Mobile Internet usage has surpassed desktop usage in China, but will the mobile trend really be able to kick laptops and PCs into the dustbin of history?
For many users, mobile will indeed become the norm for millions of people, especially outside of work. We now live in a multi-screen society, and in the immediate future, most of us will continuously shift back and forth between whichever device is the most convenient for a given task.
Some tasks however, will no doubtedly continue to require a work terminal, laptop or desktop machine. For everything else, it won't be long before it's all mobile devices. Renowned research group Gartner estimates tablet and smartphone sales will reach 1 billion in 2013.
Mobile Workforce Needs Access
So, companies will not be using mobile devices to run mission critical applications behind the firewall -- but pretty much every other function inside many companies will need to be able to be run via mobile. Nearly one-third of Americans now have mobile access to the internet and companies need to accept workers accessing business apps on the go.
How to prepare for this? Businesses need to do a bit of digital inventory here. What processes are already mobile enabled? What can be done through the website or portal and are there mobile versions of them available? What if the answer is no? How to build a workaround to act as a bridge to the time when such processes are made ready for mobile access?
It's quite a bit to unpack there, but a good place to start, and it gets the conversation going about what things are mobile enabled. For the companies who have a long way to go, look at what things are already in place and look at those successes as inspiration to do more and do better. Think of it this way -- even if your company has a long way to go in this regard, remember that the whole mobile industry is still very young -- it's just changing so fast that it seems to have been going strong for much longer.
Too basic of a solution? How about smartphones for everybody?! That's what new Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer has proposed at her company. Dive right into a new mobile strategy, and get employees excited at the same time.
Fragmented Platforms in the Enterprise
Smartphones for everyone brings the platform fragmentation issue front and center. What devices should everyone get? iPhone, Android, Windows Phone or BlackBerry? People bringing their own devices to work is already a problem for many companies -- so the fact there are four major operating systems to choose from is less than helpful.
For those leaning toward iPhone or Android, a recent Zenprise report found iPhones to be more popular overall in the enterprise. Certain industries however, did have a higher affinity for Android like transportation, healthcare and telecoms.
Whether or not companies actually take Mayer's route or simply allow people to use their own devices, this issue must still be addressed. Building four native app versions of some business apps may not be too difficult, but perhaps an HTML5 version would be a better idea.
For the most basic tasks, mobile Web solutions may be totally fine for many companies, but it comes down to priorities. Try simple tasks first, and then move to more core business apps. Maybe a hybrid approach -- like one core business app and a few simple ones. Build apps for these, and then see what worked and what didn't before moving on to other core apps.
For some simpler tasks, there are programs built now that can build apps in only minutes, and they can provide things like vacation request apps or procurement apps, for example.
Vendors to the Rescue
For internal apps, the vendors that already have mobile versions in place are a perfect place to start. Identifying which apps need to mobilize first will help create the road-map here, but it's a good discussion to have with vendors whether they have mobile versions of their products or not.
That is part of the process too -- talking with them about the most desirable features and why they need to be mobile ready. These vendors are in the same boat as everyone else, learning as they go, so businesses might as well work with them to find the most promising solutions.
For some apps, this will likely never be so easy. But, again, this should be looked at as an opportunity to work with more agile, innovative companies, that can do more for your business.
Customer Experience Heavily Impacted by the Second Screen
On the customer side, strategy is also important, because how people find you is a key insight. It's not about digital versus traditional anymore, but rather what screen were they on and when. That means analytics have to be properly aligned with content goals. Search is often the most common task done across all devices, so it's important to have across channel deployment for the best experiences.
Laptops and PCs will continue to have a role, but it will be reduced, so there's no reason not to get cracking on that mobile strategy. It's a turbulent but exciting time --so try to remember that. Don't be one of the 'everything is amazing and no one is happy' people (C.K., Louis).