Mobile Only: Week 18
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.
I’ve been watching the series Downton Abbey with my wife over the past several weeks. (No comments from the peanut gallery – you know who you are!) It is a British drama on the life and times of a large estate in England at the turn of 20th century through World War I. The series has done an excellent job of depicting the introduction of some core elements of modern technology; electricity, cars, the telephone etc. It is especially intriguing to watch as the characters try to grapple with the technology and its implications in their lives. It has provided a fascinating window into disruption; an opportunity to be an outsider looking in at the infancy of technologies that we now fully understand.
Even more fascinating to me is the supplanting of the old technology by the new. Throughout the show you are able to witness the end-of-life for long-standing processes and infrastructure. One in particular conceptually draws my attention each episode. There is a shot in the opening title sequence of a bell ringing on a room assignment board. You can see that there is a bell for each room in the house. This system of ringing a bell from a room to call a servant to that area of the house had stood for some time. It was a ‘technology’ that would have seemed very convenient and novel at the time. But it is plain to see that its usefulness is drawing to a close. It is painfully obvious that life is moving ahead and it will be left behind.
From a technology lifecycle perspective, these bell systems were no different than our technology projects of today. There was cost and labor to procure, deploy, and maintain these systems. Once in place, they were a functional part of the day and the process of the team. Work transpired based on their functioning. And yet now, they are now obsolete as butlers, chamber maids, and, the carriage. If we were to do a post-mortem review of the project, would we find that it was worth the time and money? Probably so, but what other novelties were tried and found wanting?
History teaches us that technology is an ever-changing and evolving process. With each technology revolution, we need to identify the core value of the technology and leverage it for the longest reasonable period. Life is short; there is limited time in what you can invest your time in. How much time are you going to fiddle with an app, features, or service that would provide little return? How much time are you going to put into something that is on the fringes and will be obsolete in a few years?
More recently, I am finding that with all the cool things that I could do with my device, I instead try to be more measured in my approach and time. What would bring me the biggest bang for the buck? What functionality and process truly makes me more efficient rather than consume more of my time. While I can’t see into the future, it is possible to reasonably assume what will be around in the near-term. It is worth the time to take moment and ask if certain aspects of mobility are really beneficial.
The core concept of mobility is near persistent connectivity of a powerful communication tool. It represents the consolidation of computers, cameras, and communication. With that in mind, how can you benefit, in your enterprise, from those core capabilities? Can you connect with customers easier? Can you access information from a location that would make you more profitable? Can aspects of your business process happen more efficiently? Whatever the answer is, it is important to stick to where those core elements align with your business process.
The servant’s bells are now long silent; they have outlived their intended design. But, for how many years was value derived from their ringing? How long did it drive the livelihoods and heartbeat of the estate? How long will mobile drive the life of the enterprise? Just as the bells were supplanted by more advanced technology, we can’t expect that mobile capabilities, as they exist today, will be around forever. That doesn’t mean that we can’t derive value in the moment. The trick is picking those elements that will maximize value and lifetime.
What do you think is core to mobility versus a waste of time? Post a comment and let me know what you think.
Benjamin Robbins is co-founder and 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