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IT Briefcase Exclusive Interview with Ed Brill, Director, Mobile Enterprise Marketing, IBM

May 9, 2014 No Comments

In this interview, Ed Brill from IBM Mobile discusses mobile as a business transformation tool and considerations for the ‘upwardly mobile’ enterprise.

  • Q. IBM recently released a study on enterprise mobility, which, based on feedback from more than 600 respondents across 29 countries and eight industries, outlines challenges and opportunities associated with mobile. Why did IBM feel compelled to conduct this research?

A. Despite the pervasiveness of mobile, especially in the consumer space, it appeared that a significant number of organizations were still struggling to develop and implement mobile strategies that could benefit their business. So, we conducted a study with the IBM Institute for Business Value called, “The ‘Upwardly Mobile’ Enterprise: Setting the Strategic Agenda,” to help pinpoint challenges and enable us to provide insight and advice for organizations to improve their mobile strategy development efforts, leverage mobility to reinvent business and operating models, and deliver more effective mobile IT processes and solutions.

The survey showed that less than half of organizations have well-defined mobile strategies. However, of those surveyed, a subset of “mobile strategy leaders” emerged. These leaders have already established a clear direction for their mobile efforts and view their mobile strategies as distinguishing them from their peers. Leaders have recognized the value of embracing mobility, with 81 percent stating that mobile has fundamentally changed the way they do business. For example, nearly 40 percent of leaders said that mobile contributes to revenue model innovation – changing the way they monetize value through the development of new products, services and pricing models. Observing mobile leaders’ achievements reinforces that mobile can no longer be viewed as a discrete channel or siloed initiative. It must be viewed as a transformational force that can fundamentally change how organizations interact with customers, partners and employees, and how new products and services are developed and delivered to market.

  • Q. What were the key findings from the study?

A. To put the findings in context, when evaluating responses we noticed several parallels between today’s emerging mobile enterprise environment and the early days of Internet and e-commerce adoption. One similar pattern is apparent in the early stages of technology adoption — many organizations start with individual, disconnected projects owned by different parts of the business. That siloed, uncoordinated approach in today’s rapidly paced business environments means organizations are missing important opportunities to streamline processes and capitalize on customer and partner interactions — interactions that are increasingly mobile.

We focused on identifying areas where mobile strategy leaders excel in order to shape recommendations and advice for other organizations. Those areas include analytics, security and integration:

Analytics: Organizations are starting to look at the “science” behind mobile engagement by exploring two primary categories: using analytics to understand mobile device use; and applying the underlying data gathered from mobile transactions and interactions. A successful mobile strategy allows organizations to be able to address structured and unstructured mobile data, handle large volumes of data, and analyze and determine the next best actions to take. The study showed that roughly 70 percent of leaders surveyed describe themselves as effective in these areas.

Speed: Whether it’s responding to customer inquiries, closing a sale, or providing service and support, mobile technologies enable organizations to communicate quickly and work more efficiently. The timely delivery of information and insight regardless of customer location is key to improving the customer experience. In fact, improving customer service/satisfaction was the number one benefit associated with using mobile to enhance the customer experience.

Integration: Integrating mobile apps with existing systems is a major challenge for many organizations, and one where leaders excel. Of mobile leaders, 70 percent or more indicate they have been successful in ensuring interoperability with other systems, leveraging APIs for external or cloud-provided data services, and providing service-oriented architecture and sharing information among systems/devices. In addition to focusing on technology integration with front- and back-end systems, organizations also need to consider where data-driven customer interactions are taking place to create more valuable experiences.

  • Q. In many cases, there has been resistance to implementing a broad mobile technology strategy in the enterprise due to concerns about security. To what extent does the study show that those concerns still exist?

A. Mobile security is certainly still a concern, however, as mobile enterprises grow in maturity, the tools they have available to confront threats are better understood and implemented. Our survey found that mobile strategy leaders recognize the importance of securing their mobile initiatives, with 79 percent reporting that their organizations have well-documented “bring your own device” (BYOD) policies (versus 48 percent of non-leaders). Overall, leaders are more effective at addressing mobile security issues, prioritizing around protection of data, secure connectivity and device management among other areas.

One key take away from the report is that workers must be “mobilized” differently according to their specific roles and responsibilities, and IT can help facilitate and customize access policies accordingly. Clearly, the level of IT support can be quite different for mobile workers in the field, compared to workers primarily stationed in the office, so the guidelines must be tailored to specific use cases. For example, for executives and other key decision makers who frequently work outside the office or travel, making it less complex to apply the underlying data gathered from mobile transactions and interactions paves the way to easing real-time decision making on critical business matters.

  • Q. Was there one finding from the study that stood out as particularly important to companies looking to harness mobile’s value in the enterprise?

A. One finding that we found interesting was the emphasis on mobility as a driver of productivity – not just internally regarding peer interactions and workflows, but also specific to an organization’s ability to respond to external customer and partner needs. Half of the respondents report a greater than 10 percent gain in employee productivity as a result of their mobile efforts.

In terms of gauging this increase in productivity, respondents cited using mobile to improve internal collaboration, provide tools for sales force enablement, and facilitate employee self-service as major focus areas. Supporting the ability for employees to connect to work anywhere/anytime, 78 percent of leaders (versus 44 percent of non-leaders) are planning to increase their investments in employees’ ability to work outside the office. Also, 58 percent of respondents reported that a key benefit of using mobile to improve employee productivity is faster customer response time.

In addition to productivity benefits, it’s also worth noting that mobile leaders are reporting returns on their mobile investments, which should be encouraging to others that are seeking to quantify the benefits of mobility. The data showed that 73 percent of leaders report measurable ROI from their mobile initiatives versus 34 percent of non-leaders.


Ed Brill, Director, Mobile Enterprise Marketing, IBM
Ed Brill is Director, Mobile Enterprise Marketing at IBM. He is responsible for IBM MobileFirst, the industry’s most comprehensive portfolio of enterprise mobility solutions. Brill is the author of Opting In: Lessons in Social Business, an Amazon bestseller endorsed by industry analysts, social media pundits, and software executives. Brill was previously Director, Product Line Management for IBM Social Business software.


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