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This article was originally published in the newsletter of our MTAM member firm, Logic Solutions of Ann Arbor, and was written by a member of their Marketing team, Louie Davis. The article is reprinted here with the firm’s permission.

The Mobile Technology Association of Michigan (MTAM) is a strong advocate for the use of mobile / wireless technologies in every business vertical. This article does an excellent job of helping to increase awareness of the capabilities of those technologies in the business environment.

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Mobile Business Apps and the Mobile Tipping Point

mobile in manufacturing 3At the turn of the decade, technology analysts and investors bet that enterprise mobile applications would revolutionize business activity akin to the way they changed social and consumer behavior.

It’s clear that their gamble has paid off:

In the past two years, enterprise mobile applications have gone viral. iOS and Android device adoption is growing 10 times faster than PC adoption did in the 1980s. 88% of organizations surveyed by IBM currently offer, or are expected to adopt, mobile versions of websites AND mobile apps in 2013. According to Forbes, 94% of Fortune 500 companies are testing or deploying iPads. By 2015, mobile app development projects will outnumber PC projects by a 4-to-1 ratio.

Mobile business apps for smart devices are a permanent and increasingly large piece of the business IT puzzle, not a transient fad.

Executives from every corner of the economy recognize a powerful upside to mobile technology, and they’re investing accordingly. Whether you work in a hospital, a factory, a classroom, or a retail store, employee-facing mobile apps are workforce productivity engines, making every day responsibilities and processes more efficient.

Mobile business apps can increase a company’s overall productivity and reduce labor, materials, and operating costs. Early adopters of internal-facing mobile business apps are already enjoying increased productivity, reduced paperwork and increased revenue thanks to streamlined workflow and communications.

Similarly, with nearly 120 million Americans owning a Smartphone and 22% of adults owning tablets, customer-facing mobile apps are equally gainful. This channel offers exciting long-term opportunities for companies to extend their brand, deepen B2C and B2B/B2R engagement, and generate revenue.

But before your company can realize ROI from employee- or customer-facing mobile app, you need a well-mapped mobile strategy.

Custom Mobile Business App Strategy

The ash heap of failed mobile apps is littered with ambitious, creative ideas but poor strategy. Here are some questions your company should flush out when designing a mobile strategy:

Why?

Why is the app being developed? Define the pain points your app will be designed to alleviate. Detail your expected return on investment, whether that be in cost savings from streamlined processes, increased sales from reaching more consumers, creating brand awareness and engaging a larger audience, improving communications, etc. Understand at the outset what makes your investment worth it to you, then build from there.

Who?

Who will use the app? Employees? The general public? Account holders? Partners? Independent Reps? Retailers and distributors? Fans and subscribers? All of the above?

It is imperative for businesses to understand their target audiences through careful analysis and measurement. By understanding these connections, the mobile app’s strategic focus will sharpen.

Which?

Choosing a mobile development approach is highly contingent on your audiences’ device tendencies. Reaching the broadest audience is obviously best, but sometimes budget can be a limiting factor in deploying on multiple platforms.

Do your users prefer iOS, Android, or both? Smartphones and/or tablets? If you are creating an app for internal use, does your company have a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policy, or does it plan on issuing common-platform work-only devices for employees?

What and How?

Knowing what your app will do might be the easy part, and you’ve probably had that idea in your head from the beginning. Fleshing out how it will do it can get trickier.

Will your app require and/or function best on a smartphone or tablet? Will your app require internet access? Do you need to retain the information that is being transmitted? Do you need the app to talk to other IT systems? Are there security issues?

One of the biggest questions is this: mobile web or native app?

Mobile Web or Native App

Mobile websites are traditional websites that have been optimized for the small screens sizes of smartphones and tablets. They look like apps, but are accessed through the device’s browser, using your existing URL.

Mobile web’s strengths lie in its cross-platform nature, its searchability, its relative ease-of-construction, and content delivery: it simplifies navigation by highlighting the most critical information to your visitors and customers.

Native apps are more appropriate for workforce productivity solutions and deeper marketing and customer engagement possibilities. They provide a “stickier” engagement experience and can also draw on native device capabilities and other options for increasing productivity, loyalty and monetization. Some of these features include data integration, GPS location functions, image manipulation, forms and surveys, event planning, content management, VOIP, and much more. Additionally, they may not require a constant Internet connection to operate.

