Mobile isn’t a device. It’s a state of mind!

by Brian Katz on February 12, 2014 · 5 comments

I seem to get into a debate every single day at work. Then it spills over to twitter or someone who is asking me for advice or just pontificating. It starts out innocuously at first. People want to talk about mobile. They dive into smartphones and eventually end up at tablets and then stop. That’s their definition of mobile. It’s either a smartphone or a tablet. Then someone from down the hall or somewhere on twitter pipes up, well I have a laptop and isn’t that mobile? So the debate starts.

New York state of mindThe problem with this type of thinking is that people are focused on the device. Who cares? So what if it’s a smartphone or tablet? What’s the difference if it’s a laptop? Let’s not forget there is this new category called wearables that may fit this definition as well. Why waste all this time talking about the device? There’s more than enough hot air in the world and not enough time to debate what is or isn’t mobile.

It’s time to realize that mobile isn’t a device, it’s a state of mind. People need to adopt a mobile mindset. It’s not about the specific device that you use but what you are able to do with it. A device itself isn’t a tool either. It’s just one piece of the puzzle that fits together in this landscape of enablement.

A tool is some piece of technology that you use to accomplish some goal. An axe is a tool that allows you to cut down a tree/gather wood as a resource (unless in the middle of a zombie apocalypse, where it makes a great weapon). A smartphone or a tablet doesn’t allow you to do anything with it except use it as projectile to hurt someone or something. What makes these devices powerful is the combination of the utility of the device with the app on it that you use to accomplish something. A smartphone running a navigation app is a tool that helps you get somewhere. A tablet with an educational app allows you to learn something. The tool enables you to accomplish a goal. Having a great app without a good device to run it on is worth just as much as having a great device without any apps – absolutely nothing.

In this mindset, we are focused on enabling our people to get stuff done, which is all they really care about. It’s not a question of phone, tablet, laptop, desktop or wearable, but what they enable you to do. A desktop or a laptop can be considered mobile if they enable you to get your job done when and where you need to while being more productive and agile. Maybe it’s a kiosk in a mall, a laptop at the local coffee shop, a smartphone while at your kid’s ball game, or a tablet while sitting on the subway, it’s all about having the right set of tools at the right time in the right place. That’s what mobile is about.

I can’t tell you how many arguments I hear about iOS versus Android, Samsung versus Apple, or Windows Phone versus Blackberry. The point isn’t that one of these devices or OSes is better than the others. They aren’t unless the use case exists. There’s nothing wrong with having a preference for one or the other but it certainly shouldn’t devolve into a holy war. IT shouldn’t be in the business of providing solutions but instead providing right time experiences that enable users to be more flexible and agile while being more productive and efficient when and where they need to be. Since IT is in the experience business (or at least should be), we pick the best tool sets for our users so that they can become enabled. We look at devices, ecosystems and applications that make our users want to be effective. We Focus on their needs (FUN principle) and meeting their expectations. We are (or should be) turning their work into a thing they do while integrating their work and personal life. We are striving to give them the moments that they need to make their time valuable. In that view, does it matter what the specific device is?

It’s time to stop the silliness of which device is mobile and which isn’t. As my good friend Philippe Winthrop likes to say, “I can bring my 24 pound Osborne portable with me, it’s mobile!” The fact that he doesn’t have the arm strength to carry it more than a block doesn’t mean much if it allows him to do what he needs to when he requires it. Mobile has nothing to do with the devices people are using and everything to do with the mindset of enablement. You just need to decide whether it’s a mindset you’re going to support by providing the right tools to your people because I guarantee you that your competitors will.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

James H Parks February 13, 2014 at 2:38 pm

Thank you for a very common sense approach to consumer focus on utility. I admit that I was an early adopter of technology because I began writing code in the 1960′s. Since then, I have stayed ahead of the crowd by creating apps before there was such a word. Once the rest of the world caught up to me (arrogance, thy name is geek), I refused to join in the smartphone craze because I knew how addictive it could become for someone like me. As fate would have it, my “special-needs” phone took several iterations of falling in the toilet, breaking the screen, and/or no longer being supported by the service provider. I finally made the switch when I had lots of travel to do and lots of deals to cut. I needed mobility to communicate in a time-sensitive manner, and the ability to use my different suite of tools while on the move. Yes, I joined the mobile paradigm, kicking and screaming, but I have not looked back as though there were some wonderful time in the old millennium that I wistfully regret its passing. Steve Jobs is dead; Long live mobility!

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Denise Carson February 14, 2014 at 10:08 pm

Like you, I am over the device fanboy conversations. Devices are ephemeral, they come and go and constantly change. It’s how we use them to transform the way we conduct a business process or improve the way we operate that counts. The rest is like arguing about the cutlery and plates that restaurants use….

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