Ask any executive in almost any industry if they have a mobile strategy, and the answer will almost certainly be a resounding yes. Most will point to shiny new mobile sites or WAP applications that – essentially – translate enterprise websites into mobile accessible pages. Others will quote stats on employee mobility based on enterprise device penetration and usage.
But, in my experience, few organizations have yet to embed mobile into their overall business strategy and operating models. Simply put, mobile has most often been seen as an enterprise IT ‘add on’ rather than a catalyst to enterprise transformation.
However, we are starting to see some examples of enterprises and industry sectors where mobile adoption has led to innovations that have dramatically altered the business process and operating models.
Likely the most obvious example comes from the supply chain and logistics sector where mobile has unlocked new and improved processes to monitor the movement of goods or analyze more efficient delivery routes. This has led to improved margins, reduced down time, more accurate tracking and leaner supply chains.
Governments are also getting in on the game. In Singapore, reportedly, town councils have even created mobile applications that allow residents to submit photos of ‘community issues’ – such as lamp-post replacements or contaminated public spaces – that can then be prioritized and remedied by the appropriate government department.
Clearly, this type of innovative enterprise thinking cannot be catalyzed by simply arming employees with smart phones and expecting innovative change to miraculously appear. Indeed, capturing real enterprise value and innovation requires organizations – and particularly executive leadership teams – to create an environment that supports and encourages innovation and transformation. In other words, employees must be encouraged to take calculated risks if the outcome leads to new ideas or new operating models.
Moreover, organizations must also start to rethink their existing processes and ways of working to explore how mobile may enhance efficiency, drive productivity or increase business flexibility. More often than not, enterprise innovation in mobile is thwarted not by a lack of creativity, but rather by inflexible and outdated processes that only go to reinforce the enterprise status-quo.
Understanding the limitations of local infrastructure and mobile capabilities within operating markets is also key. In Asia, for example, mobile capabilities vary from one country to the next. Some, like Korea, Japan and Singapore, are believed to be more mature mobile ecosystems and are therefore leading the way in embedding mobile into the enterprise. Many others are still at the ‘interacting stage’ where mobile is being used to access websites, browse information or check prices. But there are also parts of Asia that are essentially only just connecting to mobile; not surprisingly, Myanmar and North Korea suffer the absolute lowest mobile penetration rates of any country around the world.1 It is not always possible, therefore, to develop one clear and consistent global mobile strategy for the enterprise.
There are, however, a number of steps that organizations can be taking today that can lead to competitive advantage in the future. For one, executives must start to develop a digital strategy that not only reflects their business objectives, but also their customers’ needs and expectations. Then the trick is to find a way to operationalize the strategy within the realities of the local markets and available technologies.
This, in turn, can lead organizations to identify and manage risks related to mobile. Some are fairly routine – how to secure data and customer information within the IT environment, for example – while others raise some unique challenges. How will we develop new applications or services? What third party providers should we partner with to execute our strategy? Which technologies will be required to achieve our digital strategy? What is the impact of mobile on our existing IT architecture?
The only constant is change and never has this been more true than in today’s technology market. Indeed, change in mobile technology is expected to continue to pick up pace unabated for the foreseeable future, meaning that enterprises and their executives will need to be vigilant about monitoring technology and customer trends in the marketplace and adapting their digital and mobile strategies accordingly.
The reality is that mobile is a fast-changing game and one that provides ample opportunity for organizations to differentiate themselves and improve operations; those that do not take advantage may soon be left behind by more nimble and innovative competitors. Those that embrace the change that mobile can bring, however, will almost certainly reap the rewards of improved productivity, increased efficiency and greater customer loyalty.
By Juvanus Tjandra, KPMG in Singapore