At a Google event in April featuring several hundred CIOs and IT executives in the audience, CEO Eric Schmidt was asked if the current profusion of electronic devices and forms of communication will lead inevitably to what the questioner called "communication overkill." Here's Schmidt's answer:
"No! You're obviously not young enough anymore! Try finding an 18-year-old—watch what they do! The level of input"—(interviewer jumps in and asks if it's a matter of having an on/off switch)—"many people have searched for an 'Off' button for their teenager, trust me—it just doesn't work," said Schmidt as the audience laughed.
"One of the questions you really want to ask about this is," Schmidt continued, "at the end of the day, what is new? If you go back to what have we been building over the years, and what is really new? There is one thing that's really new, and it's that everything is 'now'. What you're really referring to is not the fact that you have so many parallel streams but the fact that they're all current, right?"
If that part of Schmidt's premise is true—that everything is now, everything is current—then how does that reality stack up against the level of priority and sense of commitment and urgency you're applying to mobile initiatives in your organization? Or with your customers?
As a full believer in the everything-is-now concept, Schmidt offered this thought on why CIOs should be deploying their best people on mobile projects:
"In other words, you should literally put your best people and your best team on a mobile app that enables a business process," Schmidt said. "And by the way, everybody has these, right, cause ultimately every company has people who are in motion, they're moving forward, they're with the customer.
"So imagine there are all sorts of sales-tracking applications—if that's where all the real action's going to be, then making sure that you know what's going on with all those mobile devices within the firm—because your employees will come in and they'll want interoperability and they'll also want safety and security too and those will be really important." (You can read more on Schmidt's perspectives on mobility in Global CIO: Google CEO Eric Schmidt's Top 10 Reasons Why Mobile Is #1.)
Or consider these comments on the astonishing changes mobile and social technologies are having in the retail sector, according to Oracle senior VP Duncan Angove, who heads the company's retail-industry business:
"Mobile and social are having a huge impact in retail. You might be argumentative and say that in a lot of industries, it's the latest cool fad—but it isn't [just a fad] in retail."
"While Enterprise 2.0 and collaboration and all of that is interesting, it's actually the pure Web 2.0 that's having the most disruptive impact. In a way, social media is just another channel, just like e-commerce and call center was. And customers are carrying this mobile infrastructure into stores every day," Angove said.
"Mobile is the fourth channel—it's the thing that's unifying online, e-commerce and social with brick and mortar, which has always been the missing link. How do you bring the e-commerce experience we have on the internet into the store with personalization, with search, with user-generated content, with ratings and reviews, with the social shopping experience—how do you make all of that richness of our online shopping experience available in brick and mortar? And mobile is the unifying channel for that because you carry it into the stores every day." (For the full piece on Angove's strategy, please check out Global CIO: Oracle's Top 10 Retail Insights A Must-Read For All CIOs.)
Or consider the bone-jarring impact first the Kindle and now the iPad have had on the venerable book-publishing industry from a column early this year called Global CIO: Apple's Steve Jobs Torpedoes Another Stale Business Model:
"It's exactly what Jobs did with (to?) the music industry: armed affluent and eager consumers with superb technology for consuming the industry's products, knowing full well that the industry itself was totally unequipped to play on the new tech-dominated field Jobs had established. And as the titans of the music business, already reeling from the kneecapping they'd received from Napster and other P2P guerillas, tried to grasp the possibility that a format beyond the CD was possible, Jobs offered them safety from the guerillas, protection from the unknown, and even a split of the revenue from the products and intellectual capital that the music kingpins themselves had held in a stranglehold for so long."
If you're in the book business, that's not a very pretty picture, is it?
And the central point of these excerpts is that mobile technologies and innovative mobile strategies are sparking massive upheaval in businesses, in business processes, in IT priorities, and in the ability of companies to imagine what their markets could be like if technological connections were seamless, simple, and valuable.
So in another piece earlier this year, we asked, Global CIO: Will The Mobile Tipping Point Bury You? Here's an excerpt:
"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 are making 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."
A final point: Apple will sell at least 30 million and maybe even 40 million iPads next year, and corporations are sucking them up as fast as Apple can make them. Is this really a revolution you think will pass you by?
Please be sure to check out additional perspectives and analysis on this mobile revolution in the following pieces:
Bob Evans is senior VP and director of
To find out more about Bob Evans, please visit his page.
For more Global CIO perspectives, check out Global CIO,
or write to Bob at [email protected].