Walking The Walk – Mobile Devices And The Infrastructure & Operations Group

Recently I’ve been living a double life. By day a mild-mannered functionary for Forrester Research, helping I&O professionals cope with the hurly-burly of our rapid-paced world. By night I have been equipping myself with an iPhone, iPad and trying out any other mobile devices I can get my hands on, including Dell Stream, Android phones, and the incredibly appealing new Apple Macbook Air. While my colleague Ted Schadler has been writing on these devices from a more strategic perspective, I wanted to see what the daily experience felt like and simultaneously get a perspective from our I&O customers about their experiences.

So, the first question, is the mobile phenomenon real? The answer is absolutely yes. While the rise of mobile devices is a staple of every vendor’s strategic pitch, it also seems to be a real trend. In conversations with I&O groups, I have been polling them on mobile devices in their company, and the feedback has been largely the same – employees are buying their own consumer devices and using them for work, forcing I&O, security and email/collaboration application owners, often well outside of plan, to support them. Why can’t IT groups “just say no”? The answer is that IT in rational companies is fundamentally in the fundamental business of enabling business, and the value and productivity unlocked by these devices is too much to pass up.

Do they work well enough to justify the personal expense and the hassle of learning to connect and use them? The answer is absolutely yes, and I humbly submit myself as a case in point. I never owned anything except a free-after-rebate phone until I returned to Forrester in July. To celebrate this momentous occasion I bought an iPhone 4, and except for a few startup glitches that were remedied by a firmware update and a free bumper, it transformed my communications lifestyle. Suddenly I could monitor and respond to email, schedule meetings, and collaborate with my peers and clients in a way that I had never experienced before. I was hooked. Not to mention the accelerometer, magnetometer for checking the earth’s magnetic field, and an app that finds public restrooms. So far, so good. A member in good standing of the productive elite. Then I began to notice people on airplanes watching their iPads, and simultaneously began to notice how heavy my bag with my 6.5 lb PC felt.

Now I own an iPad. With case, wireless keyboard and power supply it weighs about 2.5 pounds. I can read and edit Office documents, share files with my PC both directly and via a number of cloud-based solutions, create, edit and display PowerPoint slides, manage my email and calendar, read books and watch movies. And be envied by the less fortunate. In a perfect world maybe I’d like a fully functional Windows tablet that matched my iPad in weight and battery life, but for now I’m committed to being an iPad road warrior and have begun to leave my PC behind.

The wave is unstoppable; both from client data and my own experience I think that I&O groups should get out ahead of the curve and learn to support alternative mobile platforms. It’s not a choice.

Tell us what your company is doing to support this wave.


Tell us what your company is doing to support this wave?

That, indeed, is the operative question. Other than a few flashy apps, I have yet to see a mobile device that interfaces with the world around me. Where's the app that tells me what aisle the canned peas are on? Where's the app that tells me if the peas are cheaper across the street? Where's the app that tells me the restaurant's daily specials or featured wines for today? How about scoring my son's Little League game and sending all the stats to the league's server for crunching?

The mobile phenomenon is real - at least from a device perspective. But from a real world perspective, it isn't there yet. If Apple wants to sell me an iPad, they need to encourage companies to enhance my experience in RealLife™. Games don't do that. Telling the world that I'm grocery shopping doesn't do it either (okay, telling the world that Timmy threw a no-hitter, maybe).

Price check on canned peas - not yet, BUT ...

I don't know about canned peas, but I have used an application called RedLaser on my iPhone 4 very effectively. It will scan a bar code on a product and display prices at other outlets. I have saved several hundred dollars in stores that will match prices of their competitors. Just scan it with the camera phone, look for compares, jump to the website of the cheaper alternative if you find one, and go to customer service and ask for the price match. Most of the time it works if it is in the same geo and available in-store.