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Unwiring the enterprise – benefiting from mobile disruption

This post first appeared on the LINE blog on 7th June 2012.

Access to mobile services, content and information is a potent force within organisations, giving end users, in their hand, what they really need to do a better job, wherever they are. This release of power to the employees means a movement away from central control, but it unlocks capability in the place where it matters most – where the employee needs to be to be effective, not where the enterprise decides they should be. That’s a major change for a business to manage, so to help with the transition, here are three major disruptions to negotiate and five strategic steps to take advantage of the power of mobile.

Mobile: simple, powerful, disruptive

Mobile is the simplest, fastest, most convenient way to connect to services and tools that help you in your day-to-day life – in and out of work. The demand for mobile content and tools is growing exponentially and creating a surging wave of demand. For businesses, riding this wave is like any attempt to harness the power of new technology. Like surfing, if you remain too rigid and you slow down or fall back, go too far forwards or too near the edge it’s equally risky territory.

In day to day terms, when provides mobile services and tools to employees, releasing all controls and simply allowing the employees to decide is difficult for organisations and the employees. The organisation won’t get a controllable, centralised service and the employees will come across myriad different options with occasional pockets of excellence. Just like surfing, the right balance is essential and the correct amount risk and reward for the organisation is crucial.

As former Procter & Gamble CEO, A.G. Lafley, summed up the situation in the article: ‘Unwiring the Enterprise: Are You Ready to Lose Control?’ by Todd Hewlin and Scott Snyder: “We have to strike the right balance between being in touch and being in control. The irony is the more in control we are, the more out of touch we become.”

Three major mobile disruptions

According to Hewlin and Snyder, there are three major disruptions that businesses must negotiate: the new ‘last metre’, the rise of mobile personas, and the fall of entry barriers – let’s review them one at a time.

The New Last Metre: ‘The Last Metre’ refers to getting useful information into the hands of your employees. You can generate all the training, communications, procedures and data you like, but if someone actually can’t find and use that, then it’s useless. Mobile makes that last metre disappear – real-time data on iPads in the boardroom, speeding up management decisions and removing the need for reports and presentations. Sales information recorded whilst with a customer on their site, wherever that is, with you stood next to them and sent in central processing. Sales support materials that can be used on a mobile device to embed knowledge, then some of the same materials shown and shared with customers on an iPad. Mobile-based tools for supplying training on demand whenever the employee needs it.

Rise of Mobile Personas: People have very personal relationships with their mobiles. It’s a single device for purchasing, messaging, accessing and entertaining. Surveys have shown that even if work mobiles have a strict ‘no personal use policy’ employees still use them for personal purposes, it is just so convenient. Similarly work information and materials leak out on to personal mobiles, because it is so simple to keep track of.

The Fall of Entry Barriers: Delivering services via mobile combines several web-based delivery trends in one device. A simple to use, cloud-based offering, with very specific, but very effective, functionality can be delivered to millions of mobile devices by a small development team, (relatively) quickly and effectively. The barrier of entry is very low and, while end users expect very high quality services, they also want ease of use more than anything else.

Five strategic steps to take

Based on the disruptive trends above, how should organisations react to the power of mobile within their organisations?

Scan broad and deep: Combing cutting edge communities and advanced user groups for future innovation and novel usage examples might not come easily, but it certainly pays off. What’s trendy today, certain groups had first. Think about cloud-based media sharing, video on demand without a TV and app stores. They are now common place but they all came from somewhere.

Decide where to stand out: As ever, you can’t act on everything or change the whole world at once, but you can decide where to focus and how to excel. So, make sure that you understand exactly what it is you are changing, and why, then change it to be the best you can.

Focus IT on systems of engagement: Communication, collaboration and interaction are where IT needs to focus, not on recording and controlling. Systems of engagement to make mobile services sticky are critical, or users simply drift off to use their own apps and services in a non strategic fashion. You won’t stop them using mobile, but at least you can get them using your mobile service and capitalise on the grass roots appetite.

Innovate with end users: If you can form a partnership with end-users and give them a great service that responds to their needs then they will reward you by interacting. It’s not good enough to presume, that they will come if you build a service. This partnership should put information and tools into the hands of the end users, allowing them to somehow build their own service.

Adopt a pull training model: As a mobile ‘way of working’ is emerging, employees want information on a need-to-know basis to support new skills, processes and roles. Training, information provision and communications must therefore support this and give employees what they need in a flexible fashion.

As well as producing award winning mobile learning products, LINE also offers you the capability to create, manage and distribute mobile content across your organisation with our LINE Mobile Enterprise Platform.

This article is a summary of: http://knowledge.wharton.upenn.edu/article.cfm?articleid=2860