, CTO & Editor of CITO Research
, on experimenting to understand mobility.
I'm a blogger for forbes.com. And I'm also CTO and editor of CITO Research, a firm that provides consulting services to vendors and users of technology.
My interest in the mobile space is to find out how we can make mobile technology effective. So much of whatever is done in IT sometime succeeds, sometimes fails. What my research is all about is how to figure out what succeeds and how to repeat it....
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...I think that mobility is something that is very similar to an effect that happened in enterprise software about 10 years ago. People had SAP and the other ERP systems in place. And they found that the user interfaces to those systems sometimes were not designed for the work that they were doing. And so many of the people who were most successful in ERP used things like PowerBuilder and other user interface devices to create interfaces that were exactly about the work that was being done. Then they used the APIs that were provided to provide connections to the ERP in the background. And so they could have-- instead of having 15 screens to do a job, they could have 1 or 2. And the ERP system became much more productive. And people got the value out of it. Well, I think that we're headed toward the exact same situation now with mobility.
Mobility is the surface area that people are interacting with, even if it's on a laptop, a tablet, a phone. And the background is all the enterprise apps, all the data, all the BI functionality that we have at our disposal. And I think the people who are doing the best with mobility are those who understand it that way and are seeking to either create role-specific or task-specific applications that allow people to do exactly what they need to do. And so the user experience is great. And I think that that's really the way to make mobility work.
The biggest challenge in mobility is to really address it with the proper amount of humility. The fact is that we've got so many things that are new about mobility. You've got the devices with capabilities that people are not used to having. You've got the user experience, which is incredible and has so much to offer. And it can bring so many more people to the table. And then you've got the ability to knit together APIs from dozens of sources and data that you never had access to before. And in addition, you also have the ability to track the use of the mobile app in ways-- and also the location and behavior of the mobile user in ways you never did before. That is a cornucopia of capability and data. And it has tremendous amounts of potential. But if you expect to figure that all out in one whiteboard session or something, you're sadly mistaken.
The proper approach to this is to really be humble and to start doing experiments to understand what you know about mobility. You need to do experiments to understand what users need. You need to do experiments to understand how best to use the devices. You need to understand the form factor that's appropriate, the number of apps that's appropriate. Sometimes you're going to have one app that does everything for a certain role that somebody carries around all day. Other times, you're going to have task-specific apps. Other times, apps are really just going to be ways to deliver content. And so when is each one of those patterns appropriate? Admit that you don't know and start doing experiments. And I think that that's the biggest challenge that most people have. When they do the experiments, they don't collect the data. They don't analyze the data. And that's what we really need to start doing. And I think that the metrics we have and the mobile space are awesome. I think it really requires discipline to actually put those metrics to work. And also, it requires some skills that you may not have as well. So I think mobile--that's the biggest challenge for mobility.
The development and all the other ways of managing both apps and devices are becoming more and more well understood. How to make a great app is always going to be a challenge. I think that the best thing that we can do to understand the future of mobility is to really do something I call, play the question game. And the question game is my attempt to try to find a simple way of aligning business and technology. So I believe the future of mobility is one in which the business starts asking the IT function for questions it needs to be answered in certain contexts. And that's the question game. The business and the IT get together, and they put all the questions that they would like to have answered. And then they rank them by the value of answering that question. And then I believe that many of the questions, that when you play the question came, many of the questions are going to be-- end up answered by mobile apps. And so I believe that the future of mobility is one in which a company knows when it should be developing the app itself, when it should be developing a native app versus an HTML5 app, when it should be seeking outside help from a vendor to develop an app. And that's the kind of sophistication I think that's going to distinguish the winners.
So I think that know thyself is the future of mobility for 2014. And the companies that really, really pay attention to understanding what they can do, what they can't do, and then what questions that need to be answered are the ones that are going to find their way to apps that are transformational.