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Gustin Partners | August 01, 2013 |

Make New Mistakes in the Mobility Space

By Thornton May
Futurist, Senior Advisor with GP, Executive Director & Dean - IT Leadership Academy

In the late sixth century Gregory of Tours opened his fascinating survey of the early days of the Dark Ages [History of the Franks] explaining, ‘A great many things keep happening, some good, some bad.’  This fifteen hundred plus year old opening can be used today to describe the state of the Mobility landscape. In the modern mobility space there is a lot going on – some of it good, some of it bad and most of it interesting. Unfortunately, mobility has been ghettoized in the executive brain pan as being “something having to do with smartphones.” It is so, so much more. The mobility space is rich in opportunities to create both sustaining and disruptive innovation [innovation being the conversion of ideas into cash].

This is Not Our First Rodeo
Independent of how you think about how you think about the past, just about EVERY executive in a position of high impact today has personally experienced the transformation associated with some subset of the major waves of disruptive technology change:

Mainframe      [~1960]
Minicomputers [~1980]
Client Server   [~1990]
Internet           [~ 2000]
Mobile             [~2010]

The first tenet of futuring is MAKE NEW MISTAKES! What I mean by this is that history is filled with lessons of things organizations and executives SHOULD NOT DO when they encounter new technologies.  Step One on the path to creating value in the mobility opportunity space is to think back and inventory the lessons you have learned with previous sic new technology sets.

Readers may be surprised to learn that many futurists – myself included – extensively consult the past as we craft our prognostications about the future. We mine the history of previous technology adoption episodes seeking to identify universal truths. We then attempt to reduce these lessons to systematic form and apply them to the present new technology.

Level Set
I think some of the best and most actionable advice regarding broad based patterns of enterprise technology adoption is set forth in Geoffrey Moore’s Crossing the Chasm and Inside the Tornado. If you have not read these books I strongly suggest you take the time to familiarize yourself with the frameworks contained therein. These books expand on Everett Rogers groundbreaking research presented in Diffusion of Innovations [1962]. Technology has been entering organizations since Ug and Thug operated an unlicensed sabre tooth tiger spear repair service out of their cave. Doesn’t it behoove us to learn from a millennial of experience?

The boffins at Mobiquity [], a services firm recently voted #1 Mobile Company in New England are convinced that the questions organizations are asking regarding mobile are the same questions that they asked with every other technology wave. The answers might be different but the questions are the same:

Where do I start?
Where should my first dollars go?
What do I need to know/to be capable of?
Where can I go to “get smart”?

Old Mistakes
A pattern that appears to repeat itself with EVERY new bit of technology kit is the tendency to “do what we do now, but do it with the new technology.” One might recall the not-so-long-ago frenzy of “webification” which caused siloed web/internet budgets to be created. Existing processes were not so much changed as they were “webified.”

In today’s world we are seeing stand-alone mobility budgets being created with the purpose of “mobilizing” existing business processes.

A number of pharmaceutical companies have launched major mobile projects in the past two years. These projects may be characterized as large scale, low impact initiatives [i.e., exactly the opposite of what you would do if your focus was to maximize value].  The projects were not designed to enable the enterprise to doing anything new. They focused on replacing laptops with iPads. These organizations were investing 100% of their mobile budget; 100% of their mobile bandwidth on device refresh. A year into one such pharmaceutical project in which knowledge workers were allowed to keep their laptops while they were introducing the iPads, troubling statistics materialized. One year into the project, 82% of the workers still were not using the iPad and 48% had not even opened it – not even used it once after training. That is because there was no reason to.

At a medical device company, an executive who understandably insisted on anonymity recounts, “We had just bought 5,000 iPads for our sales force. It was only after the devices started showing up in Receiving that we came to the shocking realization that we had no idea what to put on these things.” They hadn’t thought about that one bit.

In 2011 mobile was less than 1% of IT’s budget. Two years from now mobile is forecast to be 34% of the IT budget. It is definitely about time we stop making old mistakes and start making new ones.


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