You may already know me as senior editor at Information-Management.com, but I owe it to you to reveal another side of me: I’m the last working professional with a flip phone.
My co-workers are replete with smartphones and apps provided by HQ or are more than happy to stand at their desk, tapping and swiping away on iPads they’ve brought from home. At conferences and vendor briefings, there’s no shortage of sharp mobile capabilities on display (often via oversized flatscreens), with attendees around me intermittently checking email on a brand new device. A Twitter chat led by our Editor-in-Chief Julie Langenkamp-Muenkel gave a nice snapshot of the interest and questions dialed up by those working in our field. Closer to home, one professional I know – for the sake of argument and anonymity, let’s call her “my fiancée” – has gone head-first into the switch from a work-provided Blackberry to an iPhone 5 (and with it, hours and hours of Candy Crush Saga).
And I have no doubt that industry-wide estimates of the boom in new devices will ring true over the next few years. In conjunction, vendors and eager information managers will look to maximize BI capabilities on the small screen, needed or otherwise, to the tune of what TechNavio estimates at 27 percent CAGR through 2016, when it hits $1.8 billion.
What I remain unsold on is how much work I can really get done on the latest and greatest phone (or the one to come a few years from now ... or the one after that ...). By no means a Luddite, I’m perfectly content to read, write and analyze with the wider screen and larger capacity on my laptop. But with everyone around me flaunting new iPhones and personalized tablet jackets, I started to worry that there’s a way to work better and more soundly that I’m missing.
Rather than come up with a series of complicated lies involving terms like “power user” and “steam punk” to explain my dated personal phone, I decided to reach out for perspective on business mobile uses. I used my office landline to call Howard Dresner recently, a solid voice of reason in our space, who’s about to release his big annual BI trends survey. Dresner says we’re already seeing a contraction on the number of mobile BI vendors, as some strike out, take buyouts or are made irrelevant by similar features from larger end-to-end providers. And while there has been a “tremendous” improvement on BI, visualization and content functionality on phones even in the last 12 months, the bulk of the enterprise mobile market is dogged by limitations and platform constraints from its inception, Dresner said.
“Today, you should be able to feel reasonably comfortable that for any business intelligence solution, there will be a workable, usable mobile component to that,” Dresner told me. “But who wants to look at a dashboard with 100 metrics on it on a phone screen? The fact of the matter is, when you’re talking about mobile BI, the lion’s share of the devices are phones, and you’re talking about a 4 or 5-inch screen ... and that’s limited real estate. Most folks are not using a 9 or 10-inch tab. You’ve got to design the app with that in mind. Even though, technologically, you can author something once and publish it to multiple places, practically you can’t.”
Communication is vital to any business, but in terms of real, meat-and-potatoes analytics, BI and content creation, I’ll side with Dresner and trust my gut feeling that there is a quiet but substantial segment of professionals doing great work, regardless if they’ve got a slick new Android or a flip phone that may melt in the presence of a QlikTech dashboard or Yellowfin app. If you’ve found or prefer mobile work, more power to you. It’d be stupid to step in the way of people finding ways to do work in better and more personalized ways. But in that same sense, the last thing the working public needs is something that becomes a tether more than a new resource, channeling back shaky data or propping up yet another silo. For the time being, I’m just fine hammering from the home row of my laptop and leaving my flip phone as a source for dropped calls, derisive looks from phone snobs and the original Candy Crush Saga: Minesweeper.
I’d definitely be interested to hear from more members of the community who are opting out of the latest and greatest phones for any in-depth work, as well as from you outspoken mobile advocates, on the mobile work potential I’m missing out on. Feel free to leave your comment below or hit me up via email or on Twitter.