A Mobile-First Strategy Can Reimagine Business

By Samuel Greengard  |  Posted 2016-05-26 Email Print this article Print
A Mobile-First Strategy

Enterprises that adopt a mobile-first strategy can achieve transformative results, including improvements in customer loyalty, market share and productivity.

Not that long ago, business productivity and performance revolved primarily around client-server architectures and desktop computing. Laptops and other mobile devices were viewed mostly as a way to get work done while away from the office or in the field.

Almost without exception, it was difficult and often incredibly time-consuming to sync contacts, emails, files and other data across various devices and systems. In addition, real-time data and information were still a far-off concept.

Today, mobility rules the computing universe. Thanks to radical advances in mobile devices, cloud computing and back-end IT infrastructures, managers, professionals, technicians and others work on an anytime, anywhere basis—exchanging data instantaneously. At the same time, consumers increasingly interact with businesses through smartphones, tablets and other devices, using apps, geolocation features, scanners, cameras, speech tools and more.

According to industry studies, more than half of all network and Internet traffic now originates from mobile devices. A report from telecom firm Ericsson predicts that this figure will hit 90 percent by 2021.

To be sure, all paths lead to a mobile-first strategy for today's enterprise. "It's difficult to find someone who is not carrying a smartphone," says Tony Fross, vice president of digital advisory services for Capgemini Consulting. "Mobility has emerged as the form factor for our lives."

How to Develop a Winning Mobile-First Strategy

The upshot? "Businesses must think about mobility as the number-one option and approach," he adds. "Interactions, transactions and various touchpoints must revolve around smartphones and other devices. They are now the operating systems for our lives."

Within the enterprise, mobile adoption is taking place at a furious rate. According to a recent Citrix survey, the number of devices managed in the enterprise increased 72 percent from 2014 to 2015. Within many organizations, workers are now using two or three devices every day.

An Accenture report, "Transforming Sales and Service with a Mobile-First Strategy," found that mobility is now a top five priority for 77 percent of C-level executives. In addition, 87 percent of companies currently have formal mobility strategies.

"Everyone recognizes that a mobile-first strategy can transform their business," says Abhijit Kabra, global managing director at Accenture. "But transforming the concept into results—improved customer loyalty, better sales, better productivity and improved market share—isn't simple. It requires a very holistic IT framework with agile processes. An organization must understand the outcomes it wants to achieve."

What's more, mobility must address everything from form factors and usability to remapping workflows, and supporting data and analytics through connected systems and the Internet of things.

Building a Mobile-First Strategy Into a Company's DNA

One company that's taking aim at this challenge is Waste Management, which serves upward of 21 million residential, commercial and industrial customers across North America. The world's fifth largest trucking firm (it operates more than 18,000 collection vehicles) is building mobility into its DNA, says Gautam Roy, vice president of IT.

For example, the company monitors the location of trucks in real time for route optimization. It's also developing a telematics program to monitor the condition of trucks so that it can conduct predictive maintenance. "The vision is to have the right parts, at the right price, at the right time, at the right shop available for the right skilled technician to service the truck," Roy explains.

However, all of this is just a start. Technicians at some facilities rely on tablets to conduct maintenance tasks. Renewable energy generation sites are equipped with sensors that transmit data via a cellular connection.

In addition, the firm has introduced a pilot program that will test the feasibility of having its sales force use tablets and other mobile devices in the field, and it is embedding mobile technology into myriad work processes and workflows in order to create a connected, real-time enterprise. A company-branded portal also lets the company register visitors for WiFi access for a specific time period.

Samuel Greengard writes about business and technology for Baseline, CIO Insight and other publications. His most recent book is The Internet of Things (MIT Press, 2015).

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