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Just as Forrester predicts that, by 2020, we’ll be living in a world dominating by smart devices, it also suggests that, in just 4 years, there will be a chief mobility officer overseeing enterprise mobile strategies.

2016: The Year of Mobile Engagement

This isn’t just some empty prediction. It’s based on considerable data released this week in a report by Forrester researchers Ted Schadler and John C. McCarthy. The report, Mobile Is The New Face Of Engagement, highlights the growing popularity of mobile phones and the subsequent empowerment they will bring.

Consider the following:

  • One billion consumers will have smartphones by 2016. US consumers alone will own 257 million smartphones and 126 million tablets.
  • In 2016, 350 million employees will use smartphones -- 200 million will bring their own.
  • Business spending on mobile projects will grow 100% by 2015.

With so much focus on mobile development, mobile consumers will have more power than ever. They will help shape mobile markets and re-prioritize business strategies, as well as change how advertisers engage with them.

A Mobile Flash Point

In their study, the researchers make it clear that by 2016, mobile will transcend traditional concepts. It’s not just a phone, not just a smaller screen, and not just an extension of one’s personal computer. No, mobile is the “flash point for a much more holistic, far-reaching change.” And with it, brings a “perfect storm”

of mobile, social, cloud, and big data innovation to deliver apps and smart products directly in the context of the daily lives and real-time workflows of customers, partners, and employees."

For the moment, it all sounds a little ambiguous and broad. But the implications are real and to be prepared, marketers and CIOs need to start preparing for a world in which:

  • Customers interact directly with the organization in their moments of decision
  • Partners employ tools in the context of their daily workflow
  • Employees work, collaborate, and make key decisions anywhere on any device
  • Offline products get APIs and mobile app extensions

Shift Goals, Plan for Unintended Risks

It may not seem obvious now, but those managing mobile engagement strategies will need to shift their goals. At present, mobile may been nothing more than an alternative channel from which to reach customers. Yet, as more consumers begin to search, browse and make purchases from mobile devices, the goals of mobile engagement become less about a brand’s presence, and more about how consumers can be empowered to take action.

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Yet as for much power as mobile can bring to consumers, companies need to be aware of the potential risks that building mobile applications and systems of engagement can bring, including:

  • Data, access, and applications across multiple channels must be coordinated and integrated with web and channels for marketing, customer on-boarding, or customer service activities.
  • Business processes designed for transactions, not engagement, will force a redesign of the middleware and access architecture.
  • Networks, middleware and databases designed for occasionally used PC applications and networks will grind to a halt under the exploding volume of mobile activity, unless companies are prepared for demand.
  • Great mobile apps are architected from the user experience in, not the database schema out. As a result, design, development, and governance processes must be aligned appropriately with mobile requirements.

If You Fail to Plan, You Plan to Fail

Four years may seem like a long way away, but Forrester urges CIOs to rethink the technology organization’s role, responsibilities, and skill sets. It recommends a three-part mobile strategy in which the office of the chief mobility officer (CMOO) to coordinate business and technology is established; a mobile engagement guide to facilitate mobile business projects is developed and a mobile architecture blueprint to manage mobile technology investments is created.

With Forrester's thoughtful approach as a guide, there's no better time than the present to develop a 3-5 year plan for an engagement experience poised to consumer domination.