Tag Archives: Mobile 2.0

Evolution At Work: Why Traditional Enterprise Tech Will Get Killed By Consumer-oriented Products

Article first published as Evolution At Work: Why Traditional Enterprise Tech Will Get Killed By Consumer-oriented Products on Technorati.

Today’s Post-PC, Web 2.0 Era is causing the consumer and enterprise tech worlds to collide. In this battle, the DNA of consumer tech positions it to displace “dinosaur” Enterprise mindsets.

Three of the most thought-provoking articles I have read this year on enterprise technology have shined a light on a new, emerging phenomenon: how the rapid advancement of Web 2.0, cloud computing, tablet and smart phone technologies has opened the door to allow consumer-oriented products to displace traditional enterprise technology:

  • R “Ray” Wang, CEO of Constellation Research, explored this from the perspectives of speed, innovation and freedom of choice, writing about the emergence of consumer technologies that meet robust enterprise needs – fast, cheaper and more flexibility.
  • Matt Rossof, in an interview with Andreessen-Horowitz partner Peter Levin, discussed this from the end user experience, asking why people should not get the same ease of use from enterprise tech that they do from the products they use outside of work.
  • Thomas Wailgum, writer on enterprise for CIO.com, highlighted the poor customer experiences that can arise after “vendor lock-in”, questioning the business rationale to accept this in light of influx consumer-style, on-demand options now available.

It does not take much research to see the increased use of consumer tech for business. Many of us now can use personal smartphones and tablets to read our corporate email or Skype to conduct free, easy videoconferences. App Stores have thousands of business productivity apps we can install instantly. Media giants like CNN use WordPress. Even the US government now uses Drupal, a GSA-managed App Store and Google Office via the cloud.

Why This Is Happening Now

Technology innovation is not new; it happens all the time. What has changed is the emergence of a whole new set of innovations that focus on making it much, much easier to deploy and integrate robust, advanced technology. Three particular developments stand out:

1. Cloud Computing. The Cloud has turned computing into a utility. Fortune 500 firms, SMEs, startups and even individuals can setup business-class environments with equal ease – without the need for large investment in capital or specialized teams.

2. Web 2.0. The Web 2.0 (and Mobile 2.0) movement has made integration open and market-driven. You can go to an App Store and find thousands of applications that work together rather than managing—and maintaining—integration projects yourself.

3. The Post-PC Era. Consumer “off the shelf” smartphones have changed how many people view computing—at work or at home. As a result, they are now creating demand for a new class of business application, one that deliverable over the cloud and Web 2.0.

The Result: Consumer and Enterprise Worlds in Collision

dinosaur-extinct-250pxsq1In the past, the enterprise and consumer technology worlds rarely touched. Consumer tech was in the household (or consumer-facing websites). Enterprise tech was on-premise. The resource-intensive requirements to deploy and integrate business technology served as a barrier between the consumer and enterprise technology words.

Now that barrier is gone. Clouds, Web 2.0, smartphones, tablets and other dual-use innovations have created a “land bridge” between these two worlds. Non-technologists can now implement many projects without specialized technology teams and large budgets. They are regularly doing this based on their personal (i.e., consumer-based) experiences with technology. In more and more businesses, enterprise and consumer technologies are competing head-to-head.

Why Consumer-oriented Tech Will Win Out

Companies who build consumer-style products evolved in a fundamentally different environment than those companies that have evolved in the world of the “locked-in” enterprise agreement. As a result, they have three critical “genetic” differences:

1. Another Choice Is Always Available. Consumer-facing product companies cannot rely on multi-year enterprise agreements to retain their customers. If customers are not happy, they will leave now – not in four years. Companies fighting in this intense environment are used to working daily to keep customers happy enough not to not only keep using their products, but also to recommend them to their friends.

2. Support Is a Cost Center Not a Revenue Center. In the consumer world, it is very hard to charge for support. It is equally hard to sell products that require lots of setup and training time to use. As a result, consumer-oriented companies design products to minimize the need for customer service. This is vastly different than many enterprise companies, who view extended service and support agreements as a key revenue stream.

