Why it’s time for businesses to embrace mobile fully.

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The fact that the use of mobile devices (smartphones and tablets) is overtaking desktop at a furious rate makes me wonder why is it that most businesses are neglecting mobile?

I am writing this article using my phone while lying on the sofa. I have gone from having to set aside some work time over the weekend so I can sit down with my laptop, to fitting in work around those times I am waiting for my girls or when we are all chilling. My life had gone from a "you work too much over the weekend" to "wow, when did you get that done we were busy this weekend".

When it comes to adoption, You have to look at recent statistics to see the impact that these little devices are having on our lives and business.

According to Pew Internet, 77% of all Americans now own a smartphone, with tablet users making up 55%, that is a massive amount of people.

http://www.pewinternet.org/fact-sheet/mobile/

Over here in the UK smartphone usage is now more than 81%. You won't see a millennial using a dumb phone at all these days. Everywhere you look someone is tweeting, Instagramming, Facebooking or shopping via their phone.

http://www.cbronline.com/news/verticals/etail/smartphone-uk/

Furthermore according to Stats Counter Web on mobile and tablet has overtaken desktop.

http://gs.statcounter.com/press/mobile-and-tablet-internet-usage-exceeds-desktop-for-first-time-worldwide

There are even countries where people see the internet for the first time on a mobile device. I met a very successful entrepreneur from China who has never used a computer in his life. He built his business using a tablet and a phone.

http://edition.cnn.com/2012/10/04/tech/mobile/africa-mobile-opinion/index.html

http://www.pewglobal.org/2015/04/15/cell-phones-in-africa-communication-lifeline/

So let's have a look at why using mobile devices for business makes perfect sense.

Portability

You can slip a mobile device up to 7 inches into your pocket or your clutch bag.

Battery life

Both my iPhone and iPad Pro's batteries far outpace my MacBook Pro. It also takes a quarter of the time to charge my mobile devices than my laptop. I can use an external battery when out and about that means that I can work the whole day without once having to find a power socket.

Flexibility

You can use it anywhere at any time. Just try and use your laptop on the London Underground in peak time and see how much you get done. Plus, there is the risk of getting mugged for your laptop when leaving the station.

Cost is an important factor

I am not just talking about hardware costs here, but deployment costs as well. You can get a powerhouse mobile device these days for next to nothing.

When I got asked to see if there is a way to come up with a cost-effective way to get small manufacturers on to an RFID system so that a retailer can get full transparency of their supply chain, I had to completely abandon what I did in the past and look at new frontiers. This fact also meant that I had to large scale PLM and supply chain management systems. Why? They were too expensive a solution even at £49 per month per user. The costs of hardware were crazy. Each factory needed to be set up with computer stations in the office (some required at least one or two computers) plus a desktop computer in each area of the production floor. These desktop computers then needed to be connected to a network via a server. Next up is the barcode and RFID scanners that work with Desktop devices. Costly, plus I would have had to do further development to get one system to talk to another system etc. etc. etc. After all this, the cheapest role out to a manufacturer came in at around $17k for hardware. IT support team to support the desktop computers between $3600 to $7500 a year. Licensing of the RFID software is about $18000 a year. No small manufacturer can nor want to afford that.

Enter mobile.

I sat down and had a look at precisely what I can do with mobile from a hardware perspective as well as software (apps). Unfortunately, there were no readily available Apps, and I had to look at having an App developed.

Three things impressed me as I started looking at mobile.

Firstly. We take for granted all the research and development that has gone into mobile devices so you can enjoy your favourite game on the go. If you are reading this on your smartphone, you are holding in your hand a tool that can read barcodes, read and write NFC chips, scan documents, take professional photos, edit office documents, receive and send emails, make conference calls. The list goes on and on.

Secondly. The speed and ease of developing solutions for mobile. Once you get your user experience out the way, the rest is a doddle. I always thought that App development is a timely and costly affair. It turned out it doesn't have to be. It took me three weeks to build a proof of concept (that included us learning how to do it). Nine weeks to have a fully working solution that included a serverless backend using AWS. The App reduced the returns procedure for Nobody's Child http://nobodyschild.com?ref=ray from hours down to around two minutes return, and this includes refunding the client.

Third and most important. The willingness of staff to use a solution on a mobile device over a traditional desktop solution. When we showcased our desktop solutions to a client, there was a lot of questions and back and forward followed by "we will get back to you". The process drags on for months. I showcased the beta of the RFID App to a potential client to get feedback, and at the end of the demo the client just asked: "when can I have it?". We rolled it out a week later.

What about costs?

Another great thing and a definite boon when it comes to mobile is the fact that you don't need complicated networking or servers to get set up.

If we use a small manufacturer as an example again, all they need, a few mobile devices and a WiFi connection. The WiFi doesn't even have to be site wide. You can build your App to be offline first which means that the user can do the work and the App will sync to the cloud when it gets network connectivity again. Add AWS serverless as the backend, and you only pay for what you use.

"Development costs are so high!" I get this all the time. Technology has changed, and it is easy now days wrap a web app using PhoneGap or Ionic which will give it access to the mobile device's native functions like GPS, storage and camera to name a few. You even have Opensource IoT libraries available.

Depending on your needed functionality you might get away with just building a Progressive Web App. A website developed in a way that allows the site to be available offline. Most modern browsers now support this. Apple has announced that they will support this.

Mobile devices as a helper to more significant systems

So how does mobile replace a legacy system that cost hundreds of thousands of pounds and years to develop. It doesn't. What it does allow is a way to solve some of the pain points your users are experiencing. After hours of support, allowing data to be collected offline and then synced when online. I have made several business owners and CEOs happy by creating mobile accessible reports for their legacy system.

It truly is the time to adopt mobile into your business, if you need any advice or free consultation to see how technology can help your busines contact me today.

Image source: https://pixabay.com/photos/cell-phone-phone-cell-mobile-690192/

Ray Noppe