Industry analyst Maribel Lopez founded Lopez Research in 2008 to research how technologies such as mobile, big data, and cloud computing transform business practices. She is the author of Right-time Experiences: Driving Revenue with Mobile and Big Data. By her definition, right-time experiences use context from mobile, social, and analytics to deliver the proper information at the point of need or desire. She has also worked at IDC and Forrester and is a contributing columnist for Forbes.

You say that employees and consumers aren’t managing just one device, but two or three—and that mobility is fundamentally changing the way people work and buy. What shifts are you seeing?

Today, we always have something with us, so we can compute wherever we go. And now there’s the opportunity for context and location. Context is a big deal because it’s going to change all of our business processes. For instance, we can automate things. “Maribel walked into the building, now we can start her time card and note that she visited a client.” I think the whole geofencing and location services aspect will change how all our apps work—not just consumer, but business.

Computing is changing:  First you needed a keyboard. Then we moved to touch. Now we’ve moved to voice, gestures, scanning with [Google] glasses, and all kinds of things like that. It allows us to do things differently. A lot of it makes our lives easier in terms of getting information. For example, if you’re a doctor, you can see the X-rays because you’re wearing [an optical display such as Google glass], as opposed to having a little screen across the room.

One of my clients saved 45 days off deliverables by giving its salespeople tablets. Their employees logged all the medication samples on the fly as opposed to doing it once a week. That made the process faster but also added data. The company now knows what sample the salesperson left because he scanned it or took a picture or video.

There are similar applications for things such as assisted selling in retail, like Kohls’ connected fitting room. Let’s say I’m shopping. When I walk into a fitting room, the tags and sizes can be scanned so that a computer screen can offer me complementary items, like T-shirts to go with the jeans. If I click “yes,” the information goes to a tablet that someone has on the floor. Then the salesperson finds the shirts and brings them to me in the fitting room.

Where do you see wearables going, and what steps should IT take to prepare?

There are a couple of places it could go. Wearables could replace your key card. More likely a wearable will become your laptop, your key card, and your phone.

People are talking about implications for the next generation of customer service. Virgin Atlantic and Google Glass, for example are looking to give more information to agents so they can better serve “upper deck passengers,” who are expecting a different level of service.

Companies are not just getting wearables because wearables are cool. They have to tie wearables back to a business advantage.

For example, in a warehouse where pick and pack is done, the company can send information to the glasses: What the employee needs to pick up, where is it located, and guidance on how to drive a forklift. This makes the process very smooth and lets the person use his or her hands.

Wearables can start to tell consumers where to look, and offer assisted selling. “The Cheerios are two rows up from where you’re looking.” But companies have to figure out the business case and determine how and when it will boost business.  

The second issue is that there are a lot of wearables and they are essentially disposable. A consumer buys one and uses it for a year or two and is done. But if I’m trying to build an app for a smartwatch, I have to ask myself if this platform is going to be around, and how much will it have changed by the time I get to market.

You’ve said you don’t think BYOD saves companies money. Why?

The thing about BYOD is that people look at the cost of the device. So maybe that’s $200 to $600. But the company is still paying for connectivity to the device. That’s about $80 a month and it’s usually a cost that hasn’t been budgeted.

Companies don’t staff up to support BYOD, but the IT team still has to support the devices. When you add it all up, it can cost the company anywhere from $600 to $1900 a year per user.

And if you have 10,000 users, that’s a lot of money. 

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