As a follow-up to Kathleen’s previous post on content management and mobility, I had a chat with Dow Brook analyst Larry Hawes, who recently authored the GigaOM Mobile Content Management report. Here’s our conversation:
Me: In the report, you note that mobile device management (MDM) is sometimes confused with mobile content management. I see a few MDM vendors offering content services, which might be confusing to those managing mobile-content projects. What should enterprises look for as they are going mobile?
LH: Enterprises need to manage both the content flowing to and from mobile devices, as well as the devices themselves. So mobile content management and MDM are highly complementary and can work together, as organizations craft and enact comprehensive mobile computing strategies. As noted in the GigaOM report, some overlaps exist, but their unique features become stronger when they’re deployed together.
Me: The report also says that companies should, “Whenever possible, leave content where it is.” You also mention that implementing increased mobility can be an opportunity for process redesign and improvement. Can organizations do both at once?
LH: Experience shows that any organizational change is best made in small increments. In the case of making content mobile, that means taking a phased approach to syncing existing content stores with the main, virtualized content repository. Start by connecting one or two content sources, observe and measure the results, then adjust the mobile strategy as needed and integrate a few additional, important content sources.
As for business process redesign, it may be best to initially leave existing processes in place when launching a mobile initiative. It will be easier for people to get used to working from a mobile device if what they do and how they do it is the same as on their desktop computer. Once they are more comfortable with mobile work, then make some changes to the process that will take advantage of the fact that work can be done anywhere at anytime, as well the native functionality of specific mobile devices.
Me: In these early days, it seems like mobile apps are easy to use partly because they are restricted by design. Is that something you see changing in the future?
LH: Yes and no. Many mobile applications are easy to use today because they do incorporate only one or a few functions. As designers add more functionality to their applications, there’s a risk of decreased usability. The challenge is to retain a reasonable balance between capability and usability in mobile applications. We haven’t done a very good job of this with desktop applications, but I’m hopeful that we will on the mobile front.
One way we can simultaneously make mobile applications both more powerful and easier to use is by better understanding and designing for the context in which an individual is working. In the report, we give the example of a manager who is trying to fill an open position on her staff. The content management system can be configured to push relevant resumes to her for review on her mobile device. That action can be based on either the manual recommendation of an HR employee or on the automated comparison of keywords and entities mined from the text of a resume with a list of desired characteristics and experiences.
Either way, the important thing about this example is that the manager doesn’t have to search for resumes and wade through them on a mobile device. The content management system is capable of pushing only interesting resumes to her mobile app.
Me: Talking about the future, you mentioned in your paper the increased presence of sensors on mobile devices. Is this something enterprises should care about?
LH: The possibilities for business process improvement due to mobile sensors are huge. For example, what if content could be pushed to our mobile devices not only on the basis of our business role, but also based on things that our mobile devices can sense and know, like our location, who else we’re with, the time of day, and so on? The more sensory information we have, the better context we can create for delivery of the right information at the right time.
We’re just beginning to understand and design for these possibilities. Actionable mobile content won’t be limited to smartphones and tablets in the future. Content delivered to computing objects like Google Glass, smart watches, clothing and even automobile dashboards is on the near horizon. This is very exciting to me. As mobile computing continues to evolve, so can how, when and where we do business.
Me: Thanks for joining us, Larry! I look forward to continuing the discussion and if anyone has anymore questions for Larry or myself please leave a comment. I’m excited about how the workplace is shifting and the impact mobile is having on the future of content.
We have several sessions on mobilizing content that you won’t want to miss at our upcoming Alfresco Summit so be sure to register. Hope to see you in November!