“Technological revolutions have several interesting properties. First, we tend to overestimate the immediate impact and underestimate the long-term impact. Second, we tend to place the emphasis on the technologies themselves, when it is really the social impact and cultural change that will be most dramatic.” – Don Norman
For those who worked through the explosion of personal computers, then the Internet, and more recently the web, there may be a sense of deja-vu around Mobile. There are headlines with numbers in the billions everywhere: 25 billion App Store downloads, 5 billion global mobile phone users, UK spending through mobile phones will reach £4.5 billion this year, and Nokia have even recently sold their 1.5 billionth Series 40 phone (now pejoratively called ‘dumb-phones’ even though in some ways as powerful as the mainframe I used for my computing A-level).
Yet hiding behind these numbers mobile is in some ways business-as-usual.
Change is a constant now. Technological and the resultant societal change has become a given, almost an expectation. I’d be more surprised if I woke up tomorrow morning and there wasn’t a new mobile thing metaphorically screaming to be understood, integrated and dealt with. The fact that ‘business-as-usual’ is changing is almost too obvious to even mean anything.
So perhaps it’s better to think about this in a different way. Business-as-usual means constant redefinition of the usual. Mobile is simply the most recent global technical example of this. When talking about business-as-usual we should ask ourselves what is the new ‘usual’ that mobile and mobility brings about for businesses? Here are some ideas, some speculative and some already here:
Mobile-first – Instead of mobile being an afterthought, add-on, plugin, or compromise to the ‘main’ channel it will become the primary channel.
Mobile-only – Some new amazing products will be mobile only. In Africa that’s already the case with mobile-only payment and loan services.
Digital mess – Mobility means deeper integration across more channels and will require more strategic thinking from the board. Fortunately CTOs and CIOs can ask good consultants to help untangle this mess (call me for details).
Multi-channel synchronicity -Right now when composing a message on one channel users do not expect that draft composition to instantly appear in another channel. Expect that to change. The Danger Hiptop mobile device designed by the brilliant Matthias Duarte (now at Google) had it 5 years ago and Apple’s iMessage and other mobile services will make it a mainstream expectation.
Usable beautiful interfaces – Mobility has raised the table-stakes to include the expectation of a good and usable UI as a minimum. Every consumer and corporate app on your device is competing with the best in UI design. A mobile user can switch from using an Apple mobile app that seems like it was painstakingly designed by a world-class team of genius artist angels over a period of months with infinite care, to a corporate app that was designed by Greg* in sales in his spare time using MS paint: you can imagine the user reaction. Poorly-designed corporate interfaces just don’t cut it on mobile.
The consumerisation of mobile tools – HTML used to be the stuff of geeks and now my (ex)mother-in-law can do it. A similar thing may happen with native mobile apps: you’ll see a surge in single-author apps, and the market for formal ‘good’ mobile development may suffer temporarily. It happened around the web authoring, it still happens for web UI-design, and it’ll happen in mobile apps.
The medium is the message – Smartphones and tablets are changing the workplace in subtle ways. For example I delegate far more with an iPad in hand than with a laptop in hand. The device I hold changes my behaviour: since authoring a long document isn’t an option I instead use the clever people around me to accomplish the same goals.
The corporate-personal distinction becomes even more blurred – This is both a technological blurring: using one mobile device for both personal and corporate work, and a social blurring: using mobile services and social media for both work and personal interaction. Think “Facebookification-of-Salesforce.com” and vice-versa
Consumer-mobile now drives business-mobile -It used to be that the corporate world got the best toys; they got the nicest laptops, the fastest desktop machines, and the most monitors. For a while this was the case for mobile phones too. No longer. The mobile cutting-edge is with consumers now. As employees bring their one-generation-ahead personal devices into work, existing workplace policies are being ignored and security suffers.
I am sure you can think of more areas where mobile is changing what business-as-usual means for you and your business. Let me know in the comments or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
*Sorry Greg but it’s true.