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What's your mobile strategy?
Anuj Khanna, CEO of Wireless Expertise, shares his five top tips for developing successful mobile services in the public sectorIn the words of Donald Rumsfeld: “There are known knowns. These are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say, there are things that we know we don’t know. But there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we don’t know we don’t know.”
Rumsfeld’s statement perfectly applies to the wireless sector where there is lack of consumer information and measurable metrics which can lead to confusion. That said, it is universal and also resonates with the current state of our economy where there are many unknown unknowns.
The best way to build a mobile service is to start with the “known knowns”, learning from the collective experience of early adopters. Let me introduce you to five key pre-requisites for successfully developing and deploying mobile services for the public sector.
All mobile phones do not have the same capabilities and while developing mobile services it is important that they can be accessed by the maximum number of citizens and stakeholders.
Mobile phones today have different screen sizes, network connectivity standards, operating systems and multimedia capabilities. Android, Brew and Symbian may sound like terms from outer space but they are actually the names of different development platforms and standards for developing mobile applications. Understandably, the range and diversity of mobile platforms can lead to confusion and distinctly different user experiences.
In addition, the penetration of mobile computing devices (smart phones) is currently less than ten per cent and therefore developing rich applications is only appropriate when you know you are deploying within a closed group of council workers or contractors who have access to smart phones. However, if you are looking to introduce applications to a wider audience, you need to have a multi-channel strategy which includes mobile portals, SMS and Voice. Mobile services need to be easy to use and should be accessible for the entire spectrum of consumers.
Very often you see mobile services which are mere miniaturised brochures with too much unnecessary information and brand rhetoric. These are normally well intentioned, but misplaced, ideas from companies who think: “Wouldn’t it be great if our customers could access our website and brochures on their mobile phone?” The answer: “Yes and No.”
This was a good idea in the year 1999 when Y2K projects meant innovation was on the back burner and the Millennium Dome was heralded as the best place to welcome in the 21st Century. However, we are in 2009, maybe 2010 by the time you are reading this article, and times have changed drastically. The whole idea about building contemporary mobile services is to take advantage of interactive features such as messaging, location, audio, video and connectivity that modern devices offer.
We need to take a holistic view of what we can offer and always bear in mind while building mobile services that they should be interactive and designed for regular usage.
In the age of quantitative easing, there are no easy, quick-fix solutions for individual citizens, local councils and other public sector organisations, all of whom will be feeling the pinch. The fact is that we are all labouring under a sharp cost-cutting axe, with the public sector in particular subject to substantial budget cuts.
Fortunately, mobile connectivity can enable flexible working practices that will easily help in cutting costs and improving efficiency. It is important that public sector mobile services are supported by achievable return on investments and a strong business case, which is desirable, measurable and sustainable.
You may have heard about the famous mistaken identity case where the BBC conducted a live TV interview with a certain Mr. Guy Goma from Congo about an impending Apple court case. In fact, the researchers had meant to introduce respected technology commentator Guy Kewney but had mistakenly selected a nervous candidate who had actually turned up for a job interview in the BBC IT department. Needless to say, his thoughts on the forthcoming court case proved less than illuminating.
This type of hastily made mistake is not a one off case; I have regularly seen private and public sector organisations selecting vendors with little or no experience in the mobile sector to develop their services. Specialist creative, marketing and technical expertise is vital to build successful mobile services. While selecting suppliers, always ask for case studies, references and consult industry associations such as the Mobile Data Association to compare suppliers.
We can all agree that, in this climate of constant innovation and technical marvels, no new development will stand still for long. They will all be usurped one way or another over time – and this is the backbone of our digital economy. However, building campaign-based mobile services with a short shelf life which become obsolete immediately on launch is inexcusable. Mobile Services built on weak foundations and without a long-term vision are the very thing that can give an exciting, powerful burgeoning new technology an undeserved bad name.
We are hearing a lot of chatter about mobile services for the 2012 Olympics, but what will happen after that? Are we going to transfer these services in a container to Rio De Janeiro for 2016?
The public sector needs to take a long-term view of how flexible and mobile working can deliver value to citizens and solve real world problems. We need to develop an integrated mobile strategy which is accessible, interactive, credible, sustainable and evolutionary according to the changing needs of our society.
If you bear these five principles in mind when deploying mobile services within your organisation, you’ll end up with a much more successful and effective outcome. As people become increasingly happy to use the Internet to communicate with public sector bodies and perform transactions, so the mobile platform is the natural next step. Not only will your stakeholders become comfortable with mobile services, but they will come to demand the ability to use their mobiles to carry out vital transactions. When this day arrives, those who have invested in robust mobile services that meet the principles set out here.
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