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“I’m on the train”: How mobile technologies impact business



I remember Trigger Happy TV in the early days of mobile phones with “I’m on the train” being shouted across the carriage. It’s a phrase I still find myself unable to use. Now it’s all heads bent to the little screen—checking emails, touching up presentations or transferring funds with the banking app… And maybe there’s the Twitter equivalent of “I’m on the train” going on too!


So how does all of this new technology impact business? Organisations have had to change dramatically over the last decade or so. We’ve come from a legacy of IT providing discrete systems to automate specific business functions. Now we’re in an era where firstly, the technology is more capable and is therefore used more extensively; and secondly, the pressure from both customers and staff has dealt a fatal blow to the earlier fortress mentality for protecting the enterprise.


IT has to move from a control mentality to one of accessibility and enablement—we should now be providing the conduit through which business processes are facilitated.


Mobile: With the proliferation of powerful mobile devices, there now needs to be 24-hour access to business processes from any location.


While there’s the obvious convenience for staff to access systems from the train rather than waiting until they’re back in the office, there’s a significant cost benefit too. EY reports that mobiles are being used in Kenya to collect health data, reducing costs and reporting time by 25 percept.


We’re seeing this kind of rapid progress in emerging markets often due to the lack of legacy systems. It’s a lot easier to build a system from scratch when you don’t have to integrate with older software. However, using the right approaches and tools, the same progress is achievable even building on pre-existing systems. And to stay competitive—both from the customer and the staff point of view—I believe that this kind of change in IT is imperative.


Embracing change: Adopting this new style of IT embraces change from many sources. The French bank Credit Agricole now has its own app store where customers can download and suggest new apps. Delivery here relies on the initiatives to “join up” internal systems, while customer steering of online service provision is clearly used to differentiate from the competition.


My preferred device is…: The user experience is crucial to employees as well as customers. Everyone now has access to better technology at home than they do in the workplace. People know how to use apps and file-sharing services, and the current generation is at ease with using IT. New joiners to companies are actually shocked at how backward companies are in regard to IT.


Name your acronym: As is the tradition in our industry, our first response is to develop a range of acronyms to deal with this problem. BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) is the most common, but there’s also CYOD (Choose Your Own Device) and COPE (Corporate Owned, Personally Enabled).


While I’m sure this buzzword bingo is immensely helpful, the truth is that IT managers need to decide what devices they will allow staff to connect to enterprise networks—and how much control the IT department needs to have. It’s a matter of balancing risk management, productivity and understanding the need to attract and keep the right kind of people for the workplace.


In an interview with the FT, Daniel Lebeau, CIO of GSK Biologicals says he has allowed BYOD. Given basic constraints, GSK will provide email, calendar and contacts. He says that blanket bans on this kind of interoperation would portray the IT manager as “Mr. No.” (Presumably as opposed to “Dr. No” with his rather persuasive fire-breathing metal dragon!)


Information as an asset

The business now has access to more data than could have been conceived only a few years ago. We’re storing more data internally than ever before—not the least of which are all those videos of cats. And with the proliferation of mobile devices constantly online with social networks, there’s a wealth of data available that is likely to contain useful information.


Big Data: Mining information from this data has become critical to business. If you don’t have a strategy to harvest this knowledge, why keep so much of it?


Organisations are already proving the value of data available to them. Gaining a more comprehensive customer insight enables marketing to precisely target campaigns. Development teams need to take notice of market trends to ensure timely delivery of the best apps. And the business must use this intelligence to develop the right products and services.


While all of this is great in principle, actually making sense of all the vast amounts of data available is a significant challenge. But it’s a challenge that must be accepted in order to keep the business running.


Is legacy holding you back?

Do your new employees wince at the equipment they’re put in front of, or are you embracing some form of BYOD? How do you support mobile workers and their increasing demands to consume mobile data? Do you have a strategy for mining data from both internal and external sources? Share your strategy in the comments below.


Next time I’ll be looking at how companies are using modern IT to support the business.      


Alastair Corbett leads HP’s UK&I Software Business Unit and has responsibility for its strategy, the promotion and selling of the IT Performance Suite and related services. Prior to this role, Alastair was responsible for defining the new sales strategy and go-to Market models for Worldwide Software Sales, and before that, he successfully led the Worldwide Services Operations team for HP Software. Alastair joined HP from Peregrine as a result of the acquisition in 2005, where he held the role of VP International Operations and was responsible for all Finance and Operations activities in EMEA and APJ. He also led the integration activity for EMEA, as well as leading the Sales Operations function.


Related links: Corporate IT performance: How did teens get in the driver’s seat?

 Mobile has to matter



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