Collaborative solutions require mobile solutions

In my constant search for statistics I often return to the World Internet Usage site to see how the current numbers are trending.  Take a look at the chart to the left which give the current numbers, as of the end of 2009, by region.  North America, at the high-end of usage, has 76.2% of users on the web.  Africa, at the low-end, has a usage of 8.7%.  None of these numbers, I suspect, are surprising to any of you.

Drilling down deeper on the site shows you will find that the United States is fairly close to the average for North America at 76.3%.

Now, lets take a look at mobile phone penetration.  For this data I turned to Wikipedia as it has a fairly comprehensive breakdown and I could not find another source I felt more comfortable with for this data.  As of June of 2009 89% of the population of the United States have cellphones.  In Africa, and other parts of the world as well, you will generally see a far larger penetration of cellphones (often with basic SMS capabilities) than internet.

With these numbers in mind I took some time to chat with Patrik Wijkstrom, Community Architect at Juniper Networks.  They have recently deployed mobile community features from Lithium to address the growing importance of the mobile marketplace in all things collaborative, all things social.  Note that they have a medium-sized community that has been in place for more than two years.  Mobile was seen as a natural fit as often people will reach out to the community when their networks have gone down, making mobile a perfect answer for those technicians in the middle of a crisis.

How did Juniper begin a mobile roll-out?

First, using a common sense approach, they ran an internal pilot to verify that the technology worked for them and to make sure that the solution was easy to use, robust enough for their customers.  The internal pilot went well and they then moved to a limited customer roll-out at first.  However, feedback was all positive and they quickly shifted to a full deployment and all customers now have the solution available.

Mobile, Situational or Demographic driven?

I was curious to hear Patrik’s thoughts on this question as it impacts how mobile is deployed, feature sets, training, market positioning.  At this point the use is primarily situational (network down as an example) but Juniper will be monitoring this to see if use changes over time.

ROI?

Still too early to judge.  Patrik and I will chat again in a month to see if the ROI is clearer.  Clearly, offering customers a user-interface alternative  that works well for mobile is important, but it is still not clear what the ROI of the solution will be.

Keep in mind that mobile web browsing world-wide is growing.  Keep mind that, despite this growth, 97.96% of web browsing still takes place on desktops, not mobile devices.  Your customers may need, may demand, a mobile solution.  CRM, as an example, requires a mobile solution. 

Understand your customer needs.  Meet those needs.  Exceed those needs.

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