Mobile First: A Philosophy

Everything seems to happen on the go today. People are carrying incredible amounts of computer power in their pockets, with access to the world’s knowledge just seconds away at any moment. A vast majority don’t really even think about how completely this instant fulfillment has altered their lives.

The digital transformation that began with the rise of smartphones applies to the business world as much, or more, as everywhere else. Companies naturally want to keep up with clients and customers when it comes to technology. That means they have to realize that mobile is no longer merely another option, today business happens mobile first. Mobile is fundamental to how modern companies operate. Geography (being in the field rather than tied to a desk) no longer limits people’s activities, and data doesn’t have to be isolated in virtual silos, difficult to access, understand and use. It’s critical for businesses to understand the impact of mobile devices on workflow and data, lest competitors more willing to embrace the potential of mobile technology beat them to the punch.

The question of how companies can best leverage the opportunities is epitomized in the mobile first philosophy. Mobile first, designing a digital experience for mobile devices ahead of any desktop experience, is increasingly the core of many successful business models. Where mobile design was once a side project where it existed at all, it now is often the centerpiece or increasingly, the only element of a company’s service. A mobile first approach, at its core, is a way to think about how to enable seamless collaboration amongst colleagues and provide access to data to bring the full power of the company to bear on serving their customers, regardless of location. But, while the transformation to mobile first eventually impacts an entire business, there’s a flow to the process. For instance, taking steps to start by digitizing documents makes it easier to start automating processes that are currently done manually. That, in turn, allows a company be more flexible in how it manages the workflow and to focus on innovating and improving customer engagement.

Thinking about what a digital product looks like from a mobile-first perspective is particularly relevant when it comes to companies has employees who travel to different work sites on a regular basis. Whether it’s a plumbing installation, financial audit, or car repair, useful mobile apps for field workers can eliminate filling out physical paperwork onsite, while enabling more data to be gathered. Smartphones and tablets can take photographs, annotate them with any necessary details, and automatically append them to reports in real time.

And once that data is collected, there’s no need to wait for delivery to an office for manual input; the whole process is streamlined and improved from a traditional central office system. The half-life of data can be as short as 30 minutes, making rapid access to frontline data vital to everyday business decisions.

When a business involves people being mobile, technology that adapts to them is incredibly useful. Data can come from customers as quickly as employees, adding new layers of potential insight. This opens up a world of expanding possibilities, utilizing rich data stream to automate additional processes. For instance, digitizing an invoice may give rise to automating the preceding estimate and work order, ensuring key data is auto-populated between these steps to cut down on errors and speed completion. The information collected could also be used to request that a customer posts a review or maybe offers them a discount for future purchases.

Where once companies faced the daunting prospect of creating the software to handle this data from scratch, there are now mobile platforms architectured specifically for the cloud and designed for mobile deployment. Instead of being bogged down in code, companies can simply input their specifics into a platform and be ready to go immediately.

Companies can use the same approach when organizing internally as well. It once used to be thought that a business without an office wasn’t a real business, but today a physical workplace can actually hold a business back. Companies with a partly or wholly infrastructureless setup can do anything a company based in an office can do, often faster and with less friction. Mobile technology can free people from being chained to a desk, enabling them to work wherever they travel. Software is now capable of automating the distribution of the information that people need. Whether a customized app or using mobile websites, employees can maintain communication constantly with each other and keep a company’s data up-to-date wherever they actually are. Centering a business on information instead of a location, which the mobile first approach encourages, democratizes the data, which means a company can glean greater insights that wouldn’t have been possible before.

Mobile technology has created more extensive opportunities for a company to hire the best people for their team, even if they don’t live anywhere near a company’s official headquarters. Despite fears that mobile technology replaces people, it can be the opposite. Rather than kill jobs, mobile technology can help a company expand its workforce.

All of these elements paint a clear picture of how many businesses are running better today. The benefits of mobile first and the more significant digital transformation are readily proven. Mobile will ultimately be the way you provision most of your services. Whatever the problem a business is trying to solve, the first consideration should always be mobile first.

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