Mobile isn’t working remotely, it’s a mindset!

by Brian Katz on August 15, 2014 · 3 comments

I spend a lot of time talking about devices and apps. Not necessarily because I want to be talking about them, but that’s what people think mobility is about. They want to get into conversations about Android or iOS (they both have their strengths), why they think Windows Phone OS will succeed or fail, or about the next great app they think everyone should be using. Some of these conversations can actually be fun, but in most cases they are missing the point. When I think of the enterprise what I really like to talk about is enablement. Mobility isn’t about the latest app or device, it’s not even about the data. It’s about enabling people to get their jobs done when and where they need to, in the easiest possible way.

iphone-160307_640Most organizations think that mobility is about giving users devices, but they couldn’t be more wrong. Mobility isn’t about giving users devices; it’s not about the apps or even the data. Mobility is about enabling people to be more flexible and agile, while becoming more productive and efficient. More time is spent trying to figure out whether the company should go with iOS or Android than what people should be doing with the devices themselves. They spend so many hours figuring out how to manage these devices, you could end up in a meeting coma. These same companies start wondering after 6 months where did all the productivity gains they were supposed to get go. Why aren’t all their employees accomplishing more? It’s not enough to give people the handle of a hammer if they don’t have the head to hammer the nail in with. It’s the same thing with mobile, just giving people a device without the apps that they need won’t help them get anything done.

One of the sayings that I like to use when talking about mobile is that work is no longer a place you go but a thing you do. I discovered during a tweet chat recently that many people were taking this out of context. One person cited the fact that they could work remotely from home (a few days a week) and therefore they were mobile. There isn’t much that can be further from the truth. The ability to work from your house, which requires you to VPN in, use your work laptop and sit at a desk is no different from being in the office, you just get to skip the commute. Using the same apps as you do in the office, with no regards for the device that you are on or the location that you are in, doesn’t make you mobile. It just switches the location of your job.

Mobile isn’t a place or a thing; it’s a mindset. It’s not bringing your laptop to Starbucks and figuring out how to use their WiFi and your VPN to get your work done. That’s working remotely. It can make your life a little bit better, but doesn’t solve any issues.

When you’re mobile, you may have multiple devices and multiple apps, but you use the best combination to get things done in the appropriate place. You’re not tied to a home office or even a Starbucks. It may mean you are at your kid’s footie game, or sitting in a nice restaurant in France. When you need to approve that purchase order right away, you don’t need to go home, fire up the laptop, log into SAP, email, adobe reader and 3 other apps. Instead, you take out your phone or tablet, pull up the request, give it a quick read and press the approval button. You didn’t have to leave dinner half hungry or miss your kid’s great goal, you just worked seamlessly within the system to move the request along.

If mobile is a mindset then mobile first is a strategy. It doesn’t mean mobile only, like many think, but rather designing the experience to fit the device and the user. You don’t put a PC app on a smartphone and your smartphone app should look different on a tablet. You’re designing an experience based on the Users’ needs. When you follow the FUN (Focus on the User Needs) principle, you’re no longer chaining people to laptops or smartphones. You’re designing user experiences that are transparent, the device and the app are no longer in focus, the work that is being done comes to the forefront. It’s based on actions and outcomes, not scope creep and legacy thinking.

Mobility means figuring out how to improve business processes by delivering people the knowledge that they need when and where they need it, in the form that makes sense to them. When the 20 minute request approval process becomes 2 minutes or less on a mobile device you’re going in the right direction. Mobility becomes the glue that helps you integrate your personal life and work life so you can be productive in both.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Dr. Janice Presser August 18, 2014 at 1:54 pm

“you just worked seamlessly within the system”

That’s the goal: to let your people get their jobs done wherever they are without the unnecessary stress that derails everything you want to happen.

Bravo, Brian!


Lars Axell August 19, 2014 at 6:43 am

True and well-advised reflections. Its not the tool, its the purpose that matter. The question “Why” should be the first one to ask for understand what we want to achieve. I think that companies that share your reflections have a good chance to do the right things at the right time.


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