A decade ago, the iPhone redefined the way people and machines connect and share data. It ushered in an era of mobile apps and real-time communication and collaboration. Yet, nothing could have prepared business and IT leaders for the advances of the last couple of years. Cloud computing, the internet of things (IoT) and real-time analytics have radically altered business and IT.
“Mobile technology has moved forward at a furious rate,” says Satya Ramaswamy, vice president and global head of TCS Digital Enterprise at Tata Consultancy Services.
Today, consumers and workers use mobile devices to handle myriad actions, interactions and transactions across a spectrum of industries. Manual processes are rapidly disappearing, and digital workflows are taking shape, allowing individuals to make decisions and handle tasks anyplace and anytime.
“It’s no longer necessary to wait for someone to input data into the system,” Ramaswamy explains. “Mobile technology is speeding business processes and improving the accuracy of information.”
However, an even more advanced stage of mobility is emerging. Tapping artificial intelligence (AI) tools such as image recognition, speech processing and machine learning, mobility is moving beyond basic apps and taps and into the realm of a thin or zero interface. Combined with IoT connectivity, geolocation data, social data and more, mobility is emerging as the hub around which all enterprise communication takes place.
Tony Fross, vice president of digital strategy at Capgemini Consulting, says the end goal is to “become a disruptor, rather than being disrupted by technology.”
Rethinking Products, Services and Relationships
This next-generation mobile framework is forcing business and IT leaders to rethink products, services, and even entire relationships with employees, partners and customers. As buttons and clicks give way to voice commands, image processing and advanced analytics, buying patterns and workflows are changing, sometimes dramatically.
The trend is also being pushed by connected devices—everything from light switches and car tires to industrial controls and farm equipment—that provide myriad data points.
Today’s mobile technology allows retailers, restaurants, banks and many others to customize content, simplify tasks, and introduce a more relevant and seamless user experience. This might revolve around delivering a marketing message on a smartphone in the right context—through the integration of beacons, sensors and analytics—or using the smartphone camera to scan a product and display availability and pricing in real time.
“We’ve moved beyond mobile-first,” Fross says. “We are now at the stage of context-first design.”
Ultimately, the goal is to tie together different and discreet processes to create a sum that is greater than the individual parts, Fross explains. For example, Uber makes it possible to tap a button in an app, order a car, have it show up at an exact location, arrive at a destination and pay for the ride with no further device interaction.
Similarly, Starbucks, Panera and others now allow customers to order through their phones and pick up items without standing in line. They also integrate payments, loyalty points and other features. “When an interface is designed well, it cuts through layers of menus and screens to deliver the user to the desired destination,” says Tata Consultancy’s Ramaswamy.