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Mobilising the customer experience

Jyoti

Jyoti Lalchandani, IDC’s Group Vice President and Regional Managing Director for the Middle East, Africa, and Turkey, discusses how mobility can be the key to keeping your business relevant and avoid extinction from the market.

My regular discussions with the Middle East’s most influential IT decision makers offer a perfect opportunity to gauge their future investment plans, and it has been particularly clear since the beginning of 2014 that they are increasingly gearing up to adopt a “mobile first” approach to the development of their organisation’s applications.

In the intervening period, many companies across the region have begun to accelerate their efforts in this regard, providing employees with remote access to corporate assets. But what has been the driving force behind this shift to mobility and what will the impact be on the region’s IT leaders and the roles they play within their organisations?

The main drivers are clear to see for anyone who has set foot in an elevator recently, with mobility adoption growing at a phenomenal rate across the Middle East. Indeed, shipments of smartphones to the region have increased at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 36 percent over the last five years, while shipments of tablets have grown at a CAGR of 113 percent over the same period. At IDC, we have carried out numerous surveys with CIOs from across the region’s vertical spectrum, and up to two-thirds of them have indicated plans to implement some sort of mobility initiative over the 2014–2015 period. And as many as 28 percent of them will mobile enable their enterprise apps this year alone.

This proliferation of mobility across the region has seen it become second nature for employees to use their connected devices as the primary communication channel for so many aspects of their day-to-day lives. And given this high level of familiarisation, it is only natural that they increasingly want to utilise the technologies they have access to at home in other settings, including the workplace. This has led to initiatives such as ‘bring your own device (BYOD) and ‘choose your own device’ (CYOD), but this is just one possible application for mobility, with forward-thinking organisations in the region also looking to use it alongside advanced analytics, cloud computing, and social media to improve the customer experience.

Companies that employ this approach typically develop a much clearer understanding of their customers’ individual wants and desires, and the allying of mobility with advanced analytics enables them to target the customer base in increasingly innovative ways. This extended reach and unfettered insight into customer behavior also facilitates more rapid decision making and improved strategic planning, ultimately enabling a more dynamic and effective business.

The significance of social media and the explosion of smart mobile devices cannot possibly be overstated in this regard. Initiated back in 2007 with the launch of the iPhone and Google Apps, these two developments alone ushered in the start of a whole new era of computing. Until that point, millions of users were connected to thousands of applications, mostly through PCs and terminals, and these applications were mainly being used in a corporate, commercial context. But with the advent of disruptive technologies such as cloud, Big Data, mobile, and social media, we now have billions of people connected to millions of applications through a variety of smart devices that now include wearables and sensor-bearing appliances.

The huge hype surrounding the recently launched Apple Watch highlights the vast potential that this ‘movement’ presents to marketers, with the increasingly ubiquitous nature of such devices opening up a whole new way of distributing applications and services. But in their quest to develop new generations of agile applications, services, and business models built around mobility, IT leaders will be required to go beyond their traditional roles as IT strategists and embrace the new mantle of corporate strategist. This is not an optional change, but an essential one; indeed, those that cannot make this leap will find it harder and harder to remain relevant in this wearable new world.

It will become essential for IT leaders to facilitate customer experiences across all possible channels, and they will be need to develop a 360-degree strategic vision unlike that required by previous generations of CIOs. They will have to become more than mere technologists and display enough foresight to help adapt their organisations into the new market structures currently being shaped by this new era of computing.

But it is not just individual IT leaders that stand to lose out due to a failure to evolve. Entire companies will struggle to remain competitive over time if they do not embrace the need to integrate aspects of mobility into their services and applications. They may well appear to be the leaders in customer-centricity today, but if they are unable to engage clients in the personalised and contextualised manner that is set to become the norm, they will soon go the same way as the dodo.

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