July 3, 2013

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Mobile Computing Ground Zero for IT Disruption

Mobile devices will accelerate the proliferation of disruptive technologies and create – for businesses able to stay ahead of the changes – big revenue opportunities.

Today, you're using it to talk to a friend about vacation plans. Tonight, you'll be using it to post a Facebook update about the house you're buying upstate. Tomorrow, you'll use it to reach a call center with a complaint about your credit card. A single device — the mobile phone in your hand — makes all that possible. It has structured data. It has unstructured data. But more important, it provides an instantaneous connection that opens up a myriad of opportunities for businesses (both B2B and B2C) to add to their top lines.

Because mobility will provide the central thread connecting businesses to end customers, some of the major currents of IT investment today — social media, business analytics and big data, cloud computing — will converge around mobile devices. Mobility may not make billions for any one company, but it will be the capability that jump-starts billion-dollar transformations.

I recently met with the head of the Asia-Pacific region for a leading global food service and facilities management corporation. He came into the meeting with one goal: to move IT to a private cloud in Singapore that would support IT operations in 40 countries, including challenging environments in remote locations, on the assumption that the move would cut costs and increase efficiency.

But as we dug into the potential business case, we found that the project would be expensive — $15 million to achieve savings of perhaps $500,000. And then there were all the regulatory requirements and divergent business processes to address across the region. A better option was to consider mobility. By mobilizing support staff throughout the region, the company could save more than 30 percent and increase efficiency. The company now plans to introduce the mobile project first and then use those savings to consider cloud-enabling the back end.

In another example, the CEO of a large hospital specializing in oncology knew he wanted to apply technology to improve the business but didn't know where to start. What he did know was that breast cancer was the most common disease his employees were treating. Ultimately, they deployed a genetic test that would determine if a patient would benefit from chemotherapy; developed a mobile field force application for healthcare advisors with back-end workflow integration, graphics, and real-time content to educate and alleviate fear among new patients; and rolled out a program based on FaceTime — a video-calling application for Apple products — that enabled patients to discuss concerns with their caregivers and oncologists. All three initiatives were rolled out for use on mobile devices that were tied into the hospital's ERP system. Revenues from that part of the business have since grown 12 percent through an increase in referrals.

Mobility-enabled IT changes like these, while having a business impact similar to that of the major ERP implementations of the past, will need to occur many times faster. If they don't, a company's new mobile capabilities will be a step behind competitors', even as they are launched. For instance, we'll see companies demanding that their IT partners develop, in as little as 90 days, a business case for how such an initiative would fuel top-line growth. This will allow them to quickly move forward with the project or move on.

Business leaders will continue to be enamored with social media, cloud computing, and big data because it's cool stuff. But what's really cool is increasing customer wallet share without burning through capital budgets. Companies will need to stay focused on the business value generated by mobility initiatives and not the technology itself.

Mobile technology will be increasingly amazing — but only to the extent that it allows a company to give its customers something that will create value for them and for the business.