Lately, I’ve been researching how enterprises are becoming mobile businesses. What I’ve discovered is that a business doesn’t “mobilize” overnight. There are distinct phases that a company progresses through as it transforms itself into a mobile-enabled business. I categorize these phases as follows:

  • Acceptance and extension

Today, most businesses have accepted the concept that business processes need to be mobilized and that the business must have a mobile strategy to interact with its customers. In this phase, a business will simply rework many of its existing solutions to operate in the mobile domain. Companies will seek out mobile versions of existing applications or adapt these applications to operate on mobile devices. In many cases, firms start by replacing volumes of paper or paper-based processes with mobile apps.

  • Enhancement

In the second phase, a business tries to add new features to existing services to enhance the experience. For example, this could be adding location into customer relationship management or adding mobile point-of-sale in a retail environment.

  • Transformation

During this phase, businesses create new experiences and build different business processes. Mobile apps will automate workflows, streamline content discovery, and build knowledge iteratively over time as employees and customers use an application. For example, a mobile logistics process could enable a delivery person to run a report at a customer’s location that shows all previous deliveries and calculate how long it will be before the client needs another delivery. This process could also be used to help the logistics manager understand how long the delivery person was at a customer’s location versus driving between sites.

Transitioning techniques

I’ve also discovered that many companies I’ve interviewed get stuck as the business attempts to transition from phase one to phase two. Most businesses simply stop at recreating existing experiences and processes. What a business should do is build a mobile strategy that focuses on delivering new value or enhancing the company’s value proposition. A company should be thinking about how the business can use mobile to make the everyday lives of its employees and customers better. What is their goal? For example: Is it fast access to inventory data? Is it the ability to approve a vacation or an expense report while on the go? Is it the ability to place an order from their smartphone?

Assuming the business understands what its employees and customers want, it should look at how the unique attributes of mobility can improve existing processes. Location is an obvious first choice. For example, how can location knowledge change what we communicate to our customers and employees? Push notifications can be used to send targeted information at the point of need. Second, can we use location to automate processes such as delivery to a client site or timekeeping in the workplace? Third, how can we use location to optimize our worker productivity? In the case of field service and transportation, a business could use location to deliver better routes to save time and fuel. In the case of retail, a grocer could use location to improve “in the aisle” customer care.

Location is just one element of context that businesses can use to improve business processes. Businesses can also look at time of day, motion, and social networking context for additional ways to improve business processes. In 2013,

I encourage you to think broadly about what “mobilizing the business” can mean. How will you use mobile to transform business processes?

 

Maribel Lopez is the CEO and mobile market strategist for Lopez Research, a market research and strategy consulting firm that specializes in communications technologies with a heavy emphasis on the disruptive nature of mobile technologies. AT&T has sponsored this blog post.