Native apps are usually a more substantial investment than mobile websites. Programming is more sophisticated, and may need to be done in separate languages for different platforms. However, new tools are making cross-platform development less expensive than ever before.

Conclusion

Challenging financial times prevented many companies from investing in new technologies, but that is changing in a big way. One technology paper writes that, “If 2012 was a year of ‘wait and see,’ for business technology, 2013 will be a year to ‘go for it.'”

The mobile tipping point is here: thousands of companies—big and small—are already capitalizing on the ability of mobile business applications to increase workforce productivity and to reduce their labor, materials, and operating costs. Thousands more are using them to deepen customer engagement, brand loyalty, and to generate revenue.

In order to capitalize on this potential, understanding your full range of business software options is important.

Founded in 1995, Logic Solutions, Inc. is a privately held minority-owned corporation with headquarters in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and offices in California and China. Logic Solutions provides technology solutions and services including mobile strategy consultation and application development, custom web applications, and comprehensive websites for businesses across the United States.  Website:  http://logicsolutions.com

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About the Mobile Technology Association of Michigan:

The Mobile Technology Association of Michigan (MTAM) is a Michigan-based non-profit trade association for the mobile / wireless industry. Our mission is to grow the industry within the state by increasing demand for Michigan-based mobile / wireless technology products and services, thereby generating increased entrepreneurial and enterprise-level opportunities and creating sustainable jobs for Michigan residents.

MTAM sponsors Michigan-based growth of the Mobile Monday organization which to-date boasts 2300+ members in chapters located in Ann Arbor, Detroit, Grand Rapids and Lansing; performs research for members and other interested parties; facilitates idea sharing, entrepreneurial programs, training programs and jobs creation; acts as a liaison with the mobile / wireless technology community inside and outside of Michigan; and serves as a resource for all things related to the mobile / wireless industry. MTAM’s website can be found at http://GoMobileMichigan.org.

As Michigan residents and businesses strive to educate themselves about the myriad of mobile technologies available and the ways those technologies can be utilized to grow Michigan’s economy, we at the Mobile Technology Association of Michigan (MTAM) are often asked to provide examples of ways in which these technologies are being, or will be, utilized in real-life scenarios. Therefore, over the next few weeks we’ll develop a series of articles that showcase these opportunities, and highlight ways in which Michigan may already be involved, or where Michigan has an existing resource which provides an exceptional opportunity for our State to take a leadership role in the highlighted sector.

First to be highlighted is the emerging field of Vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V), which is a low-cost mobile technology that is expected to quickly become mainstream.

V2V communication is being touted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) as the next big step in vehicle safety, and the agency believes it has the potential to prevent 80% of crashes. It wirelessly sends safety messages to other cars on the road using embedded wireless technology and provides information on speed, direction of travel and location to help the car itself avoid accidents.

Directly tied to V2V technology is Vehicle-to-Infrastructure (V2I) technology, which enables public transportation safety systems such as traffic lights to communicate with vehicles; together V2V and V2I are referred to in the mobile / wireless industry as V2X.

The tie to Michigan is obvious, Michigan is the global leader in the automotive industry and the companies based here are investing substantial funds in R&D efforts tied to V2X technologies; investments that will result in many new high-tech, good-paying jobs. Additionally, our own University of Michigan is working with the NHTSA to study the use of V2X technologies in real-world scenarios. (Read about it HERE)

And the global marketplace is well aware of Michigan’s leadership in this mobile technology sector, much more so it seems than those who reside here, as is evidenced by the fact that two global events related to automotive use of mobile technologies are held in Michigan’s Metro Detroit community.

The first event is the ‘V2X for Auto Safety and Mobility USA 2012’ conference, the first business focused event for the V2V and V2I industries which takes place in Novi on March 20 – 21, 2012. As an event partner for this event, MTAM has secured an extra $100 discount on top of any current web discounts! Register here using discount code 2086M2M. The second event is the ‘Telematics Detroit 2012′ conference, the largest and most influential show for the global telematics industry, which takes place in Novi on June 7 – 8, 2012. MTAM is also a partner in this event and therefore has secured an extra $100 registration discount for this event as well. Enter discount code ‘2017V2M’ in the registration box.

