Mobile strategy? You need a business strategy

Mobile technology is an enabler, not a goal

If all you have is a mobile strategy, you've already failed! That's what my lead slide told my audience last week at the Tab Times Tablet Strategy event. Let's be fair: Everywhere you look you can't miss some article screaming on how you need a mobile strategy, a BYOD strategy, or a mobile expense strategy. Every vendor these days says it has something that can help you get started with your mobile strategy.

The problem is that it's all a load of bollocks. What these vendors have is a strategy to sell you a product that in the end probably doesn't really provide the solution to what you're trying to do.

You don't even have to look in the industry rags anymore -- your colleagues already have, and they're very happy to tell you all about it. If I had a dollar for each time I heard that what our company really needs is a mobile strategy and there's this great article I should read, I would be a very rich man. These are the very same people who will come to you a week later with an iPad that they paid from their budget and ask you what they can do with it.

I'll scream if one more person tells me how cool a tablet or a smartphone is and how much it could help the business, because it's, well, it's ... umm ... well, it's cool. It's amazing how a tablet the size of a sheet of paper can reduce the vocabulary of some very intelligent people to Valley Girl speak: "Like, you know, if we had the latest [insert the newest tablet here], we could, you know, like give them out to like everyone, and they would, like, you know, like use them to, you know do like, cool stuff and that would be rad." Gag me with a spoon.

Too many people are building mobile strategies for the sake of going mobile. It's the latest buzzword, joining the ranks of big data, cloud, and of course social. They really are nice words, and they go very well with the paradigm shift that someone will preach about from a podium sometime in the next few weeks at whatever event you happen to be at. The problem is that that's all they are: words, not solutions.

It's time we stopped building mobile strategies in a vacuum. The strategy of your company is quite simply to do whatever it is your company does -- better, faster, and more efficiently, so you can make more profit this year than last year. This is your business strategy. Everything else is built around it, including your mobile strategy.

You don't want a stand-alone mobile strategy. What you want is a mobile component to your overall business strategy. In some cases, your mobile strategy may be not to go mobile at all because it just doesn't fit with what your company does.

Start off simply. Begin with your business strategy and see how technology helps you enable that strategy. Your goal with any technology is for it to become invisible. Technology is meant to enable behaviors. You want technology that helps your users be more flexible and agile as they also become more productive and efficient. The technology should be in the background, and what they are trying to accomplish should be in the foreground.

You don't start handing out mobile devices because they're cool. You study people's behaviors and what they are trying to do. You build use cases around these behaviors, then fit the technology to the use case.

You should be trying to make existing processes more efficient or enable the creation of new processes because you now have tools that allow you to do things that you couldn't before. That's how you build your mobile strategy.

Or you can just hand out iPads to apes like they do at the zoo. They may have fun with them, but it doesn't stop them from flinging their poop.

This article, "Mobile strategy? You need a business strategy," originally appeared at A Screw's Loose and is republished at with permission (© Brian Katz). Read more of Brian Katz's The Squeaky Wheel blog at or at A Screw's Loose. For the latest business technology news, follow on Twitter.

Copyright © 2013 IDG Communications, Inc.

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