Welcome to the latest edition of Inside Looking Out. This past week, I had the opportunity to chat with Colin Reid, CEO of TotalMobile, a European mobility company (with offices in the US) with a focus on prepackaged mobile applications.
We covered a broad range of topics around different trends within enterprise mobility between North America and Western Europe and the bi-directional consumerization of mobility. Check out some of the highlights:
The Enterprise Mobility Foundation: Hi Colin. Welcome to Inside Looking Out and thanks for taking the time to speak with us. You know the drill, so let’s jump right in. What do you see as the key driver for mobilizing the workplace?
Colin Reid: It depends to an extent on what industry you are in. If you are in the B to B market, I think it is still very much about mobilising your workforce in order to save money, get more done and to speed up your billing. However, if you are in the B to C market, increasingly it is about interacting with your customers. Your customers are increasingly mobile, so how do you get to understand their needs, how do you reach them with your advertising, even how do you deliver your services to them?
EMF: So is it just about reaching out to the customer?
CR: No, that is just one element, albeit an important one. For any business it is still important to fully mobilize your workforce to achieve the efficiencies in order to remain competitive and responsive. With a highly mobile customer base it isn’t just a question of you reaching out to your customer, it is more about you having to change how you do business to meet the mobile customers’ needs. Consumers now expect to access information and services when they are on the move and at a time that suits them – the “Martini” effect, if you like – Anytime, Anyplace, Anywhere (with credit to Richard Holway).
EMF: Ok- so are you suggesting there’s a parallel to the consumerization of enterprise mobility in terms of the consumerization of business via mobility?
CR: I am. The whole mobile wave is the first technology I can remember (and unfortunately I predate even PCs) where what is happening with the consumer is actually driving the enterprise. Traditionally, the enterprise has taken technology on board to improve internal business performance, e.g. PCs and this has eventually found its way out to the consumer. With mobile, this is being driven at a furious pace by the consumer markets, more akin to the fashion industry. Meanwhile, the poor enterprise IT guys are still trying to get to grips with how to use mobile technologies to internally improve performance while everything around them is changing at breakneck speed.
EMF: Let’s switch gears for a moment if you don’t mind. With your bi-continental experience, what can North American organizations learn from how European organizations are leveraging mobility in the workplace?
CR: Mobile is one of the few (the only?) area of technology where Europe has been ahead of the US. Although the gap is definitely closing, Europe has had more time to mobilise businesses. The two big things I think North American organizations could learn, is firstly, to take a more strategic view of the potential of mobile for the organization and implement accordingly, and secondly, to take the wider view to encompass your overall ecosystem, especially with regard to meeting the consumer’s needs. Avoid just taking the narrow internal view of improving business efficiencies, important though that is.
EMF: Ok – so let’s flip the question. What can European organizations learn from how North America is deploying mobility in the enterprise?
CR: While in Europe there is a tendency to take the wider, more strategic view, the execution can sometimes be ponderous. I think the US approach is much more pragmatic and “can do.” Let’s get on and do something. I once heard a great phrase from the management guru, Tom Peters, he said “Ready, Fire, Aim!” Too many organizations spend all of their time aiming and never pull the trigger. With the pace of change in mobile, already furious and getting speeding up, it is even more important to start doing stuff.
EMF: What do you see as the next major opportunity for organizations as they mobilize their businesses?
CR: We are still at the very early days of mobilizing the enterprise to improve business performance, so I think that is still a major opportunity. Sometimes as vendors we think we are further up the adoption curve than is the reality. Having said that, I believe the next major opportunity for organizations is to use mobility to totally transform how they operate and how they interact with their stakeholders. The convergence of mobility, social networking and new technologies such as augmented reality can offer really exciting opportunities, especially in areas such as new product development. You can really involve your customers and partners in this process up front and get better products more quickly to market.
EMF: Final Question. What is your net net recommendation to companies as they progress with their mobility initiatives?
CR: I use a saying, “God made the world in 7 days but he didn’t have an installed base.” This is so true, especially in the technology industry where your installed base acts as a major drag on doing new stuff, especially things that are innovative and radical. Therefore, my recommendation for organisations would be establish a small group with no other responsibilities and who can start with a clean sheet of paper. Then charge them with implementing mobility in a defined area of the business, ideally one that closely involves customers. Then build on this.
And that’s a wrap. Thanks Colin for taking the time to chat today about your views on enterprise mobility. If interested, you can connect with Colin here. Do you know anyone who should be a guest here on Inside Looking Out? Drop us a line.