The growth of the M2M (machine-2-machine / mobile-2-machine) sector of the mobile technology industry is set to explode over the next 10 years according to a multitude of forecasters and analysts. The general consensus typically estimates that M2M device connections will grow from a rate of 62 million in 2010 to reach 60 billion by 2020 – and Michigan is well-positioned to benefit from that growth.

While the availability of mobile technologies isn’t new, the recent proliferation of mobile devices into the hands of consumers, and their demand to utilize mobile technologies in both their personal and professional lives, is driving an increase in M2M deployments in an ever-increasing array of industries. The fastest-growing industry sectors are expected to be: utilities, healthcare and security, however the list of industries that are currently, and can be in the future, positively impacted by M2M technologies is substantially longer. A recent article by the Mobile Technology Association of Michigan (MTAM) (http://dld.bz/awBxM) offered the theory that the impact of this technology specifically related to Michigan could in fact have long-term impact on the state’s economic growth. Linda Daichendt, Executive Director of MTAM states, “In our opinion, Michigan has a short window of opportunity to carve out a leadership position for itself in specific segments of the mobile / wireless space where major impact nationally and globally has yet to be achieved.  We see M2M as a primary focus area where Michigan has a tremendous opportunity for success due to existing resources already available within the State.”

In the next meeting of Mobile Monday Detroit at Automation Alley  in Troy on November 14th, the organization will explore the future of M2M technology on a global and national scale, as well as looking at its potential to positively impact Michigan specifically. Anyone interested is welcome to attend the meeting at no charge, though reservations are required. They can be made at http://meetup.com/mobile-monday-detroit .

As Michigan continues to search for the answer to return the state to economic viability, we at the Mobile Technology Association of Michigan (MTAM) believe that a major piece of the state’s economic puzzle is being overlooked – by government, by business (both enterprise-level and small business), by the economic forecasters, and by a large segment of the education community. Research strongly indicates that mobile technology is the answer to Michigan’s economic recovery.

The maturation of wireless networks and the evolution of a wide variety of mobile technologies, along with the proliferation of hand-held devices of all types, has created a new class of technology that is ubiquitous and easily accessible at all times by businesses in every possible industry, by educators, and by consumers. The access provided by mobile technology is enabling significant growth in the economies of even the poorest of countries according to a multitude of global studies. Given that economic impact on a global scale, the expectation that mobile technology’s influence on Michigan’s economy would be substantive would not be unfounded.

Bearing out this inference, MTAM recently worked with the Michigan Economic Development Corporation to complete an analysis on the impact of mobile technology on Michigan’s economy. The results of that analysis provide direct evidence of mobile technology’s ability to create sustainable, good-paying jobs in Michigan. For example:

  • There are currently over 47,000 residents of the State of Michigan currently employed in some segment of the mobile / wireless industry though its evolution in Michigan is still in its infancy
  • Of those 47,000+ mobile technology-related employees, approximately 4500 of them work directly for the carriers, a modest percentage work in mobile-related positions within enterprise-level firms, and the largest percentage work in over 2200 small businesses throughout Michigan
  • The study also reveals that every mobile-related job that is created in Michigan creates 3.9 additional non-mobile-related positions in the state.
  • The average compensation for someone working in a mobile technology-related position in Michigan is $63,000; a cost-of-living equivalent to $145,000 in California’s Silicon Valley.

As a result of these findings of mobile technology’s direct impact on Michigan job creation, MTAM has established a goal of creating 9,250 mobile-related jobs in the state by 2015 which if achieved, will also create over 35,000 additional non-mobile-related jobs in businesses both large and small. These new jobs will result in over $1.7 billion in salaries / wages for Michigan residents according to the MEDC analysis.

So you might wonder how mobile technology can be expected to have such signficant impact on the State. The answer lies in the diversity of industries which will be directly impacted by the development and implementation of mobile technologies. Such industries would include:

  • automotive
  • healthcare
  • education
  • general manufacturing
  • retail
  • marketing / advertising
  • real estate
  • logistics
  • transportation management
  • financial services / banking
  • gaming
  • travel
  • data security
  • business / consumer security
  • telecom
  • entertainment
  • consumer services
  • business services
  • many, many more!

