Accessibility MattersPosted: January 15, 2016
Many times I have heard colleagues throughout the business world say, “Our organization needs a mobile device strategy” or ask, “Should we have a bring-you-own-device policy?” Externally, I maintain a smile or neutral outward appearance, while I’m inside I’m scratching my head (metaphorically). Why, at this stage of technological advances hasn’t this become conventional wisdom: our focus shouldn’t be on devices, it should be on accessibility.
In the long run, chasing specific mobile devices is fruitless. There will always be more, different and better options, in multiple formats and from myriad vendors. Remember the Apple Newton, PalmPilot, Grid Pad Pro and others that have come and gone? There are always features and functions of one versus the other that people will discuss and debate ad nauseam. The arguments can’t be won, because the issue, again, is not the device.
Why do I say that? Simply because we’ve been here before. I recall the transition from a mainframe-centric environment to personal computing. The mainframers thought PCs and local area networks were a joke. Not fast enough or big enough. There was an assumption that people would never want to do that work themselves or learn something that complex. The scenario played out again when the Internet and e-commerce came about. The assumption was that people want to see what they are buying and talk with someone, and there was no way they would enter their credit card number into this new-fangled Internet thingamabob.
Ultimately, what led people to move in these new directions and adopt the changes? It wasn’t the device, technology or brand—it was about gaining easy access to ways of being more productive or capable.
Let’s apply this thinking to mobile devices and look beyond the operating system, high-speed data access, robust and intuitive apps and the myriad of other embedded features. The power of mobile devices lies in how we can partner with them to make our lives easier and function more smoothly. Here are a few examples, none of which are dependent on a particular device (mobile or otherwise):
- In the professional world, if I can access my information and share it with someone in real time, I don’t need to make a note and follow up later when I get back to my office. Being honest, I’m likely to forget to do it. Now, I can send a message or share a file with a couple of taps or clicks on a keyboard.
- Is anyone old enough to remember putting a “buck slip” on an article to route it around a workgroup to make sure everyone got the information? Now, a quick forward of a link, a “like”, twitter message, or post to a social media group does the trick.
- It wasn’t all that long ago that executives had administrative assistants to manage their manual calendars. They would make phone calls to book meetings and then physically mail out agendas and packets of information ahead of time. Today, most appointments are booked by simply proposing a time and confirming with an e-appointment invitation or by using a calendar matching application (such as vyte.in, calendly.com, meetme.com or needtomeet.com)
These are minor examples of on-the-go tasks to be liberated from large monolithic or manual systems. To get more of this done, we need digital work processes and tools that can augment or replace traditional systems. We need tools that allow the infrastructure to be accessible and responsive to security and sensitive to the types of data. We need approaches that focus on enabling people and process. The good news is these tools are available and becoming more mature. There is lots of work to be done to make it happen, but there are many successful case studies.
I believe the path is not having all functions available on all devices. In the early days of tablets, many a colleague said, “We’ll just provide a virtual desktop” so users can do anything they want. Technically that is correct, but the idea of the connectivity and clunkiness of using email or Word or Excel on an iPad was not going to be readily adopted.
As a leader, the greatest contribution may be helping colleagues do their job seamlessly, regardless of their available or preferred technology. How can they quickly and easily make an internal request, find an expert, look up a piece of information, access an internal reference document, collaborate with a peer, submit an expense item, inquire on the status of a task or approve a request? If we can figure out access, a mobile device strategy is irrelevant.
P.S. This is not a new theme for me. Check out It’s Not About the Device from November 2015.