No Such Thing as a Mobile User

No Such Thing as a Mobile User

By Dave Michels September 5, 2013 5 Comments
Dave Michels JPG
No Such Thing as a Mobile User by Dave Michels

I’m done with mobility. Not the concept, the term. For years now the UC promise has included the “work from anywhere” mantra. Work is not a place. Make/receive calls from your mobile device. Participate in meetings from anywhere. Rhubarb Rhubarb Rhubarb.

We did it. Let’s stop talking about remote user like it matters any more. I don’t even know what a mobile or remote user is any more since it is the UC infrastructure that is what’s increasingly remote. To a cloud service provider, all users are remote. It doesn’t treat users differently if they are at the office or not, so why do we treat it as if it still matters?

What prompted me on this was something Kevin Spacey recently said about movies and television shows.

“If you’re watching a film on your television, is it no longer a film because you’re not watching it in a theatre? If you watch a TV show on your iPad, is it no longer a TV show? The device and the length are irrelevant; the labels are useless...There’s no difference watching Avatar on an iPad or watching YouTube on TV or watching Game of Thrones on the computer. It’s all content. It’s just story.”

The distinctions we use like “movie” and “show” are as valid as at-office and remote. They come from a different era, one where physical place determined the activity. We now live in a connected world. The old labels don’t work.

There is no escape. I am online at my cabin, on my flights, and on vacations. Sure there’s a work/life balance issue, but that’s not the point. The point is that it’s time to stop talking about mobile users. The email out-of-office responder is about as useful as changing voicemail greetings daily (never understood that one). Why should I care that you are not in the office (exceptions permitted for true vacation takers).

UC is the opposite of real estate…location doesn’t matter, location doesn’t matter, location doesn’t matter.

The industry isn’t quite there yet. Some only support iPhone or Android. Some don’t have web clients. Some don’t do desktop sharing…but they all have roadmaps to eliminate these disparities. A UC solution isn’t about the next release, it’s about the longer term vision, and they all get mobility. Do prospects compare and contrast the various vendor implementations of music-on-hold?  

Rather than focus the microscope on the vendors, it’s time to look in the mirror. The biggest barrier to UC adoption is user implementation issues. If your organization is still taking attendance, you probably have some work to do. “You are not working if I don’t see it” is keeping mobility on the bench. UC is not for functions with a punch-clock.

I work with lots of different companies, and for the most part – they get it (that’s why they work with me). But the Mad Men creators didn’t have to rely on their imaginations to determine how organizations approached work in the 60s, there are plenty still around. Sweatshops that track tardies like high schools are still common. That’s ok, I’m not going to say it’s wrong (it’s wrong), but I will say that it’s not a technical issue.

Reminds me of a Seinfeld where George loses his keys. His boss sees his car in the lot early and late and determines he must be working really hard. It’s supposed to be situational comedy, but too often this could really work.

The funny thing is that these organizations are actually driving people to become remote. For many, it is to be in the field, with customers and partners. For many more though it’s about being productive. At the home office the coffee is better, the YouTube isn’t blocked, the Internet connection is faster, the desk is bigger. Don’t even get me going on the productivity of commuting.

Though I will say this past summer that I did miss the AC of the corporate world.   


5 Responses to "No Such Thing as a Mobile User" - Add Yours

Roberta J. Fox 9/6/2013 8:45:48 AM

Dave - Right on!!!! Totally agree with you. Particularly the comments about some enterprises not 'getting it' related to management models.

Knowledge worker based work should be measured by output, not hours sitting in your office/cubicle. Of course this means that folks have to actually understand, monitor and measure output....that is a whole other discussion for another day.

Most of the UC vendors have offers that enable people to work anywhere, but many of them are still to complicated to set up and use, and are not really designed to be totally integrated as they were developed by different R/D teams, then force fit to interconnect (some exceptions of course).

Hopefully as more organizations move to virtual, distributed organizations using UC solutions, their management practices and methods will evolve too! Keep up the good work with your articles.
Art Rosenberg 9/6/2013 10:01:13 AM

Calm down, Dave!

While you may be correct about there being little difference these days between a "remote user" and a "premise-based" office user (location doesn't matter), there is definitely a need to differentiate requirements for a user "on the go" who is carrying a wireless device to access both information and communicate with people.

Why? Because a mobile user "on the go" will dynamically be in different circumstantial environments that will impact their mode of interaction with a business process application or contacts with a people. Sometimes they interact by talking, sometimes by typing or pushing buttons for input, sometimes by sending pictures or videos. Sometimes they can look at information, text messages, or videos sometimes they can only listen to information and messages (hands-free, eyes-free).

That's where the flexibility of UC-enabled applications for multi-modal mobile devices comes into play. This provides interface flexibility to an end user, who may be interacting with an automated online application, or who is communicating with one or more other people synchronously or asynchronously .

I wrote an an article many years ago describing the differences for a user's interface requirements, depending on whether they were "standing up" or "sitting down." Obviously, moving around means "not sitting down" and using a convenient hand-held device for any form of interaction. With the latest announcements of "smart" eyeglasses and watches, we are starting to realize the old Dick Tracy level of personalized mobile communications, except it is not just a voice connection between people.
Horacio Calvo 9/6/2013 10:19:03 AM

Absolutely agree 100%
Great article, loved your quote on changing greetings daily, what for??
Similar in many cases to presence, who cares about seeing the green icon if the person on the other side doesn't want to talk or chat?
Jack McCarthy 9/9/2013 3:23:08 PM

Well done Dave. A lot of good images here, from Mad Men to Seinfeld.

We haven't begun to imagine how creative organizations will adopt and leverage mobility to their own advantage, and in so doing, really change the way we work.
Tahir Yasin 9/12/2013 9:59:50 AM

I think it's all about application and use case , key focus needs to be ubiquitous access not user location . We do need to categorize the user type ,for what reason I guess E911 comes to mind first .


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