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The Mobile Value-Chain

Mobile Only: Week 16

Benjamin Robbins, an EMF member, is spending the next year working solely from a single mobile device. Each week he shares his thoughts and experience with us on what it means to be mobile-only.

As many of you know, part of my daily routine involves some tweeting. Ok, so it actually involves a lot of tweeting. Most of my activity on twitter is focused on mobility, specifically mobility in the enterprise.  Thankfully, I am not the only one engaged in this subject. I have met many great people who are just a passionate as I am about mobility.

So I’m sitting at dinner this past week with some of these friends. We’re laughing, telling stories, sharing embarrassing moments, frustrations from the day, and exchanging ideas. We even have many inside jokes. I know these people. Not every deep, dark secret kind of know them, but I have held many discourses with them over time. I know lots of distinct pieces of information about them. And at this dinner, on this particular evening, everyone at the table knows everyone else from Twitter. For some of us, this is the first time meeting in-person. In fact, this the first time that we have all been in the same place – and by a quick poll of upcoming events it may be a while before that happens again.

I have to admit that I used to think twitter was a silly tool for silly people (that’s the PG way of saying how I really used to feel). Who could actually say anything of any value in 140 characters? As far as I was concerned, broken, disjointed snippets could not develop into anything of value. And yet here we all were, a group of old friends laughing. Even more, as I might have previously believed, this was not the laughter of shallow connections, but genuine deep laughter.

How does this happen?  How can exchanges so small come to represent anything of any value? Those snippets of 140 characters, blog postings, and webinars have come together to outline the uniqueness of each individual. Each exchange of information is like one data point on a graph. Over time the sum of the points provides greater insight into a person’s thought process and character. The value lies in the notion of ‘over time’. Any one small data point isn’t very meaningful, but taken together the pattern of the tapestry becomes clear.

This phenomenon of snippets of small data over time, as a path to value, carries over into the general realm of mobility as well. Data, conversations, connections, etc. have transformed from monolithic files rooted in time and place, to streams of small bits of data that can happen from anywhere, at any time. They have gone from a large single instance to an ongoing stream of small instances. A check-in here, sales data there, customer complaints over there. By themselves they aren’t much, but taken together they can form a very valuable profile for an organization to use.

Mobility provides the opportunity to create and consume real-time information as never before. These small chunks of data allow us to discover a new depth of value that was previously impossible to achieve. The value of the data stream is that it is expressed over time; there are many data points to inform us. Organizations would be wise to leverage this to collect and respond in innovative ways.

Mobility is absolutely changing the way we interact with our work, our friends, and our family. If last week the pressure of anytime, anywhere weighed heavy on me, it has given way to discovering meaningful connections in the midst of tired determination. Mobility and its seemingly spasmodic interactions doesn’t have to signal the end of ‘real’ human connectivity, the loss of intimacy, We just have to recognize ‘value’ in a new fashion.

Sitting at dinner, I realized that the capabilities of mobility provided an opportunity that was once only afforded by living in close proximity. Because of the small bits of data we all exchange on a regular basis, we have a real connection. This is a different way of experiencing, engaging, and getting to know others; a kind of getting-to-know-you-by-installment. It would be easy to say that these types of connections are shallow and fleeting. But my experience informs me otherwise. Can anyone say this way is better or worse? I think it is just a different way. Humans have a fundamental need for connection, fidelity, and understanding. Through being mobile-only I am finding that they are other paths to meaningful connections.

So as we parted and headed our separate ways, I know that we will continue to become more acquainted with each other, continue to exchange thoughts and ideas. We will continue to influence each other and shape our thinking. And our mobile devices will continue to be the gateway to that stream of connectivity.

Benjamin Robbins is currently a Principal at Palador, a firm that focuses on providing strategic guidance to enterprises in the areas of mobility, apps, and data. You can follow him on Twitter. Mr. Robbins resides in Seattle and blogs regularly at http://www.remotelymobileblog.com

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