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Mobile Communications

Fernando Alvarez (Global) - Why Smart Companies are Betting on Mobility

Whenever technology advances at speed, it raises expectations. Thanks to the increasing sophistication of mobile devices, consumers now expect that the tasks they complete instinctively in their personal lives can be replicated in the workplace. In theory, mobility allows us greater choice than we’ve ever had over where, when and how we work. But mobility goes beyond shiny new devices, or allowing employees to access corporate email from outside the office. An effective mobility strategy spans all three technology layers – device, application and infrastructure – and allows businesses to build more engaging, and more profitable relationships with customers and partners.

We recognize the influx of personal mobile devices into the workplace and its effect on enterprise IT as ‘consumerization’, a catch-all term that betrays a considerable shift in power. No longer do IT departments hold all the cards, at least not where choice of device is concerned. In fact, many companies now recognize that allowing employees to bring their own devices to work is a key driver of productivity. It’s no surprise, then, that the number-one enterprise device is the iPhone, with Blackberry coming in second. But the rise of mobility can be attributed to two mutually dependent trends: consumerization and app development. The fastest-growing category in Apple’s App Store in 2010 was in fact the business app.

Smart businesses are recognizing the benefits of mobility. Whether it is to encourage greater customer interaction and satisfaction, bring new revenue streams, increase employee productivity or reduce costs, mobile technology can have a significant impact on organizational effectiveness. At an internal level, mobility supports information flow to the very edges of the organization. Knowledge, after all, isn’t exclusively for knowledge workers. Consider a restaurant chain, which relies on economies of scale to deliver both value to customers and returns to shareholders. If up-to-the-minute information from the kitchen can be relayed to waiters as they interact with customers, poor-selling dishes can be pushed in an attempt to eliminate wastage.

Mobility also helps speed up decision making, which can provide a huge competitive advantage. For airlines, enabling frontline staff to be plugged into a mobile infrastructure helps them adapt to a continuously changing environment (dealing with upgrades, lost luggage, late passengers, and security scares) and make service adjustments with minimal inconvenience to the customer. In these scenarios, mobility is about supplying critical, real-time information to the right people, and managing complex and unpredictable environments.

For many types of organization, basic apps can increase brand exposure, but on their own, apps do not add up to a mobile strategy. Mobility is about engagement. For a retail brand, that might mean knowing when a customer is in-store, pulling up data on past behavior and using it to tailor specific, time-sensitive offers to that customer. Only a fully integrated mobility strategy, which incorporates input from all the business stakeholders, can deliver this type of customer engagement effectively.
In implementing such a strategy, business leaders must consider both the current and future objectives of the organization. What is it that you want mobility to achieve?

CIOs will be interested in the more technical aspects such as reliability, availability, compliance with open standards, interoperability, support, security, and recovery, while CMOs are interested in how it affects potential customers and promoting new services. Business owners will be more concerned with functionality, return on investment (ROI), and gaining operational efficiencies. To be truly successful, a collaborative decision must be one that takes into account the culture of the company, employee needs and the objectives of the entire business.

Mobility is growing in recognition. And with 4G around the corner, promising improved bandwidth and signal penetration, mobile connectivity will become much more of a seamless experience for the user. Cisco estimates that between now and 2016, traffic on wireless networks will grow by a factor of 182. But it’s not only consumer devices that will be responsible for the upsurge. The language of the web is currently optimized for people. It’s about human-to-human interaction. But companies are increasingly relying on machine-to-machine communication as a way of improving operational effectiveness, for example in manufacturing and healthcare, where sensors can automatically relay data from a particular machine to an application, where it can be turned into meaningful information.

It is critical that companies design a mobile strategy that satisfies today’s business requirements while remaining flexible enough to adapt to the technologies of the future. According to IDC, mobile, cloud, social networking and big data are together growing at a rate of 18 per cent every year3. By 2020, this troupe of technologies will account for 80 per cent of all IT spending. As 4G matures and the number of devices grows, the future of mobile will come into much sharper focus. Speech recognition, increasing device power, digital imaging, and the miniaturization of devices will all be contributing factors. As such, it’s also essential that enterprise mobility strategies fulfill today’s business requirements while remaining flexible enough to evolve and adapt to the technologies of the future.

Fernando Alvarez leads Capgemini’s recently launched Mobile Solutions Global Service Line.

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