Choosing the right mobile platform for your business
This article focus on what to think about when choosing your mobile platform for business. It will try to explain and direct you to conclusions by looking back historically. We hope this article will be valuable and contribute to your future selection process.
The pre-web era
Before the internet revolution really took off in the mid-nineties, most CRM-like software and other business software was installed on local devices as a desktop application.
Sometimes it was a so-called client-server installation, meaning that some parts of the system were run somewhere other than on your PC. In those days, no one had seen a laptop and we sat behind our desks operating our systems.
These systems were complex and not especially user friendly. If you had problems you needed to ask the local “Guru” for help, and if you were lucky he (it was mostly a he back then) had time for you when you needed it.
The era was very stationary and office friendly. If you had to work over the weekend you just had to drag yourself into the office to do your tasks.
Here’s a rhetorical question: would you accept such a thing today?
It was devastating for all those who worked in mobile professions like sales or service-oriented professions who had to visit clients. Neither was business software particularly user friendly, and we won’t even talk about the complete lack of a user experience.
The web era
In the mid-nineties the internet started to get a foothold, but that was driven more by consumers than by businesses. Consumers later started to demand to have the same thing in their office as they had back home.
Do you recognise the flow? Consumers started to require companies to have a website, so they could email them and start communicating digitally
This revolution also started to affect how business software was designed and constructed. Suddenly, we didn’t need to have the business system installed on our local desktop.
More and more business software was constructed as web applications, which made them available to a bigger audience than previously. It also meant that we as users could consider working from outside the office sometimes.
Previously, you had to develop different versions of software for different devices, since Apple and Microsoft had their own operating systems, but with web applications the number of software companies boomed, because now they didn’t need to bother about different operative systems anymore.
One other major fact that didn’t force software producers to build desktop versions was that the business systems did not use any device-specific functions. The desktop more or less just operated as a display that you accessed your business software from.
These systems were complex and not especially user friendly.
These changes have been great, and have made it both cheaper and easier to construct software products than ever before. It has also become easier to spread software to more users. These are the reasons why large ecosystems of business software are available to us today.
Still, web based applications were operated locally within companies and required huge projects to get started, and heavy costs naturally followed as a consequence.
Another consequence was that companies started to build huge IT departments that gained more and more power in terms of steering which tools were put in the hands of the business people.
The decisions they made were not always optimal and sometimes were made only because they could be made from a technical perspective, rather than to solve a real business problem for the colleagues who were focusing on the core business of the company.
The cloud era
In the mid-2000s we started to see the next trend — cloud-based software — which meant we didn’t even have to install the software we used. That of course lowered costs and made it easier for the business side of the company to acquire software.
In the mid-2000s we started to see the next trend— cloud-based software
The need to have large IT departments decreased and business software became more accessible for small and medium-sized businesses. Sometimes that created trouble, though, when one department didn’t always speak to the next.
So from a company perspective, the ecosystem of tools used by employees increased, and in some cases overlapped with each other due to the lack of internal communication, therefore the need for IT strategies grew to get control of the situation.
Still, regardless of these changes, the business systems were still complex and not user friendly. Some systems even came with user guides of almost 4,000 pages.
Who in the whole world would manage to read such a 4000 page user guide? What were they thinking of?
It was therefore more or less impossible to start using software without spending a few days at a training camp. This, along with the fact that most software companies in this era were still too “IT” and rarely thought about the people who used their software, resulted in many customers needing to purchase expensive training and performing huge change programs internally, just because software was being replaced.
The mobile era
By the end of the 2000s we also started to see the mobile trend grow. Again, consumers started to push businesses to develop. Employees started to require change and access to their business software on their mobile devices. Companies and IT departments therefore started to apply “Bring your own device” strategies as a consequence.
By the end of the 2000s consumers started to push businesses to become more mobile
After a while, people started to realize that mobile devices were more powerful tools than their desktop PCs or laptops. Their mobile devices often contained useful functions, like cameras and maps, that it was relevant to access from within business systems.
This forced the software producers to change and think, how can our software be accessed from these small-screen devices?
This is where we are right now, in the middle of a transition to becoming truly mobile. Some providers will make the change and some won’t.
It is like any change — some survive, some disappear and some new players arrive.
The future way
So, how will these changes affect us when we choose our future CRM or business software?
The obvious answer is that we need to make sure our business software is truly mobile, meaning it needs to be developed from scratch with a mobile device and interaction in mind. It also needs to be designed to fill a clear role.
