Go Mobile or Stay Behind

In 2005, I received my first phone with Internet access: the Nokia 3650. I was at my son’s baseball game, and during a lull I decided to check out my work website. It took 2 minutes to appear and looked like one of those magazine clipping ransom notes you used to see in old TV shows. I tried using the Internet access a few other times with similar results: slow and completely unusable. I hoped for a day when I could use the Internet from a lawn chair just as easily as from my desk.

Of course, that day has since arrived. In fact, many of us can’t imagine a world where we aren’t able to check Facebook or read the news from our mobile devices. Sales of smartphones even surpassed PC’s last year, making them one of the most popular methods of connecting to the Internet. Mobile Internet is trending so quickly that many businesses are in danger of falling behind if they don’t start re-thinking their mobile strategies.

Desktops Are Getting Dashed

The iPhone arrived in June 2007, and its snowball effect on Internet usage is still shaping things today. This was the first phone that could run applications and display websites as well as a full blown computer, and now an avalanche of Android and Blackberry devices have followed suit.

Before the iPhone’s arrival, over 90% of the Internet connected devices world-wide consisted of Windows PC’s. IT tracking firm Gartner is predicting PC sales for 2012 will be 400 million units, while smartphones are projected to hit the 600 million unit mark. These figures mean only 35% of the new devices connecting to the Internet this year will be running Windows. That’s a heck of a jump in only 5 years!

Things look even worse for PC’s in the next few years: By 2015, Gartner projects PC sales will grow to over 500 million, but tablets increase to 300 million and smartphones will jump to 1.1 billion.

Despite this dramatic shift in the way the Internet is being accessed, Internet content still seems to focus on the computer. Computers will still be the work-horses for workers to develop, build, and create content for some time, but the way users will be primarily consuming your company’s content will be through a mobile device.

How To Prepare

When switching over to a mobile-friendly environment, the first thing you need to do is stop relying on software to communicate. The thought of buying a CD, installing it on a PC, and keeping track of a license key is both outdated and cumbersome. Cloud applications should be the focus. The beauty of using the Internet for your applications is they will work on nearly anything you can connect to the Internet. If you look at common cloud applicationd such as Google Docs, you are able to create a presentation on your office PC, make a quick edit on your smartphone while riding the bus home, use your tablet in bed to go over it before your morning meeting, and then use a PC at your client’s office to bring it up for display. The author has complete control from any location.

Instead of mobile email, think of complete mobile communication.

This same train of thought should be applied to your email system. Most mobile devices can check email from any mail system, but can they actually synchronize with your mail system? Mail systems usually do much more than mail: they keep your contacts list, calendar, task lists, and other features. ALL of these features should be available via mobile. There are many options for implementing this (in some cases, it’s a matter of “Our system does this, but I don’t know how to use it”), so look at the options available and decide if your current mail system is still doing the job. Most offices will agree that email is one of their most important tools, and being able to use its information anywhere is crucial.

Finally, think of your company’s website design. There was a web designing habit of using fancy Flash animations and floating menus over the last few years, and yes…they look great on a PC with a high-speed Internet connection. However mobile users HATE these features. They take forever to load, seldom display properly, or may not even work at all. Consider cleaning up your website, or make a mobile version of your site that focuses on function over form. You don’t want someone coming to your webpage looking to contact you for a sale, only to be frustrated because they can’t navigate to the information they need.

Time To Get Moving

Customers and employees are demanding the freedom to go mobile, but the Internet changes don’t seem to be coming fast enough. I was just reading how users have little patience for slow or bloated websites on mobile connections, and I myself share a lot of their feelings when browsing. If mobile is going to be the top way of accessing the Internet, not preparing is going to tick people off, driving  potential business opportunities to competitors and making your own workforce frustrated.

Solutions to make the mobile jump are often easy and inexpensive to implement. It’s time to take a look at your work environment and make sure you’re prepared for the new way the world is going to interact with you.