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.
One of my biggest concerns going into working mobile-only was not how would I create Word documents, PowerPoint presentations, and Excel graphs. I had been using productivity suites on a mobile device for a while. I had figured out that I could RDP into a VDI instance for more feature-intensive apps like Visio that had no mobile equivalent as well. Besides knowing how I would be able to implement every-day tasks, I was safe in my office; inside my mobile-only bubble. If making mobile-only work in the office was a bit cobbled together so what? It’s not like I was on display. I was safe from gawking and critique. But you can’t run a company and engage with clients from a cocoon.
My biggest concern wasn’t the day-to-day items in the office, completing tasks, but rather client engagement. Not only do presentations need to be dynamic, but they can’t be awkward. What will the client make of this mobile-only approach? The concern centered on taking this whole mobile thing too far. Trust is an important attribute in consulting other organizations. Did presenting via a mobile phone somehow damage that sense of ‘this guy knows what he is doing’? Granted, at my firm, we consult on mobile strategy and develop mobile applications, so in that regard this mobile-only persona makes sense. But, there’s a fine line between looking the part and looking like a weirdo.
Does my own bias towards mobility inhibit my ability to really connect with clients? Am I too caught up in the technology and am instead creating an alienating situation? Having a nerdy developer background, I’ve known quite a few people that have, what I like to call, ‘over-adopted’ a technology. This is a state where us geeks, in our blind excitement, latch on to a particular technology and stretch its use into social situations where it is awkward. Bluetooth head-sets come to mind (while driving, great – at the bar, umm no).
Perhaps unnecessarily so, I am sensitive to the fact of being too far out of the social norm. It’s cool to show up to a meeting and review a PowerPoint deck on your iPad. But is it just bizarre to run a presentation from your phone? But here is the great part. In some ways running a presentation from your phone is more productive than running it from an iPad. Not only can I hook the phone up to the conference room monitor or projector, but also the device I use, the Galaxy Note, comes with a stylus that can be used for much more refined annotations on the document in real-time. From a collaboration perspective, it really takes the experience with the client to the next level.
My mobile-only set-up provides the opportunity to combine the idea of documents and whiteboards into a single interface. You can achieve a similar result on an iPad or other tablets, but the stylus really does allow for a level of refinement just not possible with your finger. Your finger is great for touch interfaces, but a little too blunt of an instrument for detailed annotations. The stylus has proven itself well during client presentations. In the past, at the end of a meeting that involved a heavy white-boarding session, I used to have to take a picture of the whole board and then email it to myself for reference on my desktop. Now all I do is click save. If I need to share it with the client I only have to click the send button.
Working mobile-only is also definitely a great conversation starter with clients. There are several questions that everyone seems to ask. Screen size is usually the first point of interest. After explaining that I still use a monitor and keyboard the next questions usually revolve around Word, PowerPoint, or Excel. People are genuinely interested in the shift to mobility. For most people the idea of working from a phone seems far off, but they’d love to have the ability to consolidate their device mix to a single device. Perhaps that is some of the contributing factor to why hardware manufacturers are considering producing mini tablets.
Being mobile-only allows me to connect with clients in ways never before possible. Whatever fears of client alienation I may have had going into this, have been allied by the great conversations it has enabled, the hands-on experience with mobile technologies it has given me, and the highly dynamic presentations I’ve been able to conduct. What do you think – is presenting to clients via the phone, mobile-only, over-adopting?
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