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Shakin’ it here, Boss! (or, ‘How Mobility is Shaking Things Up’)

Steve Jobs told us we needed a better computing experience before most of us even knew what computing was. And he was right. Steve Jobs told us we needed a better mobile experience before any of us believed it possible. And he was right. Now that Steve Jobs has moved on to the hereafter, we can send him a message similar to Dragline’s sendoff to Cool Hand Luke: “You hang on in there Steve. You hang on. There’s gonna be some world-shakin’ Steve. We gonna send you a postcard.”

This is not an homage to Mr. Jobs, God rest his soul, rather a look at how mobility is indeed changing the world. To illustrate this point, let’s turn back the clock to a more mundane and seemingly archaic technology experience. The ATM.

Do you remember the first time you used an ATM? Or that your parents used one? Did your bank send you an instruction manual? Were there tutorials (via Beta or VHS…) that showed you how to insert your card, enter your PIN and push some buttons to get some cash? No. And that wasn’t by accident. Developers, ethnographers and DESIGNERS (including Electronic Ink founder, Harold Hambrose) converged to innovate an experience that everyone could immediately and innately understand.

Now fast forward to today, and think about the array of mobile apps you use in your everyday life. Do any of them come with instructions? Not the best ones. Confusing ones are quickly weeded out by user ratings and limited downloads. Again, this is not happening by accident. And, frankly, it seemingly gets better and better by the day (how many App Updates do you literally get everyday from the App Store???). The beauty of the incremental and exponential improvement in the mobile experience is that consumer (user) demand creates an imperative for ALL computing experiences to improve. And if you are an enterprise user (a la SAP, Oracle…) you are (or will be soon) taking to the streets (literally: see SAP’s mobile app marketplace) and thanking the heavens that someone is finally getting this right.

Not to pick on any one business system, but since so many of our clients use SAP and we have been working with them for twenty years, I can personally attest that their user experience has come a long way since the early days of R/2. Remember “enjoy SAP”? The timing of SAP’s initiative to overhaul its user experience happened to coincide with some of the earliest forays into mobile, as marked by the introductions of the Palm Pilot and Compaq iPAQ. Yet the SAP user experience continued to frustrate and puzzle users and consultants alike. Now, consumer demand prevails, and SAP is making serious strides in actually listening to and studying user behavior to improve the experience. Today’s mobile user demands a simple and elegant computing experience. Executives the world over said, “You’d better come up with a fantastic way to interact with my enterprise information on my iPad…or else.” Check out the SAP mobile app marketplace to judge for yourself if SAP is finally getting it.

So for any SAP user that knows what I’m talking about, this idea of mobility changing the world suddenly sounds reasonable. Heck, more than reasonable, it sounds downright…world shakin’. Now let’s start working on that postcard to Steve.