    

Given the ability for mobile technology to impact such a diversity of industries and to provide such pronounced economic impact, obviously it leads to the question of why there is not more focus on mobile technology within the State of Michigan. We believe there are a number of factors that are adversely affecting the technology’s ability to drive generation of the expected positive economic impact such as:

LACK OF EDUCATION

  • mobile is currently thought to be only a consumer-oriented technology, businesses have little awareness of the wide array of mobile technologies available and their ability to directly impact and increase a company’s productivity and profitability. Most business owners cannot yet concieve of mobile technology in any way other than cell phones, tablet devices, or vehicle navigation systems. The reality of mobile technology is far more diverse, and significantly more impactful.
  • resources are not yet available to facilitate training programs related to mobile technology. If such funding was available it would enable the re-training of downsized workers and once again enable them to find fulfilling, living-wage positions. Further, college students would begin to see the ability to stay in Michigan for their education – and their career; and small businesses would see Michigan as an environment where an industry with a lower than normal barrier-to-entry is embraced. Lastly, existing businesses would be able to re-define themselves with new product / service offerings that would once again make them competitive and able to expand their hiring.

LACK OF INDUSTRY COHESION IN THE STATE

  • various sectors of the industry such as carriers, mobile developers, equipment installers, etc. have very little knowledge of how their organizations and their sectors impact other sectors of the industry. This lack of awareness adversely affects the formation of relationships which could ultimately enable innovation and growth of the overall industry throughout the State.
  • while certainly competition is key to the growth of any industry, competitors in most growth-oriented industries have found ways to work together for their common good.  This cooperation has been achieved at the national and international levels in the mobile / wireless space – even when firms agree to disagree in specified areas, they have managed to come together on issues important to the overall industry. Unfortunately, in Michigan, the mobile / wireless industry has yet to achieve this cooperative status.

COLLABORATION

  • there is not yet a wide acceptance of the role that mobile technologies will play in the growth of Michigan’s economy, therefore support is not currently being provided from government entities, educational facilities, enterprise-level firms, state-wide organizations, marketers, national / international industry groups, or a majority of small businesses.

     

Returning to the question posed in the headline of this article, ‘can mobile technology jumpstart Michigan’s economy?’, the answer is an unequivocal YES!

Given the increasingly rapid pace at which mobile technologies are evolving, Michigan has a short window of opportunity to carve out a leadership position for itself in specific segments of the mobile / wireless space where major impact has yet to be achieved. Among those areas are machine-2-machine / mobile-2-machine and mHealth, and possibly even mobile TV. We at MTAM believe that Michigan is uniquely positioned to stake a claim to these segments of the industry due to our existing resources such as:

  • global leadership capabilities in manufacturing and engineering
  • exceptional educational institutions
  • an abundance of existing engineering and development talent in a wide variety of specialty areas
  • renowned healthcare institutions
  • recently developed production facilities that were built to take advantage of the now-defunct tax incentives for the entertainment industry

   

Michigan is currently faced with an opportunity to change its future and that of its residents. We hope that those in a position to directly affect the integration of, and promote the capabilities of mobile technologies to benefit the state, its businesses and its residents will realize that time is short. We at MTAM will be here to assist.

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About MTAM:

MTAM’s mission is to create demand for Michigan-based mobile technology products and services. Given the research, it is our expectation that increased demand will generate new opportunities for Michigan-based enterprises and small businesses, thereby enabling the creation of new jobs. As a state-based trade association for Michigan’s mobile / wireless industry we are working steadfastly to develop educational programs and locate educational funding, to increase industry cohesion, and to generate opportunities for collaboration between mobile and other industries, governmental institutions, education, associations, and consumers / businesses-at-large to insure that the State of Michigan has the opportunity to achieve the positive economic impact that can be derived from mobile’s diverse technologies. Should there be interest in learning more, or in working with us to facilitate that growth, please feel free to visit our website at http://GoMobileMichigan.org or to contact us directly at info@GoMobileMichigan.org .

About the Author:

Linda Daichendt, Executive Director of the Mobile Technology Association of Michigan and Co-founder of Mobile Monday Michigan is an accomplished marketer, and award-winning blogger, and one of Michigan’s leading proponents of the use of mobile technology and mobile marketing for businesses of all sizes.  She is a recognized business expert with 20+ years of corporate, small business and franchising experience.  Linda  is also the CEO of Strategic Growth Concepts, and a Co-host / Co-producer of the international online radio program, ‘The Mobile Marketing Review’. Linda may be contacted directly at Linda@GoMobileMichigan.org.

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