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Mobile Trendsetter: Michelle Maisto, eWEEK

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Last week you heard from Chris Marsh, Principal Analyst with Yankee Group, who shared his thoughts on how mobility is helping enterprises re-envision their existing business models and better engage with customers.

 

This week, the Mobile Trendsetter Interview Series is highlighting Michelle Maisto, Senior Writer with eWEEK, who has been covering the technology beat since the pre-mobile phone days. Michelle shares her fascination with the growing mobile culture, in addition to her forecast on enterprise mobility and the opportunities that it brings to vertical industries:

 

HP: Tell us about yourself; what is your role in the technology industry and how did you get here?

Michelle: I got here completely by accident, although it was a happy accident. I was copy-editing car magazines in 1998 and decided to strike out on my own as a freelancer. The first company that hired me published magazines about knowledge management, sales and field force automation, and the mobile enterprise. This was before I even owned a mobile phone. When they offered me a job on staff, I agreed to stay - it was in Malibu and I could see the ocean from my desk. One thing led to another, and eventually I became the editor-in-chief of Mobile Enterprise magazine. That experience later led to eWEEK, where I’ve been covering the news for several years.

 

In those early days, the topics I was learning about would have been conversation killers, but today they’re completely mainstream. It’s fascinating - and such a relief - that the “fringe industry” I used to write about has become not just relevant, but absolutely central to our lives.

 

HP: How are large organizations adapting to mobile devices in the workplace?

Michelle: That’s a question we could have as easily discussed ten years ago. The fact that it’s still a relevant one, I think, speaks to just how complex mobility can be; especially when a corporate culture isn’t amenable to change and, even more, when leadership isn’t seriously open to listening to employees and determining what their needs are.

 

When I first starting writing mobile-deployment case studies, there was always a component of friction from workers who felt overwhelmed or threatened by the new technology. A shift occurred sometime around 2003, and suddenly the newest and most advanced technology that we were in contact with wasn’t at work, but at home - which eventually led to the BYOD trend. Now, the more common friction is people bringing the technology they need to get the job done, and that they feel isn’t being provided for them, into the office.

Hardware and software service providers have been developing [mobility] solutions for years. If a company is having issues adapting to mobile devices, my first instinct is to question the culture within the enterprise and how things are being deployed, not to think that technology isn’t capable of addressing the employees’ IT issues.

 

HP: In your opinion, what industries face the biggest mobility challenges, and which industries have best taken advantage of mobility?

Michelle: Embracing mobility is probably trickiest for regulated industries like finance, banking and healthcare; however, those same industries also have the greatest potential. So many of the smartphone players, like Apple, BlackBerry and Samsung, are now getting into the healthcare industry. While the security and privacy aspects of mobility are serious and stressful, I think this is going to be fascinating to watch.

 

The mind races, considering that our phones and tablets could finally really begin to connect us to, and give us greater ownership over, our health information. It’s going to be tremendous as more of that information comes to reside in a central place that’s actually accessible to patients. I don’t have a single form in my house that’s a real piece of medical information about me - all the information related to exams I’ve ever had is in various doctors’ offices spread across the five states that I’ve lived in. What if I could check an app and see records of my immunizations or changes in my blood pressure? It’s my information, but it’s information that I don’t actually have.

 

On a smaller scale, it will be so empowering, and habit-changing, for people to see ongoing simple data, like how many steps they take in a day, or what their resting heart rate is. I really believe that cumulative information will gradually impact the health of the nation - it’s too hard to see that kind of information and not adjust at all.

 

Banking is another market with tremendous potential. Banks understand that they’re the most trusted, but sometimes the most loathed, brands in eyes of consumers. It’s will be fascinating to see if they can take the researchers’ advice and figure out how to use customer information data and become financial “BFFs” to their customers instead of only offering annual financial guidance.

 

HP: How do you see enterprises dealing with the consumerization of IT and BYOD?

Michelle: The consumer is king now. Enterprises that really understand that concept will succeed. This has changed the game for CIOs and CTOs who now occupy serious business-strategy positions and not just glorified IT roles. People know what they need to get their jobs done and will figure out how to get it. A great CIO thinks a step ahead and meets those needs with truly satisfying solutions. If she doesn’t, she should expect that employees—taking the task upon themselves—are creating security holes.

 

The good news is people want to do good work, and work effectively. Just give them the tools they need to do it. And really, doing so makes people feel respected and valued - which in my experience is the number one way to get people to produce great work.

 

HP: How do you think the outcomes of the net neutrality debate will affect accessibility and mobility in the enterprise?

Michelle: Again, the line between consumer and enterprise continues to blur, if it’s even still there. I think it’s naive to hope that there will be any meaningful difference between how consumers and enterprises fare from how the net neutrality debate shakes out.

 

I agree with the argument that making companies pay more for faster speeds is going to hurt innovation. How many apps or services that we use every day, at home and at work, were created in dorm rooms, bedrooms or garages? How will those kinds of innovators - people with great ideas but little cash - possibly compete? It feels like the real estate equivalent of New York - big companies, beholden to shareholders, outspending shops that are creative, individual and worthy, but that don’t have the same cash pile. A rich culture is not the same five chain stores on every block, and neither is it four companies able to deliver super-fast mobile video.

 

HP: At HP, we try to help businesses merge the digital and physical worlds, as so many industries still rely on paper processes. What are some of the mobile technologies you see merging these spaces?

Michelle: I feel giddy about how cool enterprise “photo copiers”- as I still think of them - have become. In New York City, when you buy into a co-op building, you have to make copies of a tragic amount of personal paperwork. When you’re finished, the stack is very literally a foot high. Then, you have to make eight or so copies for each of the co-op board members, after which you hope that each of them shreds it all.

 

A machine that can reduce such a stack into a file that can be edited and securely emailed or stored in the cloud so that each board member could flip through such a “stack” on their tablet, is magic!

This kind of paper savings and efficiency, which is also happening also for businesses like mortgage companies and legal firms, feels to me like the truest definition of progress.

 

HP: Any other trends you’re seeing in mobile or the enterprise that you find particularly interesting?

Michelle: One trend that interests me is how our phones are becoming less critical - less of a life line - as more of the content we use our phones to access is being moved to the cloud. It may have started with tablets - suddenly there were two devices people were reaching for, to get to what they need. But more increasingly our smartwatches, smart glasses and smart TVs will all become other points of access. It’s interesting that our emotional attachment to these items could be lessened, as the touch points that put our content only a password or finger swipe away increase.

 

Cars are another rapidly changing field. I can’t wait for self-driving cars. The idea that a more efficient driving machine could eliminate highway traffic jams and reduce pollution, is enormously appealing. But it’s something I think about even more as a pedestrian, in a crowded city with distracted drivers. Did you know an average of five kids are hit by cars in New York City every day? I can’t wait for technology to solve that.

We’d like to thank Michelle for taking the time to chat with us and look forward to hearing more about mobility from Michelle in eWEEK.

 

If you enjoyed this post, stay tuned until next week where we’ll highlight mobility trendsetter Jim Lyons of The Imaging Channel and discuss how mobility is contributing to the rise of the “internet of things.”

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