There is No Mobile. There is Only Zuul

5 minute read
Stephen Fishman avatar

What? Zuul? Why is this fool going Ghostbusters on us? What does Zuul the Gatekeeper who, accompanied by Vinz Clortho the Keymaster, is only loyal to Gozer the Destructor, have to do with Mobile? It’s actually quite simple.

Mobile Schmobile

People keep talking mobile this, mobile that, mobile strategy, mobile channel, blah blah, blah. They are all not only putting the cart before the horse, but also are all overly focused on the horse rather than the concept it represents.

Mobile is continuously described and envisioned as a device centric-concept. Smartphones and tablets are just the first wave of artifacts that promise to separate the data and content supplied by individuals and enterprises from the utility and experiences that can be created with them once they are liberated from the servers and proprietary protocols and interfaces that act as gates to rapid innovation.

Enterprises have begun to recognize the difference between mobile and mobility. Mobile refers to the consumer who is untethered by wires, and mobility refers to the separation described above that delivers freedom of movement for data and content regardless of the device used to access and view it. Once you have recognized the differences between these distinct concepts, you can begin the quest to unleash the forces of creative destruction both inside and outside your enterprise.Make no mistake -- if you and your enterprise don’t embrace the forces of openness and change, both of you will be swept aside by those who flow with the winds of competitive change.

Zuul the Gatekeeper

The first stage in the quest for mobility is to find and convert Zuul the Gatekeeper. Converting Zuul is no easy task. Zuul, in your organization, is probably represented by more than one individual who is predisposed to believe that the best path to take is to control access to the conservation of the value of the data and content created, captured and organized by your enterprise. The Zuuls of your enterprise are, more than likely, employed within product management, security, accounting, finance or possibly even sales and marketing.

Because Zuul is oriented toward control and security, Zuul has a hard time seeing beyond a binary open/closed world to a continuum of openness where data and content can be accessed, separate from form and function, in ways that reinforce and advance business and brand value, by shedding enterprises of the constraints of their own innovative and development capacities, as well as the confinement of what is possible when the data ingredients are limited to what is in your enterprise’s data and content stores. To get Zuul to see the value inherent in collaboration, openness and accessibility, you must find the Keymaster.

Vinz Clortho the Keymaster

Once you have identified the gatekeepers within your enterprise, you must then seek out Vinz Clortho the Keymaster. Vinz Clortho is like Zuul in that Vinz is more than likely represented by more than one individual, but differs from Zuul in orientation. Vinz is predisposed to believe in possibility. Vinz is a strategist at heart and believes he is the key to unlocking future opportunities that will redefine the marketplace. Vinz is probably in an experience strategy, business strategy or content strategy role, but could also possibly be a frustrated strategist, forced to work in a non-strategy role by the cruel masters who impose structure on the organization and insist that all employees have labels assigned to them that define their value and capabilities.

Learning Opportunities

Given that converting is a tough endeavor, choosing the right strategists to partner with is critical. You must find someone who is not only compelling, but also has a track record of successfully delivering business value because, what you are advocating could be viewed as attacking the very business model that brought your enterprise to where it is today. The trick to avoiding this pitfall is to allow the gatekeepers to come to see the continuum, not by telling them that it exists, but by asking provocative questions that will open their minds to the possibility that it exists. Questioning from a basis of the hard business value of data and content mobility will slowly but surely eventually turn the minds of all but the most religious of gatekeepers.

The Gatekeeper and Keymaster teams who identify mobility as the thing to be sought after will be the ones who, while not directly responsible for the most innovative and compelling experiences, will be responsible for creating an environment ripe for creative destruction.

Gozer the Destructor

Gozer is harder to identify because Gozer the Destructor does not live inside your enterprise; Gozer is outside. Gozer is waiting for you to open the gates so that he can creatively destroy old business models with new form factors and interfaces that change every quarter (if not faster). Gozer is thinking up new ways of combining your content and data with other data stores to make ridiculously cool and compelling apps and tools.

For example, just this week, Apple released a new wave of creative destruction not aimed at the creators and publishers of textbooks, but aimed at those who define themselves as controllers of content that gets printed in textbooks. Some creators and publishers will be prisoners of their Zuuls and will sooner or later be swept aside by those who make more compelling interactive textbooks by freeing their content to be distributed in a new form that destroys the limitations of the printed textbook.

The point not to miss here is that publishers should not focus on putting their content on iPads (i.e., mobile) but instead focus on freeing their content to be consumed in any format (i.e., mobility), because you never know when the human race will start implanting chips in people's heads to visualize data and content in a direct line to a user’s visual cortex. When that day comes, then I can stop writing about Zuul of Ghostbusters and start writing about the Borg from Star Trek. I can see the headline now: Resistance is Futile! You Will be Assimilated!

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