Getting smart about smartphones: How to turn your mobile strategy into a competitive advantage

A mobile strategy needs to be more than just a hardware shopping list: here's how to make mobile matter.
Written by Mark Samuels, Contributor
mobile workers

CIOs who embrace mobile working can create a platform for change both now and in the future.

Image: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Mobility continues to be a key area of investment, with researcher IDC reporting enterprise and consumer spending on mobile devices, software, and services will increase 2.7 per cent annually through to 2019, reaching $1.8tr by 2019.

Yet an investment in mobility is no guarantee of success. CIOs looking to make the most of an investment in mobile technology must focus on staff behaviour, underlying system integration, and the development of a strong business case.

1. Use new technology to rethink old ways of working

IT leaders often face significant barriers in their attempts to bring new ways of mobile working into an organisation. Individual parts of the business can rely on a legacy mode of working and be resistant to change. Yet CIOs who approach this challenge head on can use mobility to create a platform for change both now and in the future.

Colin Lees, CIO at BT Business, has introduced mobile technology at BT Fleet, a maintenance organisation that manages 78,000 vehicles and 500 garages around the UK. Rather than simply refresh systems, his team helped implement wireless networking and tablet devices so that mechanics can meet drivers as they arrive at the garage and vehicle details and mechanical problems can be logged directly into a database using the tablet.

"By introducing mobile technology, we have completely transformed how our garages work," says Lees. To help create a successful IT implementation, his team paid attention to technology adoption and the required change in behaviour. Rollout was carefully staged.

"We took a group of mechanics and gave them the tablets four months before we rolled out any new tools," he says. "We just told them to take the technology home and to have a play. We wanted to know what they thought about the devices. It was a great learning process and it's helped push adoption."

Lees and his colleagues are now working on the next iteration of the approach. By taking advantage of the IoT and sensors in vehicles, the business is taking connectivity a step further and introducing a whole new element of proactivity.

Mechanics can use their tablets to analyse real-time performance information from telemetry devices. This real world application of the IoT means mechanics can be alerted to concerns before a vehicle arrives at the garage. "It's such a leap forward in terms of technology," says Lees.

2. Invest in systems to make the most of mobile

Interim CIO Christian McMahon says the central role of mobility in any business strategy places a series of tough demands on the CIO role. Systems, reports, services, and websites must be delivered in a way that is consumable through any device from any location.

McMahon says the move to mobile devices means CIOs need to provide the platform to help workers share data and collaborate securely across the organisation. He says IT leaders who match their commitment to mobile with a commitment to the cloud are likely to see the most benefits.

On-demand IT, says McMahon, allows CIOs to create a reliable, secure, and popular basis for collaboration. Cloud-based apps can be used and updated from any location.

"Analytics is becoming an ever more prevalent form of business intelligence," he says. "Switched-on vendors offer access to dashboards and tools to extract and display critical information on mobile devices in ways that were previously difficult to deliver internally through legacy systems."

Not every business will adopt analytics straightaway. And the wider use of connected technology will raise more challenges for CIOs looking to embrace a mobile mode of working.

"IT leaders will have to think carefully about data capture, collection, production, and format," says McMahon. "The proliferation of devices will create a rise in demand for high-performance, robust, and affordable storage capacity to store all of this new data."

3. Develop a business case to show how mobile makes lives better

The need to deliver value as quickly as possible is a huge priority in the public sector and Richard Corbridge, CIO for the Health Service Executive in Ireland, says there is huge potential to deliver health-related services through a mobile first approach. He encourages public sector IT leaders to seek out best practice approaches and to develop a strong business case. Corbridge refers, for example, to Babylon Health, a mobile healthcare app developed by entrepreneur Ali Parsa.

The subscription service allows users to have virtual consultations with doctors and health care professionals via text and video messaging. Corbridge says the app offers great opportunities to provide an integrated care system in the less developed world, especially in nations with limited physical infrastructures.

Corbridge says the Babylon approach could also resonate in western nations, particularly in countries -- such as the UK and Ireland -- which provide publicly funded healthcare. New mobile services, he says, could provide an alternative to local surgery care, which often faces key challenges in terms of capacity and cost.

"When a patient feels they need to see a clinician, they can," he says. "In a world where the human attention span is said to be reducing to seven seconds, instant mobile and connected healthcare could become very important."

IDC says healthcare IT spending continues to be a priority, predicting that global IT spending in healthcare will grow by 5.5 per cent annually through to 2019, the fastest growth rates of any sector.

"Digital healthcare can be a truly disruptive phenomenon," says Corbridge. "Just think of the power of a mobile solution that the patient opts in to and is clear where their data resides, and is also aware of the level of care they are going to receive. When we then add the potential power of IoT capabilities, it becomes clear that the concept of a 'liquid hospital' is all about the mobile experience."

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