3. Integration Is Free, Open and Instant. Products that easily share contacts, photos, updates and other useful information are used more and more often; products that don’t fall by the wayside. Integration is inherently open, instant, free and simple. It does not require complex partner agreements, extensive training and long integration timelines typical of legacy enterprise systems.

These differences are not superficial; they are embedded in the very “DNA” of the missions, products and teams of successful consumer-oriented companies. They provide enormous competitive advantages in comparison to those with “enterprise lock-in ‘dinosaur’ mindsets.” Freedom of choice will beat lack of choice. Pleasing user experiences will trump frustrating ones. Companies like Salesforce, 37 Signals, DropBox, Box.Net, Atlassian, Google and Apple are displacing “traditional” enterprise vendors in many corporations – even at Fortune 50 ones like Proctor & Gamble. However, this is just the beginning: in ten years the lines between consumer and enterprise tech will be blurred beyond recognition.

It’s time for a Location Data Code of Conduct: Four Needed Policies

Article first published as It’s Time for a Location Data Code of Conduct: Four Needed Policies on Technorati.

Later this month the European Union’s “Article 29 Working Party” is likely to issue new rules requiring mobile and smartphone providers to treat location-based data as Personally Identifiable Information (PII). Last week, Apple, Google and others testified on the Hill regarding their use—or misuse—of consumer’s location data from smartphones.

minority-report-monitoring_280px-sqWhat is driving the speed and intensity of this regulatory response? A simple fact: location-based data links mineable information context about what you are doing, when and where, in a manner that is explicitly tied to your identity. This is a watershed threat to privacy we have not seen since the commercialization of the Internet (when we had to pay for Internet access).

Providers of smartphones and mobile applications need to realize and proactively manage this. If not, life could quickly become much harder for them. This would not just be bad for providers; if would curtail innovation enjoyed by consumers.

Now is the time for industry to get out in front and establish a Code of Conduct guiding use of location-based data (just as the Mobile Marketing Association did years ago for text messaging). Not only could this head off costly regulation; it could also set the standard for a trusted consumer experience, significantly expanding the location-based service market.

An effective Location-based Data Code of Conduct should include the following policies:

1. Enable users to turn location services on or off easily and transparently

Location-based tracking and promotion is great when people are gift shopping. However, sometimes it is simply an invasion of privacy. This applies equally to the enterprise, as companies don’t want their mission-critical staff to turn off corporate mobile phones to protect their private lives when they are out of the office. Smartphone and mobile app providers need to enable people to turn location-based services on or off. Those who make this easy and transparent will establish market leadership.

2 Manage location-based data with the same fidelity as billing data

Yes, mobile phones have tracked where you were (and when) for years. However, smartphones now combine this with data about what exactly you are doing—in a format that can be mined for targeted marketing, legal discovery, and more. Providers need to treat these data as sensitively as they do with billing data: asking for consent before collection or sharing, encrypting it, guarding it behind firewalls, and anonymizing it for marketing analysis. Those who fail to do this will lose customers and face lawsuits or worse.

3. Require mobile app providers to adhere to the code of conduct

Right now people are “up in arms” because a few very visible, publicly traded companies are keeping their location-based data. Imagine what this will become when hundreds of “fly by night” companies exploit location data for identity theft, targeted burglaries and more? Industry needs to create an App Store-agnostic, straightforward certification program for location-based app providers. This will create the same trust needed for location services growth that similar self-policing programs did for eCommerce and mobile marketing.

4. Let customers request anonymization of their location data

Consumers are already worried about their online data be stored forever in search engines. However, search engines can only crawl data actively posted. Location-data is collected passively; removing the conscious “should I post this” moment. As a result, consumers face a Hobson’s Choice on consumers: do I forgo location services or permanently lose privacy? Providers need to enable customers to request anonymization of all stored location data. This process can be balanced (e.g., linked to continued service use). However, it must exist.

Location-based services are enormously exciting and present an unimagined range of applications for commerce, logistics, medicine and more. A smart Location Data Code of Conduct will enable all of use to exploit this innovation safely, profitably and effectively.

Article first published as It’s Time for a Location Data Code of Conduct: Four Needed Policies on Technorati.