Analyst Angle: Why mobile is a strategic asset of the enterprise
Enterprise (not just IT) are finding that mobile is a strategic asset. From the Board to the CEO to all his direct reports and the lines of business, they all require mobility to remain competitive in the marketplace. The tools include enterprise mobility management (EMM), converting IT infrastructure to mobile, IoT, customer-facing mobile apps and mobile first initiatives.
When you think of a company or even a government agency, their most important strategic assets are products or services. A company like Samsung produces the Galaxy S smartphones. A company like Verizon provides a wireless service. The Social Security Administration (SSA) provides retirement and survivor benefits to people who qualify.
Rarely, however, are information systems thought of as strategic assets of a company — just as Cloud services have become very important to an enterprise, for example, Amazon Web Services (AWS). Rarer still is enterprise mobility thought of as an important strategic asset of a company. Most of the time, the organization uses mobile systems (smartphones, wireless services, etc.) — that’s common. But, it is certainly much less common to think of mobility as a strategic asset. That’s about to change dramatically shortly. Here’s why.
Look at how information systems and, more recently, mobile and wireless products and services came about. With that reference, we can discuss how mobile and wireless services are becoming a major strategic asset for most companies.
About 20 years ago, most information systems organizations in companies were a support service. IT typically reported to Finance or Administration. These systems helped keep track of things — where money was received via sales and spent via accounting or where operations were managed. In the dot-com boom in the late 1990s through 2001, companies moved from a paper representation of what the company did (remember those company brochures?) to a digital representation via the Internet and the World Wide Web. Revenue could come from digital sites not just from paper-based purchase orders and sales agreements.
The IT organizations quickly grew to accommodate all the new growth in digital representations to the outside world. Mobile entered the scene with Palm, and then BlackBerry with the ability of employees get messages, keep track of appointments and contacts. Note that at this point, mobile was an internally focused exercise. Once the iPhone was introduced in 2007 and added an open applications environment in 2008, the focus for IT became both internal (think email or apps that managed online meetings) and external (think of a bank building an app that let customers sign on, see their balance and transfer funds).
Cloud services became an extension of websites with some interaction with mobile, but it was the outgrowth of mobile apps that has caused a tremendous change in the way a company’s senior management thinks of information. Mobile and the associated Apps now rule both the internal operation of the company, as well as the interaction with customers.
As a result, mobile has become a strategic asset to the company. When the CEO holds strategy discussions, they include the CIO. The CEO might say, “So, what can we do to provide better customer experience for our products?” The CIO might respond with, “We can build a mobile app that allows our customers to see all of our products on their smartphone, submit a question via text or chat and let them know of special sales.”
Another question posed might be, “What can we do to generate more top-line revenue for our company? The CIO might respond, “We can build a mobile app that can let customers easily order direct or through one of our partners.”
The list could go on and on. What’s important is that the CIO is now part of the major strategy discussing where enterprise mobility can help address most any important situations that the company is facing. That simply wasn’t true just a few short years ago.
There are at least five (and likely more) main enterprise mobility service areas that will help the company strategically –
- Enterprise Mobility Management – this is the standard use of mobile device management software implemented to its fullest extent. It uses software to manage all of the company’s mobile systems, the software loaded on these devices, the content, and the apps. It includes secure digital workspaces. It becomes a strategic asset when the CIO gets EMM to become fully operational and gives the company visibility on all of its mobile assets.
- Legacy Transformation to Mobility – There is a great deal of investment that companies have made to design and deploy IT infrastructure both internally (think a custom-designed set of web apps) and via third parties (think the implementation of SAP). Most organizations want to mobilize the infrastructure and, in some cases, redesign the business process to be more efficient when mobilized. An organization that can get this done efficiently and cost-effectively ends up with another strategic asset.
- Customer-Facing Mobile Apps & Customer Service – Here, mobile apps are used to help the company generate additional revenue. This could be direct (within the app) or create new revenue from the mobile app giving customers a reason to buy the company’s products. It also serves as a mechanism to provide better customer service.
- Company’s New Products – Here, the organization thinks “Mobile First” when developing new products. If the product is hard goods or services, the Mobile First may just be that all the information about the new product is provided in a Mobile First manner such as via a mobile app. And, if it is a digital product, think in terms of bringing out the mobile app first on the website.
- Mobile as a Strategic Asset – Here, the CIO should think in terms of using mobile to help create a strategic or competitive advantage in the market. This could be a unique service that is only provided by or through a mobile app.
In a few years, the importance of mobility will become much more important than it is today. The management of the company’s information systems has come a long way in the last generation and will help the company become more successful in the coming years. While enterprise have mostly converted from paper to online, few have been modernized to support mobile.
It can be very costly to do this manually. Yes, it can be done but at significant cost and time. There are some vendors that provide tools and services to assist with the digital modernization exercise. These include PowWow Mobile, Out Systems, Capiza to name a few (there are others).
The top management of an organization has to think about how best to utilize the mobile assets to best enable the company to compete in the marketplace. New, advanced customer facing apps can be one way to enable the company to achieve a competitive advantage in the market. Another is to modernize the company’s IT infrastructure to be centered on mobility.
If you work in an organization that doesn’t operate this way, get management to start thinking about mobile as a strategic asset so that the company operate more efficiently and be an even more successful organization. Your customers will thank you for it.