mobile world

Mobile has increasingly become the go to device to fulfill a consumer need. What's tomorrow's weather? Is the flight on time? Where's the nearest store, and is this product cheaper there? Whatever the question, consumers increasingly expect the answer to be on the phone.

The new battleground for customers is in this mobile moment - the instant in which the customer is seeking an answer. If you're there for them, you'll gain their loyalty; if you're not, you'll lose their business. But while both entrepreneurial companies like Hailo and huge corporations like Nestle in Switzerland, McDonalds in France, and ING Bank in Netherlands are winning in this mobile moment, the majority of firms still think 'we'll build an app' is the solution to serving customers in their mobile moments.

This approach, quite simply, will lead to lost business. Why? Because firms can't win the battle for a mobile moment with a technology platform built for the web era. Mobile is not small web. It's an entirely different experience based on simple steps and deep engagement, not self-service catalogues of transactions. Bolting a new interface on an old technology stack won't close the engagement gap that separates a company from its customer in that mobile moment of need. Rather, firms must completely re-architect their business technology platform to win, serve, and retain customers in their mobile moments.

Your technology isn't ready for the mobile mind shift and its unintended consequences

For 30 years, companies have been building the technology systems to power PCs on employees' desks and then websites on customers' PCs. They built software to connect these tools to the big corporate systems of record that manage things like inventory and customer records. The result of all this activity, in most large companies, is a technological chaos of complexity, redundancy, and antiquity. It's not ready for the mobile mind shift.

The technology you invested in to power PCs and the web won't stretch to handle mobile moments. Your complex transaction systems aren't designed to deliver simple mobile experiences. These systems were built for employees sitting at desks all day tending complex processes, not for casual customers taking action in seconds on a mobile device over a spotty wireless network. They don't handle the intuitive, task-oriented, contextual requirements of an app used in a mobile moment.

Your technology capacity won't handle the surge in transaction volume. Your systems are designed for a placid and predictable load. Successful mobile applications can drive a 10-fold increase in logins and transactions. One bank had to extend and re-extend its capacity because its mobile app generated six times the transactions than the company had expected. Can your systems handle the demands? One banking CIO fears a meltdown in the core transaction systems of the bank should the stock market tank.

Your separate applications will make it hard to deliver new services. For example, if your customer database is disconnected from your inventory and order management systems, you can't customise an offer or a price based on a customer's loyalty and preferences.

Your content systems and processes will hold you back as you stretch them into new engagement scenarios. In the mobile mind shift, people won't wait for your web content to download, and they won't tolerate a clunky content experience.

Your siloed data will fail to address the real-time demands of engagement analytics. In the mobile mind shift, analytics can't be an afterthought-it must be built into the entire system of engagement.

These unintended consequences can sink your mobile moments. The mobile mind shift demands innovation. The complexity of your current business applications and legacy technology architectures won't support that innovation. You need a new technology approach, one designed for mobile moments.

You need a new technology approach

In the mobile mind shift, you will need a radical overhaul of your entire approach to technology.

The technology platforms for mobile moments are different from the traditional systems of record that companies use to run their businesses. Systems of record, the transaction systems that companies use to manage their back office and core operations like Nestlé's inventory system or ING's banking system, were designed to be rock-solid indicators of truth in a business. But these systems-and the business processes they support-are not optimised for the speedy, frequent, and granular tasks that people with mobile devices demand.

Successful companies have learned that mobile requires investments in the systems of engagement that focus on people and their context and tasks, not on internal processes or databases. At every company we've seen win a mobile moment, technology managers used a new set of technologies that are markedly different from the investments companies had made to that point. The technology experts in these companies keep four principles in mind to win the mobile moment.

First, the application must be intuitive to a first-time user. The design thinking starts with a human interaction, not a database. The goal is to help someone accomplish something immediately and with no training. This takes a very different mindset and an entirely new approach to putting information and transactions into people's hands. It starts with a deep understanding of a person and his context.

Second, the application is task-oriented. It must deliver just enough information and action buttons to help someone take the next step. A mobile moment is brief and purposeful. To enable success in this moment, the data and business process must be "atomised" to serve up only what's needed at that moment. No extra clicks and no wading through screens and data fields to accomplish the goal.

Third, the experience must be served in a customer's context. Because you know where someone is and a lot about his preferences and previous actions, you can spoon up information to help him take the next most likely step on his way. This information, content, or insight may come from your internal systems, or it may come from a business partner or a service provider like Google or Adobe.

Fourth, the technology platform needs to flex and scale to the demands of the customer's schedule and expectations. There is an inherent volatility with technology in the hands of customers. They use the apps at all hours of the day; they do not schedule upgrades months in advance. This leads to spikes in demand and usage.

In contrast, mobile apps focus on people, not internal processes. They draw on mobile, social, cloud, and analytics technology to deliver service directly into a customer's context. Google Now can warn that you will miss the train unless you walk a little faster down Bond Street or the Champs-Élysées. That takes technology that can deliver on what a customer expects on his mobile device in his immediate context. To win in the mobile moment with its unique requirements, business executives and technology managers must fund, create, and manage a next-generation technology platform with four planks:

1. Master a slew of new engagement technologies. Mobile, social, cloud, notifications, analytics, in-app feedback, content management. These are the technologies of engagement. They must be absorbed and aggregated to deliver engaging experiences.

2. Build a cloud-based integration and delivery platform. The three-tier Web can't handle the diverse and complex needs of mobile moments. Enterprises must embrace the cloud and a new four-tier "engagement platform" that separates the Aggregation Tier, carrying API management and business logic, from the Delivery Tier, running at Internet scale and living close to the responsive edge when a customer taps an action button. The cloud is an essential component of this new architecture.

3. Simplify retrieving data from existing transaction systems. Existing transaction systems and processes are too bulky and ungainly for the small actions and rapid response needed in a mobile moment. Firms will have to atomise processes and expose just enough data through well-crafted APIs that can work on mobile devices and in any channel.

4. Implement a comprehensive analytics capability. Building a mobile app without instrumenting it for analytics means flying blind into the mobile moment. The app spins off data on performance and usage as well as location data that should improve a customer's experience according to her context. This analytics capability is the most difficult and potentially the most valuable outcome of a mobile moment.

As you see, a great technology strategy and a new generation of capabilities likes behind every great mobile moment. CIOs and technology managers have a powerfully important place in this brave new world. Building this next generation technology platform won't be cheap, and it won't be easy. But it is essential to business success in the mobile mind shift.

Ted Schadler is vice presidents and principal analyst at Forrester Research serving CIOs