Mobile and pervasive computing are transforming business models and businesses – we are seeing this everywhere and in every industry. We’ve covered hundreds of companies using the power of mobile to build new business, extend current offerings into new markets and shift entire product offerings into mobile-first businesses. Each brings with it their own challenges and painful decisions and it is the innovative companies that will punch through and become successful in this new and fertile ground.
Cluetec, a German-based data collection company, is in the middle of this transformation. An established business – Cluetec has been in business for 12 years now – they are undergoing a radical and patient move into becoming a “mobile-first” company and leading this charge is Jan Schöttelndreier, Director of Marketing and Sales for the organization.
What started off as a conversation about the clear benefits of mobile data collection quickly turned to the process by which Jan is actually slowly moving the privately held company from a services-based offering to a mobile software company. In this episode we hear the process Cluetec has gone through over the past year to begin this transformation, the reasons for doing so, the impact it has had on the company, the freedom it has given the senior management to ideate around new product development and the broader approach they have adopted to what data collection means – which includes their lead in the telematics industry.
This is a fascinating discussion on what I would (hope) assume is going on in businesses small and large around the world. Mobile and pervasive computing isn’t just about front-facing consumer companies or retailers or social media. After this conversation you will see the forces that, if embraced, will usher in a new era of business. The mobile-first business.
Here is a quick reference of what we covered in the show. Click on the link and the video will take you to that clip
1. About Cluetec 1:25
2. What was the appeal to join the company 6:45
3. The importance of marketing and sales in engineering-led companies 7:40
4. Was mobile the catalyst for growth in ideas and products for Cluetec 8:35
5. How Cluetec eats its own dogfood 11:45
6. What are the shifts that started Cluetec moving into mobile products 12:30
7. What is the result of the effort in transition? 16:33
8. How did you work with the founders to start the transition from service company to product company? 17:30
9. What are the lessons learned during this transition 23:00
10. Example of the impact mobile has had on field data collection in India 26:50
11. The benefits of mobile data collection 30:30
12. Lessons learned from shifting to mobile products 34:30
13. Lesson: The reasons for providing offline data collection 37:45
14. Why Cluetec focused on Android first 41:45
15. How does data collection fit in the auto industry? 43:50
My key takeaways
Use the platform to its full extent
Thinking mobile-first could open up some effective and simple approaches you are currently struggling with implementing. We tend to be technology-first thinkers. Instead of adding a signature capability to an app which would add complexity and the need for a tablet-friendly pen (adding software development and hardware expenses), a simple location validation may suffice. In the case of Cluetec and surveys, using the mobile device to bring the survey to the participant as opposed to bringing them to the survey means better quality data by validating the location (also acts as a passive way to ensure the surveyor is doing their job).
Using the capabilities of the platform is an opportunity to offer depth to the data that otherwise could be omitted. Is weather important to what you do? What about sound? Height? Distance? What about time of day? Think about the mobile device as a sensor waiting for direction.
Localization leads the feature requirements
There are no borders with mobile today. You can write software, push it to as many countries as allowed and within moments you have become an international company. Many times I’ve witnessed the rise in popularity of apps in surprising locations – sometimes it just happens. Other times it needs to happen with intent and this requires an understanding of what the requirements would be in the country (or countries) being targeted. It can’t be left to chance if the business depends on it.
For Cluetec, the fact their software had offline storage – not needing a data connection in order to collect and store the survey results – made it a very appealing solution for countries like India that have areas of low-to-no connectivity. This was a deciding factor in one company adopting their software over their competition.
Are you building your software with intent? Is a target in mind as you deploy to other countries? Are you setting yourself up for success or are you risking your brand by not thinking your deployment strategy through? If you haven’t thought about this, start thinking. Just because you can deploy to a country doesn’t mean you are ready to.
The freedom to think
One of the tenants of Google has always been “free thinking” time. Google allows for their employees to take 15% of their paid time to come up with pet projects that may eventually move into production. Some of their greatest products innovations (incremental or altogether new projects) have come this way. Taking time to rethink a business without the constraints currently affixed to it by the daily grind offers tremendous value. Take many moments every day and ask yourself if there is a better way to do the thing you are doing right now. The outcome will be a clearer roadmap on how to bring mobile into your business – eventually transforming it into the company it should be.
The need to commit
This is the most important lesson in the transformation process. Commitment. In order to make this type of change stick, the entire team – execs on down – need to buy in to the plan. If mobile first is the strategy, if shifting from services to product is the goal, if new product creation is on the horizon, there needs to be a clear plan and clear commitment. Commitment can come in many forms but the key ingredient to this is patience. Transformation of this magnitude cannot happen overnight, requires the right mindset, the right financial backing and the right leadership. Think about how disruptive a half-baked and half-backed plan would be to your organization.
Have you committed to a mobile plan or are would talking one thing and doing the opposite? It’s time to double down or stop what you are doing. The only question is which would be most detrimental to your company?
What do you think? Also, what do you think of the new format for the episodes? Do you like the chapters for quick reference? The takeaways? What else would you like to see. Leave a comment or two below or email me.
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About Jan Schottelndreier
Jan Schöttelndreier is responsible for the business unit Marketing and Sales and the international roll-out of mQuest®. He originally comes from the banking industry where he can look back on years of experience in the area of product and innovation management. He has been part of the cluetec management since 2012.