We talk a lot about how to mobilize our workforce, but the disturbing truth is that we as enterprise leaders hold on to our desktop behaviors—and beliefs—way too much.
Getting beyond the “desktop first, mobile sometimes” mindset
Around 2000, I first wrote about the need for delivering the “right-time experience” to mobile devices. Back then, mobile devices sported underpowered processors, graphically inept screens, proprietary operating systems with few if any application programming interfaces (APIs) and little or no user-accessible onboard storage. Carrier wireless networks were slow. GPS was a road to nowhere. Wi-Fi access was anemic, insecure and slow. Bluetooth was an enigma.
As I look back on those days now, I think the concept of the right-time experience was and remains as much about how to save the desktop experience as it is about how to extend or create a useable—and valuable—experience using a mobile device. By necessity, we lived in a desktop first, mobile sometimes world
Fast forward to 2015.
Mobile devices sport blistering fast quad microprocessors and graphic engines. Rich high-definition screens, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and GPS are standard. Biometric and other sensor types are well on their way to ubiquity. Mobile operating system (OS) architectures and user experience designs, once the orphaned stepchildren of a desktop OS, are now the most influencing factors in modern OS design. Just think about how the concepts and architecture of iOS and Windows Phone are driving complete redesigns and features in OS X and Windows 10.
Mobile first means desktop last, if ever
As consumers, our time on the Internet using mobile applications and the web passed the time we spend on the Internet by way of a desktop a year ago. Yet, in the enterprise, the workforce holds on to desktop behaviors. Even though employees are unabashedly devoted to their mobile devices, companies have spent billions doing little more than investing in device defense management solutions to mobilize email.
As remarkable as it sounds, only 20 percent of enterprises have built or bought customized mobile workforce applications. If we look beyond the energy and utility sector, we see three or fewer mobile work apps beyond the usual email, calendar and contacts management. Contrast that with the hundreds of work apps typically seeded on desktops, and you’ll begin to understand the magnitude of the business imperative.
How to effectively mobilize your workforce
The following are my six imperatives for mobilizing your workforce successfully:
- Understand that mobility is key to your business. The workplace has evolved, so stop framing solutions around yesterday’s technology. Instead, work to truly know your users, their tools and their practices. Consider real business and human outcomes.
- Evolve your definition of brand experience. Today’s brand experience is complex, involving multiple customer touchpoints, from visiting a website for the first time to downloading a trial, and all the way through support and renewals. But it’s time to acknowledge that brand experience is not just about the buyer or the user. Brand experience involves employees and partners too. Invest to make the experiences of your employees and partners as good as the one you deliver to customers.
- The IT marketplace is competitive—and getting more so all the time. If a user doesn’t like a particular system or application that’s available at work, it’s likely that he or she can download a different tool off the web or from a mobile app store. That’s why you need to deliver solutions that people actually want to use; if you don’t, users will continue to go around you to find the solutions they prefer.
- Mobile isn’t just the new desktop. Mobile mandates the need to give support and secure a heterogeneous structure throughout all layers of your application, information and architectural model. Worry less about gadgets and more about data fluidity, functional agility and the user experience. Consider that these items are a long overdue paradigm shift irrespective of mobile in the way CIOs and their IT organizations should think.
- Design “mobile first” as your new security model. Designing for mobile first can help make your enterprise more secure. The concept of mobile first is about building a better user experience, but it is also about building more agility into the deployment and use of solutions, as well as providing support and ensuring that data remain secure outside the sterility of “traditional” IT models. Building for mobility promotes a greater focus on protecting data in motion and at rest, irrespective of the server, endpoint device(s) type or location, or network.
- Embrace change: mobile means build for change, not to last. The one sure thing that CIOs can count on about mobility is change. In terms of a human evolution analogy, we’re just at the point where we’ve discovered how to make a fire out of twigs and sticks. It’s impossible to know how technology will evolve in the next five years. Consider that admission a strength, not a weakness. Don’t let mobile feel like a cold, rock-filled, fast-moving Alaskan river’s edge where you stand waiting for a warmer, less-turbulent environment.
Innovative CIOs and business leaders are already aware that mobility is giving users—not IT—the power to redefine both the office and our work simultaneously. If enterprise leaders adopt a mobile first, desktop last, if ever, strategy they stand a good chance of not only creating harmony of interests but energizing revenue growth and profits.