We are living through a transition every bit as disruptive as the rise of the personal computer —the transition from the PC to an era of mobile pervasiveness that has yet to find its boundaries.
But too many enterprises are struggling with it. They still see mobile technology only as a PC replacement that allows employees to have access to their inboxes away from the office. They have yet to internalize how the social and analytical aspects of “mobilization” can drive greater collaboration, easier access to data and better and faster decision-making. They don’t understand how it can further connect their teams to what’s happening in the marketplace and enrich the customer experience.
Everybody talks about consumerization, of how employees are no longer willing to tolerate the complexities and steep learning curves that characterized traditional enterprise apps. They want the same degree of access and ease of use they enjoy with their consumer apps to carry out work-related tasks whether they are at work or in a coffee shop.
What’s it all about?
What I find most corporate IT staff and decision makers fail to grasp is what this means from a design and implementation perspective.
Enterprise consumerization is about carefully considering the consumer technologies that are available and figuring out how they can be used to enrich the lives of employees and customers, while at the same time squeezing more productivity from existing resources.
The device doesn’t matter. Consumerization for enterprise = mobile+social+analytical.
It begins with responsive design. Applications must be designed to seamlessly adjust to any size screen. Note: I didn’t say “devices,” I said “screen.”
It’s about the freedom to be away from a desk with a device that packs huge processing power, has a range of sensors that can collect data from the field in real time and is better connected than ever before to the enterprise infrastructure.
It’s also about analytics. The tools of the consumer market allow us to collect, retrieve and apply information that is needed now for a given context and reduce the feedback loop. This empowers employees to make faster, better decisions and ensures their decisions are sound. At the same time, it helps the enterprise boost its productivity.
A New Role
And just as with consumer apps, the experience has to be designed in such a way that the underlying technology doesn’t interfere with the experience—security is built in and invisible.
Of course, the user’s needs and desires must be balanced with the needs that businesses have to minimize costs, secure sensitive data, protect their IP and ensure hassle-free change management.
Software developers must become strategy consultants. So what does this mean for a software-development firm?
It means we must be more than just code jockeys for hire. We are now business strategy consultants.
We need to step back with our clients and look at the world from 30,000 feet to help define their long-term goals and appreciate which part of that puzzle we can provide for them.
This can pose a challenge for us in terms of recruiting, training and operations, and even more so in terms of client relations.
We often have to work hard to convince clients to step back and take that broader view beyond the specific need that first brought them to our door. It’s often a process of trial and error, in which we must help them fail fast to quickly work through early iterations of their design that are weak to arrive at a winner.
That puts the onus on us to spend a lot of time trying to walk in their shoes. We must understand their industry verticals, their target markets and the distinct business challenges they face. It’s all about proximity. It’s a global reach with the benefits of being local – “glocal.”
We also have to pick our battles. Trying to be all things to all verticals is a fool’s errand. We must decide which verticals to target, which skill sets these require and whether it makes more sense to have certain skill sets on the payroll or retain them on an as-needed basis.
Building credibility among prospective clients is the other challenge. It begins with baby steps, by serving as an extension of an internal team or engaging in small-scale pilot and proof-of-concept projects.
But it must always start with that enterprise client realizing it isn’t 1999 anymore. They must have the fortitude to tackle the era of mobile pervasiveness head on and take full advantage of its social and analytical horsepower.