Kennedy-esque wisdom: Business first, mobile second

Bob Kennedy looks around at the mobile craze, including the mantra of mobile for the sake of mobile, and he’s having none of the latter.

Kennedy, vice president of strategic service for Compuware and a keynoter at the recent Fusion CEO-CIO Symposium, understands that mobility is changing the landscape of consumer and business interaction. He knows it’s here to stay and that IT professionals are going to have to consider the mobile device in their IT decisions going forward, but the title of his keynote offers a timeless reminder: “Business First, Mobile Second.”

This means that mobile, even with all its transformative possibilities, is really no different than any other emerging technology in that it must have a strong business rationale behind it. “You see an awful lot of noise today coming out of the mobility advocates, which is a hot area of technology,” Kennedy stated. “You see a lot of organizations with a ‘mobile first’ mentality. The fact of the matter is that just because you can build something, that doesn’t mean you should.”

From Kennedy’s vantage point, organizations spend and waste a lot of money investing in technology that really brings them no business value. “We firmly believe that if the technology invested does not realize some sort of business value, it’s not worth doing,” he said. “That’s why business first, mobile second.”


Brent Leland, CIO of Trek Bicycle Corp., who co-moderated Kennedy’s presentation during the Fusion CEO-CIO Symposium, said his business-first point sounds like a fundamental best practice, but often is overlooked. During the past year, Leland was involved in a discussion where a vendor was pitching a strategy called “mobile first,” which is just the opposite of Kennedy’s advice. “Their whole point was, ‘Hey, get on the mobile bandwagon. You’ve got to start somewhere.’”

The temptation comes with mobility becoming so ubiquitous; Leland admits to constantly being on some device. With some estimates stating that more than half of digital interactions are non-PC-based, this shift is unmistakable, and CIOs and businesses in general “are really going to have to figure out how to keep up with that and use that because it’s going to be huge,” he said. “In order to be competitive going forward, you’re going to have to figure it out.”

Some organizations have figured it out. During his keynote, Kennedy explained how technology managers have successfully demonstrated that an investment in mobile technology helps their company either make more money, save more money, or build brand loyalty with consumers.

Mobility, he said, isn’t about an app or device, it’s about an extension of the enterprise and new forms of connection. A retailer certainly wants to provide a mobile commerce solution for customers and also provide an in-store mobile experience, because consumers typically use mobile devices in conjunction with their in-store shopping experience. Kennedy noted that a full 15% of all Black Friday purchases were researched through a mobile device, so mobility has an obvious impact in the retail space.

One case in point is a large retailer with a good digital experience, Kennedy said, mentioning Target by name. He said that to provide a topnotch digital experience, such retailers get so much information about their customers’ buying habits that they can actually pinpoint data down to a specific individual, including “the things that are going on in their world at any given time regarding the things they buy.” The retailers then cycle promotional offers to specific consumers that are relevant to their lives at that particular moment.


The general business case for mobility is not limited to industries such as retail, where the potential value is more evident. Kennedy said Compuware builds mobile apps across many different industries, and he asserted that mobility also has a place in government, manufacturing, finance, and other sectors.

“It depends on what you’re trying to do,” Kennedy explained. “If you are a manufacturer and you’ve got a production line running, the existing systems that run those production lines are on the factory floor, but the plant manager can only see the activity going on across those various systems while sitting there in their office. You don’t want your plant manager sitting in his office; you want your plant manager on the floor making sure things are running smoothly.

“You can provide connections via a mobile device that gives him the dashboards he needs to do his job while moving around the factory floor. It’s about organizational enablement.”

Kennedy also cited Dole fresh fruits, one of the world’s largest fruit producers with $7 billion a year in revenue. Dole has inspectors that go to the docks and follow fruit through the supply chain to determine what’s going on with the growing process and the shipping process, and what happens to fruit when it’s stored and arrives at the warehouse – all to assess different storage impacts.

