TSW: The Shift To Mobile

Yesterday was Day 2 of Technology Services World at the Mirage in Las Vegas, and I hosted a workout session on mobile applications that was a lot of fun. Due to a speaker cancellation  I had to pull together a panel at the very last minute (last Friday!), but the results were terrific. The focus of the session was creating mobile versions of applications for customers and employees. I’m starting to get more questions from members, so wanted to pull together some experts to share their experiences and answer questions from the audience.

My panelists were:

  • Karin Ondricek, Director, Product Marketing, Lithium Technologies, Inc. Lithium, the leading provider of community and social solutions, released mobile applications to allow both customers and employees to interact with the community any time, any place, boosting the collaboration potential.
  • Bill Platt, SVP Operations, Engine Yard. A TSIA member, Engine Yard provides a mobile development platform, so Bill had lots of technical information on the intricacies of developing mobile tools, and the gotchas most companies encounter when they try to build it themselves.
  • Don Brass, Sr. Product Marketing Manager, LogMeIn. TSIA members primarily know LogMeIn as a remote control and desktop sharing solution, but they also have a whole line of mobile products for consumers and the enterprise. I use LogMeIn on my iPad to access my home computer, so I’ve stopped bringing my laptop on some trips. They also offer a Rescue product allowing you to remotely control mobile devices–a huge benefit for supporting mobile customers, or employees.

We kicked off the discussion with the top mobile application FAQs I’ve received from TSIA members:

  • Who should build it? Internal development or a specialist firm? What I learned yesterday is that you may want to own the UI and feature set, but few companies are able to build the back end part of the application. The hard part is making sure the data and processing is happening on your server–not the mobile device–and still offer fast performance.
  • What platforms should we cover? This is a hard one for many companies, because you want to cover as many devices as possible to encourage adoption, but the droid world remains unstable, with 50+ OS versions to deal with, and lots of device specific requirements. The panel’s advice was to survey customers to find the most popular devices and prioritize your development list.
  • How much functionality is enough? Recreate everything or basic flows? Everyone seemed to agree that going with minimal functionality in the first version makes sense, so you can get your feet wet in a small pond before jumping in the ocean. But again, consider involving customers to make sure some key feature isn’t left out, dissuading adoption.
  • How much support traffic is generated for mobile application help/support? Is self-service enough, or is assisted support required? None of the panelists have found that support volume increases measurably with the introduction of a mobile app, perhaps because the primary demographic for mobile users are also more prone to try self-service or peer support, not assisted support.

I’d like to thank the panelists for stepping in at the last minute and doing such a great job, and I’d also like to thank the audience for their interest and all the great questions and comments.

And as always, thanks for reading!

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