Mobile communications is a fast-moving trend. If your business is currently looking at how you can make the most of it, be prepared for some surprises. Mobile communications is evolving so rapidly, it’s upending traditional assumptions including what we really mean by “mobility.”
Consider the following:
It’s not about travel. Having a mobile phone was initially justified as a way to easily stay in touch while traveling. But spending on mobile communications has soared in recent years at the same time that spending on business travel has declined—a point made in a recent Frost & Sullivan report prepared for Avaya. While business travel bounced back in 2011 from its recession-induced slowdown, the use of mobile communications far outstripped the increased pace.
It’s not about the “mobile employee.” When people strategize about how to use mobile communications in business, they tend to focus on the needs of traditional road warriors, such as sales reps, executives and service personnel who are constantly in the car or hopping on and off planes. But today, the vast majority of employees using mobile devices don’t travel routinely for work.
It’s not even about being mobile. In various studies, consumers report that anywhere from 40-60 percent of their mobile usage takes place in a fixed location— at home or in the office—not while they are in transit.
What’s going on is actually an old story. We always expect new technologies to essentially follow (and cannibalize) existing ones: the telephone would follow in the path of/replace the telegraph; TV would follow in the path of/replace the movies; automated teller machines would follow in the path of/replace human tellers. But inevitably, something very different happens. Successful technologies redefine the space that they operate in.
Mobile phones first addressed the communications needs of people on the run. Now they are meeting the needs of people who want more convenient ways to manage their messaging, keep track of their schedules, bank, pay bills, shop, view entertainment, take a picture, record a video, get sports updates, read a book or simply multitask. And, as noted above, people do this regardless of where they are located. Being “mobile” or even what we typically think of as “communications” may or may not have anything to do with it. As Frost and Sullivan notes, people “are blending home life and work life in ways we’ve never seen before.”
Advances in mobile technology are partly responsible: mobile phones are smarter, faster and better connected. The rise of the mobile Web is another major development. But a wide range of other factors are also in play. Apps are now as important a reason to have a mobile device as the ability to talk. Social media and instant messaging have taken off in largely because of mobility and are as at home on the smartphone as they are on a computer. There is also a generational transformation going on: the younger you are, the more likely you are to rely on your mobile device for a wide range of tasks.
An interesting case in point is the mobile software Avaya is introducing for Android and Apple iPhones. It takes the power of your Avaya IP Office communications system and lets you carry it around in the palm of your hand. You can use it to:
Manage your contacts: Get all your business contacts automatically on your smartphone.
Manage your messages: Scroll through voicemails and IMs and respond to what’s really important.
Manage your people (e.g. a sales or service force): Instantly see who is available and map their location.
Collaboration: Assemble the people you need for any conference call literally in seconds.
Interestingly, the value that the Avaya software delivers is not always linked to talking. And you don’t even have to be “mobile.”
If your business is currently looking at how you can make the most of it, be prepared for some surprises. Mobile communications is evolving so rapidly, it’s upending traditional assumptions including what we really mean by “mobility.”