We have seen too many attempts by software producers to just transfer their web based software to a mobile device. The response from users is swift and hard — they don’t use it and they throw it on the rubbish heap quicker than you can say Jack Robinson.
Any software producer that can’t cope with this transition will be put out of business.
The second answer (which is not that obvious and is a tiny bit longer) is that sometimes we need to take a step back to be able to take two steps forward. What do we mean by that?
Consider a modern smartphone, tablet or any of the soon-to-arrive mobile devices such as smart watches, glasses etc. They all contain a lot of sensors and relevant functions with a huge capacity to bring value to their owners, on a completely different level than any desktop PC or laptop.
Suddenly we have tools in our pocket 24/7 that can help us in many situations. It’s not only about the camera, maps and routes, it’s about measuring our heart rates, our glucose levels and how we sleep; replacing our keys; being a digital wallet; and controlling our home and office environments. But also guiding us when doing business.
In other words, these devices are far from being just the containers that we use to present our business software on. Our business software needs to be heavily integrated with these devices so we can gain full value and use of them — and all of that without being too complicated for us as users.
That’s why future CRM and business systems need to be built with artificial intelligence at a completely different level than has been done so far.
So, how do these things affect software producers? First of all, the software itself needs to come back from the web and become native (installed on the device) again. Web based systems are not able to interact with devices at anywhere near the level of a native system.
The fact that the world have 2 large providers, and 1 small, of mobile operating systems — Apple with iOS, Google with Android and Microsoft with Windows — forces software producers to potentially build the same business system in three versions.
This is, of course, based on the theory that the software needs to be available on all platforms, which leads to increased product development costs. As always, that tends to make the software more expensive. In contrast, those who focus on delivering their software to just one or two platforms will be able to keep costs down. Therefore, software producers will to a greater extent choose the platforms that are widely spread rather than going after all three.
The decision on what future CRM or business software you should choose will be affected by which mobile platform you have chosen for your company. The “Bring your own device” strategy might risk being an expensive strategy that also leads your company away from gaining full use of the devices your colleagues use. It might even risk that some of your colleagues might not being able to access your most critical business systems.
Therefore, you need to ask yourself the question, do we want to use Apple, Google or Microsoft as the basic mobile platform to build our business on?
Why do we have to make a choice?
In order to move forward and embrace the full capabilities of future business solutions, we desperately need to take a page out of the book of the stone age technology that ruled the office back before the nineties, and here’s why.
For starters, both users and companies will have an easier workday, less administration and therefore more value, and less headaches and stress. This applies both to those who use the systems and those who manage the systems.
By using the ecosystem for one or maximum two mobile platform providers all users will easier recognize how to use the systems and the ease of use will therefore increase. This will become even clearer when the platform providers start to simplify how different systems within their ecosystems interact and share data.
The time to market for software that integrates information from different business systems will be reduced and you as a user will get access to more dedicated and focused applications that solve a few specific problems.
These mobile systems will also be easier to understand and get started with. The days when you faced gigantic spaceship systems containing features for many diversified areas like sales, economy, hr, support etc. that were not producing any good experience in any area, will nally be consigned to where they belong — the scrapheap.
In this near future the market will become more divided, not more integrated, between these three platform providers. Those users working at companies that are prepared to make an active platform choice will become the kings and queens, not the IT or tech people.
In other words, if your focus is on your users, make a choice and stick to it. In this soon-to-come future it’s the user and their usage that are truly in focus, not what is technically possible.
Many claim to have their users’ best interests in mind, but they still focus too much on technical questions rather than usage questions. If you make the choice you will find yourself able to switch devices and work in an interconnected way with different devices and colleagues 24/7, wherever you are.
Everybody will be using the same devices and interfaces and therefore will recognize how to use the systems and be able to teach each other. Since we will get more and more mobile business solutions, it will also be easier to get going.
The built-in intelligence and automatic information gathering will make life easier and reduce the time we spend on meaningless information shuffling.
These are all valid reasons to be bold enough to make a choice. A choice based on what is easiest and fits the users best in a mobile world. Not a choice based on what is technically possible.
Not a choice based on getting as much “IT” work and configurability as possible, just because someone historically said that that is important. The user and the usage are becoming more and more important.
Not only because of the hefty price tags the technical way presents, but because we as users are getting tired of complex spaceship systems that force us to do tons of administration and remain stationary, take decades to roll out in the organization and take away our ability to become more productive.