to perform certain tasks (like banking) on our phones than people in some developing countries (notably India and most African nations), but as a population we've embraced smart phones in a big way.

The key here is figuring out how to provide a great user experience for people of many different education and cultural backgrounds. If you can crack that particular nut then you have a shot at real success.
Curt Franklin
50%
50%
Curt Franklin,
User Rank: Strategist
6/13/2014 | 8:24:09 AM
Re: What is the IW Pick Badge?
@Rich, I have no idea who hands out those badges -- I'll put that on my list of questions to ask as we get used to the new digs over here. As for putting it on our resume, I'd say "absolutely." It looks very impressive!
Page 1 / 6   >   >>
Register for InformationWeek Newsletters
White Papers
Current Issue
InformationWeek Tech Digest, Dec. 9, 2014
Apps will make or break the tablet as a work device, but don't shortchange critical factors related to hardware, security, peripherals, and integration.
Video
Slideshows
Twitter Feed
InformationWeek Radio
Archived InformationWeek Radio
Join us for a roundup of the top stories on InformationWeek.com for the week of December 14, 2014. Be here for the show and for the incredible Friday Afternoon Conversation that runs beside the program.
Sponsored Live Streaming Video
Everything You've Been Told About Mobility Is Wrong
Attend this video symposium with Sean Wisdom, Global Director of Mobility Solutions, and learn about how you can harness powerful new products to mobilize your business potential.