Mobile 2.0 and corporate cognitive dissonance

Ben Evan’s latest post on Mobile 2.0 is a compelling read. He harkens back to 2004 when Web 2.0 officially became a thing, with the launch of the O’Reilly conference. I remember those heady and exciting days at the Web2.0 conferences. The promise of the web was just beginning to materialize (after death by natural selection, of silly ideas like Ben argues that we are at a similar inflection point with Mobile. The locus of tech has moved to the smart-phone, with a new world of possibility with photos, touch and voice. Add machine learning to power a more natural way of human interaction, and we are staring at an array of auto-magical apps and platforms.

Contrast that with a conversation I had recently, with a super smart person in the ERP space. His customers are mostly traditional companies i.e. Industry 1.0. One of the innovations that they had recently introduced was to print work-orders, instruction manuals and schematics in one package, to hand to planned maintenance. I looked at him quizzically and wondered why they didn’t create a mobile tablet app instead! He was totally on-board with my suggestion, but apparently there was reluctance on the part of their customers to change directions so radically.

So on the one hand the tech industry has this “move fast and break things” mind-set. Yet the vast majority of companies are still relying on inefficient, manual system; resisting change every step of the way. What is even more interesting is that this change has happened rather rapidly in the consumer space. So those same companies have workers who will readily call Uber OR order Panera at lunch OR swipe left on Tinder. But, once they get to the work, they have to go back to antiquated paper and pen systems. Sure, there are lots of factors: union objections, cost (although Android tablets are pretty cheap) and IT departments focus on back-end systems. But I suspect that the biggest obstacle is INERTIA (truly, one of the strongest forces in the universe).

So how does a forward-thinking technologist introduce an equal and opposing force? Small Experiments… User Centric design… Pilot projects… Outcome based strategy…Senior executive champions…Augment internal skills with outside experts. We know all of this, so why the reluctance?

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