These ‘mobile moments’ will change the way citizen apps are made

A senior analyst from Forrester Research told the crowd at GTEC 2014 that the public sector may need to rethink its smartphone strategy

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Forrester mobile mind shift GTEC 2014

Many of us suffer from “detachment anxiety” when we forget our mobile device at home. But not that long ago, we somehow managed to function from moment to moment without being continuously fettered to a mini-computer.

But there’s been a shift — a mobile mind shift, according to Josh Bernoff, senior vice-president of idea development with Forrester Research Inc. and co-author of The Mobile Mind Shift, who spoke last month at GTEC in Ottawa.

We now experience events through our mobile device: We tweet; we post photos on Facebook; we upload videos to YouTube. This hit home the other day when a friend posted photos of her newborn baby on Facebook — literally moments after giving birth and lying in the hospital bed. Seems we can’t even give birth these days without a mobile device.

It’s a change in attitude; it’s a transformation. People want information and they want it now. “This is going to change every relationship between companies and customers, between governments and their constituents,” says Bernoff, “and it really has to be central in any strategy (you’re developing) for interacting with your citizens.”

We’re used to thinking about devices and applications — which devices to support, and how to develop applications for those devices. But we need to start thinking about it from the inside out. Or, as Bernoff puts it, from the perspective of the “mobile moment.”

Our brains are always on: When is my next appointment? Is it going to be cold out tomorrow? Who won the hockey game? “In a Pavlovian way, (people) have become conditioned to the idea that whatever the question, the answer is there on their mobile device,” says Bernoff.

The “mobile moment,” he says, is a point in time and space when someone pulls out a mobile device to get what he or she wants immediately, in context.

This applies just as much to government as it does to business. The City of Boston, for example, has developed a mobile app that allows citizens to report problems such as potholes simply by taking a photo; the city can track down each and every reported pothole using location-based services. This mobile app, says Bernoff, addresses a mobile moment.

So how do you get there? Bernoff’s “IDEA” is to identify the mobile moment; design the app for mobile engagement; engineer the platforms, processes and people; and analyze the results for continuous improvement.

Once you’ve determined which mobile moment you’re trying to address, you then need to consider how you can engage your audience: Is the app being used to collaborate, notify, transact, share or create content?

But engineering the platforms, processes and people is, by far, the most challenging — and expensive — part of the process. Most backend systems weren’t designed to live up to the demands of mobile, such as traffic surges.

“When you ask ‘will my flight leave on time?’ there’s a huge information system behind that, (which) was never designed to work with mobile,” says Bernoff. “We estimate companies will spend US$187 billion on updating their technology for mobile in 2017.”

Through performance metrics, you can find out what’s working and what’s not — and make the necessary changes. There isn’t really a finish line when you’re developing a mobile app; it must continue to evolve and adapt.

Kind of like government itself. Taking mobile moments into account can help serve citizens in ways they want to be served, while saving everyone time and money. It’s just smart government.


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