Saying that Apple’s iPhone has revolutionized the cell phone market is an understatement. It has changed the basic cell phone options we expect, forced Apple’s competitors to be more innovative, and ushered in a resurgence of touch-screen smartphones.
While the BlackBerry has been the darling of corporate offices, mainly for email, the iPhone has pushed the entire smartphone industry to offer faster networks, more applications, and more advanced devices.
What does this mean for your business?
Many of your customers are going to demand that you not only have a well-designed Web site with a high level of customer self-service, but they are will expect that you can meet their data needs on mobile devices.
Right now you might enable customers to see the status of their orders via your Web site on their computer. Maybe they can even view their most recent invoices, chat with your customer service reps, and view how-to videos. But customers are demanding more interaction via their cell phones. They not only want to receive updates via text message alerts but also order last-minute items through the small screen of their smartphones (not the 21-inch screens of a flat-panel computer display).
You must plan for these demands from a tiny screen, tiny keyboard world.
And remember that your employees will want the same capabilities. Companies are facing a new generation of employees whose lifestyles are less computer-centric and more mobile aware. Requiring sales staff to lug around a laptop is expensive, and increasingly unwelcome. You will need to be prepared to have corporate standards that meet the lifestyles of today’s employees.
Whereas you probably have a group of in-house or outsourced staff for building custom software and Web applications, you will also need developers who can program applications for mobile devices. These programmers will need to build applications based on surveys of your customers and employees to determine if the programmers should focus on one or more mobile platform (Apple iPhone, RIM BlackBerry, Google Android, or Microsoft Windows Mobile).
As you consider servicing the needs of a mobile audience, don’t get caught in hype. For example, while the iPhone and T-Mobile’s Google-powered G-1 are news today, they might not be what customers are interested in tomorrow. Focus on serving your customer’s needs, not the hype of the latest headlines. For instance, you might be in an industry whose customers are still using fax machines. If so, don’t worry about having the latest BlackBerry-friendly ordering system, for now.
As your company grows, ensure that your IT gurus enable the data to be easily ported to Web sites, mobile devices, or wherever the data may need to go. The specifications of each project should enable easy data portability from one platform to another.
Computers will be the primary tool for business for years to come, but the use of mobile devices is increasing, and you must prepared.
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