“The way they used to do their job is carry a manual around with them, and that manual had all the notes on rot/spoil rates or what one kind of blemish meant over another,” Kennedy explained, “and they would take notes and photographs and collect all this information. A couple of times a year, the information would be consolidated in back-office systems at Dole, and then they would update their database with all the information they had produced in their manuals.

“They would send information that was relevant out to the growers in Costa Rica or wherever it happened to be. It was about a 12-month turnaround to be able to impact the growing process with some of their fruits. The impact wasn’t all that it could be because, as it turned out, inspectors were capturing only a few key data points on the quality of the product.”

Compuware built Dole an application for its mobile inspectors that allowed inspectors, through a smart phone app and cloud service, to conduct their food inspections, enter the information, take photographs of the products, and push that information into the database in real time. The application was flexible enough to expand or contract the database as necessary based on the information Dole gathered.

“What ended up happening is: number one, they paid for the application with one production run of the manual (instead of two). There was return on investment in less than one year,” Kennedy said. “More importantly, it allowed them to get the information in the hands of the growers in the distribution network in virtually real time, so they can impact the quality of their products immediately.

“So there is an application in the fresh produce industry that is very supply-chain specific. It has nothing to do with the external consumer, and it’s helping their organization produce a better-quality product.”

Kennedy also noted that mobile and machine technologies have substantially expanded the analytical capabilities of organizations, but organizations are having problems digesting the massive amounts of information they receive. In the Dole example, it’s fairly easy to isolate the information specific to one product and one shipping process and get access to the information.

According to Kennedy, this is where mobility starts to cross the boundaries of all technology areas. Since a mobile device is just an extension of the enterprise in the IT environment, all the relevant things that are important in a traditional IT environment also are important in the development of mobile technology. “You still have to be very concerned about application performance, and you still have got to consider the data that is coming into your organization through your environment,” he said. “You have a lot more information, so a business analytics tool can do a lot of good for your company by mining that information.

“It’s important to understand you have connection points between the mobile devices and the other devices and how people use the devices versus traditional methods.”

For example, Kennedy said Alaska Airlines offers an all-encompassing digital experience. Travelers can go to the company’s website on a desktop computer and do their trip planning, not only booking flights but also booking hotels and planning excursions. “People tend to do those things off the desktop because you have a bigger keyboard, a bigger screen, and they feel there is more real estate to get information out there,” Kennedy observed. “That’s where they feel more comfortable making those kinds of transactions.


“And then they have a wonderful social media experience, and that is all about connection and community. ‘Hey, I just booked this flight to Alaska and I’m going on these excursions, so who out there has also done this?’ All of a sudden, you start to create an interaction point that gets people excited about the trip.

“Finally, Alaska Airlines has built a mobile app that allows you to execute the trip. So it’s the planning, it’s the sense of community, and it’s the actual execution of the trip. Three different places, three different experiences, and all of them are related to one another.”

As American Greeting Cards discovered before it was too late, mobility also provides opportunities to connect with the younger demographic groups, which makes a company’s future look brighter. According to Compuware’s Matthew David, the 100-year-old company was viewed as “your grandmother’s greeting card” company and was losing business due to the popularity among 18- to 20-year-olds of online greeting card services like JibJab. Its solution was the creation of an app called justWink, which offers the same personalization with a convenient delivery capability and has begun to help American Greeting Cards turn the tide.

Perhaps more significantly, David said American Greeting Cards has taken steps to ensure that it doesn’t become a cultural or business dinosaur, something all companies that expect to compete for customers of the future had better think about. Younger consumers in particular, he noted, continually find new ways to connect in a mobile way.

Getting started

Making a business case for mobility should not be difficult, Leland said, because mobility touches all facets of a business – sales management, product development, employee relations, and customer and supplier interactions. “This whole space is changing so fast,” Leland stated. “The real question for CIOs is, how do I get started?”

Kennedy has the answer – a CIO starts not by yielding to vendor pressure for the shiniest new toy, but by making a convincing business case to the executive suite. That first business case for mobile is especially important because a successful project can convince skeptical executives to do even more with mobile. “If you use mobile to solve a business problem,” noted Kennedy, “it tends to create a lot of momentum.”

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