What percentage of UK businesses would you say are “mobile first”?
It is hard to put a percentage value on such things, but the answer may lie in the growth in profits of companies in industries that see the benefit of mobile more generally. So banking is almost certainly the most “mobile first” business sector.
Equally, we have a heritage (although often perceived to be waning) of innovation in this country, so there are innovative businesses in London (TechCity), Cambridge and so on where there are “mobile first” companies. In general terms they enable mobile for horizontal aspects of UK business. Whether it’s flexible flat screens from PlasticLogic, or the processors at the heart of smart phones from ARM, the core data services from Vodafone, or devices that track and trace every aspect of the supply chain from Psion, it’s fair to say that we have the skills to play a major part in mobile.
What “solutions” should be business owners be most sceptical about?
Quite simply, if a “solution” does not solve an issue that you can properly identify and substantiate yourself, then you do not need it. But that process of identification and substantiation has to be thorough, has to include both your customers and suppliers, and also has to look roughly five years ahead. Scenario Planning is a good methodology for working thorough such a process of discovery. I would also be nervous about buying something which is undifferentiated, or which my competitors, broadly, already have. There is always a touch of the “King’s new clothes” about such solutions.
What would you say will be the main impact of mobile-natives (a generation that grew up with the ubiquity of mobile) on business and consumption in general?
Probably the provision of high quality wireless services everywhere. This new generation expect high speed coverage wherever they go, seamlessly. This drives service providers to create ubiquity through partnerships, acquisition, or new build services. For example, mobile coverage on trains is poor, at best. Roaming is an equal mix of expense and complexity. This generation needs speed and simplicity to really take mobile to the next level.
Also, this new generation does not “take holidays” because smart phones go everywhere and laptops do not. Which means that they are building a work/life balance issue of a kind that we have not see before. Life is changing, again.
Mobile payments are considered a promising trend. What do you think will it take for them to become omnipresent?
Payments is (on a normal business timeline) almost done. It has the momentum, processes and reliability to give everyone the confidence needed to make it ubiquitous very soon. However, there are some hurdles remaining; there has to be reduced “friction” in the process of payment, the user experience, from a purchase point of view, is often slow or complex. Equally, it has to be entirely “risk free”, from a security and fraud perspective, and this is still a problem which sits on the table, waiting to be properly addressed.
What, in your opinion, should be the first step to take for a small to mid-sized business trying to adapt to mobile?
Start with your customers and suppliers; talk to them, find the smart ones and collaborate together to make something that works. Do not do this in isolation – because the core technologies are stable and evolving, you need to find ways of making them work for your ecosystem. By all means, be ambitious, but take the “crawl, walk, run” approach. once you have a good understanding of where you are running to, and what that might mean for your business and the sector. This is a strategic investment, not a tactical one. Don’t wait; but be measured.
As a general rule, what’s the first app you visit in your working day?
It’s still email, followed by a very nice weather app, or BBC News. Depends on how my day ahead is planned; context is everything.
What are your principal mobile devices?
I have a personal iPhone, a Blackberry for company email, and an iPad. And a very small Dell notebook, which is has excellent battery life and a light-up keyboard – perfect for long haul in-flight working!
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