Next up: The consumerization of business processes

The consumerization of IT may well be leading to the consumerization of business processes. Here are four paths toward improved processes for a more mobile enterprise and a transformed user experience.

The consumerization of IT is leading organizations to mobile-enable both their internal and customer-facing applications. While you're at it, you shouldn't miss the opportunity to completely rethink and redesign your business processes from the ground up, and even to invent entirely new business models.

You should think about how mobility can streamline business processes, reduce costs or even deliver entirely new services over the mobile channel. It may well be that you've already done the last item on that list, but if it's been a while, you need to recognize that today's smartphones and tablets are far more sophisticated and feature-rich, creating possibilities that weren't technically feasible just a few years ago.

What's possible with a mobile-oriented business process redesign? First of course, you can make a non-mobile process mobile -- bring the process to the place where the work actually gets done, potentially reducing the number of process steps. But you can also enhance an already mobile process by making it more automated.

I see four paths to improved processes. First is what I call the "Must-Have" scenario: Manual processes that are not performed at the point of service are mobile-enabled so that they can be performed where the service is provided. Next is the "Wow Factor" scenario: Things that are done manually but at the point of service are given a technology upgrade so they can be accomplished via smartphone, tablet or other mobile device. Third is the "Innovative Replacement" scenario: Costly proprietary technologies are replaced with much less expensive options made possible by the current generation of smartphones and tablets; the processes were already automated, but not necessarily performed at the point of service. Finally, there's "Mobile Upgrade" scenario: Technologies that were already mobile and had already replaced proprietary technology are improved.

Each of these four paths has already led to innovations with business benefits in the real world:

The "Must-Have" -- Most companies have already implemented things like sales force automation and field force automation, but anytime a manual process is totally redesigned for mobile technologies, the business benefits can be huge. These types of business process improvements can result in substantial cost savings, reduced cycles times, improved convenience and greater ease of use.

A classic example is the use of mobile technology by medical professionals. Not only is a paper-based process automated, but it's also moved to the point of care so physicians and nurses can access and update patient medical records and charts while consulting directly with patients.

The "Wow Factor" -- This typically leads to reduced costs and faster information access, plus a "wow factor" when customers or employees experience increased interactivity.

A good example of reduced costs is United Airlines' replacement of pilots' 45-pound flight bags with iPads loaded with charts, maps and other crucial navigation tools. United was able to save 16 million sheets of paper a year and 326,000 gallons of fuel because of weight reduction.

The "Innovative Replacement" -- This typically leads to reduced costs, a totally revised business process and entirely new end-user experience.

For example, Chase's mobile app now includes QuickDeposit. This service lets customers take a photo of the front and back of a check, verify the deposit details on their mobile device and then make a deposit from home. Another example: Square lets merchants take mobile payments, something that could end up replacing cash registers and that has garnered the company recognition as one of the most innovative on the lists of both Fast Company and MIT Technology Review. Other examples in this category include the use of built-in features such as GPS and even biometrics to replace stand-alone equivalents.

The "Mobile Upgrade" -- This scenario can also reduce costs and substantially improve usability. An example here is the Dallas Museum of Art providing interactive museum tours on visitors' smartphones. Another is the growing use of consumer tablets instead of proprietary mobile technologies for field service tasks such as delivery routing.

These four paths may help you frame the sorts of strategic questions you should be thinking about related to mobile process redesign and how to consumerize your business processes. For example: "What mobile technologies can we upgrade?" "What proprietary technologies can we totally replace?" "How can we rethink the end-user experience?"

Of course, the key question is, "What business processes or even business models can we totally reinvent and redesign to do business in a whole new manner and transform the end user experience?" Answering that question is sure to give your company an edge.

Nicholas D. Evans leads the Strategic Innovation Program for Unisys and was one of Computerworld's Premier 100 IT Leaders for 2009. He can be reached at

Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

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