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Mobility strategy: CIOs have to embrace disruptive technologies

Karen Goulart, Senior Features Writer

A question kept cropping up at the recent Fusion 2012 CEO-CIO Symposium: Nowadays, should the acronym CIO stand for chief information officer or chief innovation officer?

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The question is assuredly complex, but one thing Rick Roy knows for sure is that fellow CIOs won't like the answer if a mobility strategy isn't part of the "I."

"The only thing I am certain of is, as IT leaders, if we don't pay attention to the disruptive technologies that are going on around us, you know what CIO will really stand for? That's right: 'Career is over,'" said Roy, CIO at CUNA Mutual Group in Madison, Wis. "And I can't think of any more disruptive technology we're all dealing with than mobility."

Steve Tack, chief technology officer at Detroit-based Compuware Corp., couldn't agree more. Addressing a standing-room-only crowd of CIOs, CEOs and IT professionals, he suggested mobility is not just the new way of reaching customers, but the only way. Those CIOs who aren't working on a mobility strategy now run the risk of falling victim to the old "career is over" joke.

Mobility strategy starts with the business

Despite the buzz around mobility, few companies have figured out a solid strategy for the technology, but best practices are beginning to take shape, Tack said. The first and most important step in crafting a mobility strategy is ensuring it aligns with business objectives.

I can't think of any more disruptive technology we're all dealing with than mobility.

"From the people delivering the applications, the people who are supporting those in production, the security aspects of that … the role of the CIO is to organize and play quarterback to make sure and hit those business goals," Tack said.

Just as important as business goals are the needs of the consumer. Today's consumers want constant access to relevant data presented in a rich, engaging format on the device of their choice -- a wish list that's more than a little daunting. "These are high bars, but the people who capture this are the ones who are going to succeed," Tack said. "And they're the ones who are going to gather that adoption and brand loyalty, that 'stickiness.'"

If CIOs are worried about how well they're being received and perceived, that paranoia is a good thing, Tack said. He pointed to a 2011 Compuware study of 4,014 global mobile Web users, in which 74% of respondents said they move on if they have to wait for more than five seconds for a mobile app to load.

"When you drive someone to a site and they have a negative first experience, that's going to damage the ability to bring them back," Tack said. "You are going to have other competitors out there as well. So, making sure it's a satisfying experience, to achieve those business objectives, is critical."

Implementing a mobility strategy

When starting out with mobility, don't expect to be a game-changer right away. Just get in the game, Tack said. "Provide mobile access to existing content," he said. "This is really about how do we take existing capabilities and facilitate them."

Once you're an established and trusted presence -- meaning you're delivering quality data quickly -- you can look at maturing your strategy to provide differentiated solutions that enhance the customer experience. You become a game-changer when you're able to take advantage of mobility to create a completely new connection point to consumers.

A mobile strategy leap of faith

Bethesda Lutheran Communities Inc. recently decided to "get in the game," said Brian Tennant, vice president of technology services at the Watertown, Wis.-based nonprofit organization. He took what was essentially a rogue move by a new employee -- entering a contest for developing ideas for nonprofit mobile apps -- and made it pay off.

The idea was to create a native app for the organization that could be accessed on smartphones to connect with Web content and process donations."We crafted it, and three months later we had an app in the stores," Tennant said "It didn't take as long to deploy as I'd heard." 

"Now, about six months later, we have hundreds of people who've downloaded it, our donations in the online space are up, and there's a lot more people following our feeds. Getting in the game was anything but a well-thought-out strategy, but sometimes things work out, Tennant said."

Let us know what you think about the story; email Karen Goulart, Features Writer.


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