Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Real-Time Mobile Infrastructure Report - Introduction

Real-Time Mobile Infrastructure
Fortune 500 firms recognize the ubiquitous use of mobile devices, integrated sensors and broadband access to the Internet are profoundly impacting user expectations and the demand for real-time wireless information exchanges.  This can be witnessed in the fast changing expectations and shopping behaviors of mobile device empowered consumers all around us today.

Demands for real-time wireless information exchanges, business analytics, media and transactional data are challenging traditional IT infrastructures, business processes and business strategies that were never designed to support a mobile and real-time world.  It is our belief that these demands and the challenges with supporting them will change the competitive landscape in most industries.

Data has a shelf life.  It has a greater economic and competitive value the quicker it can be consumed and utilized. If mobile shoppers can open a mobile app and instantly be presented with a hyper-personalized shopping experience that considers their real-time location, buying history, preferences and other relevant physical and “Code Halos” data (all data available for analysis about a person, object or organization), then there is a greater competitive value represented by increased mobile app use, loyalty, positive brand experience, customer service and sales (see Starbuck's Code Halos and Mobile App Strategies).  If on the other hand, companies have IT architectures, systems and infrastructures unable to support the speed requirements of real-time mobile interactions, then they will find themselves to be at a significant competitive disadvantage.

I surveyed 80 high tech industry and IT professionals involved in enterprise mobility, analyzed numerous industry reports, interviewed many mobile experts and reviewed current and forecasted technology trends to identify challenges and opportunities related to supporting real-time mobile infrastructure.  The following article series titled Real-Time Mobile Infrastructure will detail the survey results and my analysis of the findings.

Business and IT decision makers will be interested in this article series due to the increasingly strategic impact mobile applications are having on businesses.  Customers, prospects, partners and employees’ all are using mobile applications to interact, collaborate, research, shop, transact and engage in innovative new ways with companies, their products and services.  It is our analysis this trend will continue to accelerate and be the key driver for on-going digital transformation in many industries and markets.

As a result of our analysis we believe the quality and performance of mobile applications and the associated user experiences directly impact and influence brand perception, social sentiment, loyalty and sales volumes.

In the new book titled Code Halos the authors, Malcolm Frank, Paul Roehrig and Benjamin Pring, propose that data is the new competitive arena for businesses.  Winners in this competition are those that can collect, analyze and react in real-time to data in a manner that drives improved customer interactions and engagements.  Today these engagements are often via mobile applications.

In another recent book titled, Digital Disruption: Unleashing the Next Wave of Innovation, author James McQuivey's writes that competition in business is rapidly moving to a “focus on knowledge of and engagement with customers.” Data is being used to shape and personalize real-time interactions and engagements on mobile devices.  Companies are beginning to understand this.  They understand that "Code Halos" (people’s digital footprint, the online data about preferences, history, activities, etc.) has great value.  This data is the key to personalizing user experiences across all formats.

Businesses are interacting with and engaging their markets in a wide range of different formats today including traditional media, websites, mobile apps, call centers and in brick and mortar establishments.  The concept of omni-channel is widely used to mean the ability to interact and engage in real-time with customers and prospects across all of these formats.  The ability to effectively support omni-channel requires a lot of thinking, planning and purposeful design.  An effective design is not always present in today’s enterprise IT environments.  How much of a problem this is will be revealed in the following report.

Businesses today are responding by developing comprehensive data-driven strategies connected to e-commerce portals and mobile applications.  These strategies acknowledge the requirement to better understand the needs, preferences and histories of their prospects and customers, so they can provide personalized and optimized user experiences that lead to more sales and happier and more loyal customers.

In a recent report by CIO Strategic Marketing Services (a survey of 414 executives at midsize and large enterprise organizations from around the world) they reveal enterprise IT and back-office systems typically have on average between 3.6 and 4.8 mobile applications integrated with each of them.  The systems surveyed were: CRM, E-Commerce, ERP, SMS, DMS, Financial and HR.

These findings highlight how critically important back-end business and IT systems are to mobile applications.  Mobile applications, in most cases, are required to query and interact with back-end systems as a core component of their functionality.  The speed at which back-end systems can respond to queries and interact with mobile applications is a critical component in determining how successful the user experience will be.

If further evidence to the importance of real-time mobile infrastructure is required, let’s consider that Forrester Research predicts that US online sales will top $400 billion by 2018, and nearly $1 trillion worldwide.  No company wants to miss out on this size of market (Mulpuru, Sucharita “The New Paradigm of Retail? Forrester – July 24, 2014).

Today the trend is quickly moving beyond traditional online e-commerce to mobile commerce.  That makes mobile application performance even more important.  In a recent study of 1,000 mobile shoppers (Contact Solutions, - Mobile Shopping Cliffhanger), 1 of 6 consumers report they struggle with mobile shopping apps more than half of the time.   More than half (55%) of shoppers struggle with mobile shopping apps at least 20% of the time.  When consumers struggle, 71% will abandon their cart or leave the app entirely.  These numbers clearly demonstrate the necessity for an optimized mobile application and user experience.

Our analysis has determined that IT infrastructures for supporting real-time mobile applications are lacking in many companies, and correcting this must be a priority.  Without mobile optimized back-end system, designs, processes and IT infrastructures in place that can support a "real-time" environment, an enterprise’s ability to remain competitive is in jeopardy.

Read Real-Time Mobile Infrastructure Report, Part 1
Read Real-Time Mobile Infrastructure Report, Part 2
Read Real-Time Mobile Infrastructure Report, Part 3

Kevin Benedict
Writer, Speaker, Senior Analyst
Digital Transformation, EBA, Center for the Future of Work Cognizant
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***Full Disclosure: These are my personal opinions. No company is silly enough to claim them. I am a mobility and digital transformation analyst, consultant and writer. I work with and have worked with many of the companies mentioned in my articles.