Tang, Teflon and the Great Shift to mobile #MobileBPM #BPM #BPMFuture

If you’re like me, when you hear the drum beating for a new technology or application of technology, you have a fair amount of skepticism. There are lots of vested interest out there in keeping us on the bleeding edge of technology and those who would like to use us secretly as beta testers of new ideas. If we follow every over-hyped new idea we end up with both organizational cynicism and an empty checking account. I work in software sales and consulting, so I’ve seen it all…many times over. There are far more ideas than good ideas.

Paradigm shift

There’s a another important reason for my own skepticism. If you’re as old as I am, you remember being told that both the powdered drink mix Tang and the non-stick coating known as Teflon were created as part of the Space Race. Computers started as room-sized arrays of vacuum tubes long before I connected a Commodore Vic-20 to my TV. For most of my life, technology was designed, built and proven by enormous government and commercial R&D budgets. Innovation was owned by the few and shared with the many.

Both social and maybe even more, mobile, have taken a new route. In both cases, technology was in the hands of consumers long before getting the attention of business and government. This switch in paradigm is a relatively new thing that comes when so many people essentially participate in R&D. Anyone can build an iPhone app, and by doing so, personally innovate alongside millions of others. The Economist in October 2011 referred to the phenomena as “the consumer-industrial complex”.


I was catching up on friends’ blogs during the holidays and came across a new mobile app, CalParks, that provides detailed information about 45 of California’s state parks. Now I can get up-to-the-minute information on the nearest trails in one of the world’s greatest park systems. The app was developed in cooperation with EveryTrail, which happened to be reviewed on another blog I read. In a few minutes, I download both, signed in using Facebook and was marveling at my new mobile capabilities and looking forward to mapping and posting our own explorations Facebook on our personal site. In one moment, I saw the end of carrying a GPS, using my PC to download GPX files and posting them to our blog. Multiple devices and applications were now one, simple, mobile platform.

Leap to business

The leap to business from here is easy to make. My own company already has a process app that allows process to be consumed on the fly, a visualization app that significantly extends the reach of analytics, and a social app that provides Facebook-like capabilities but for the enterprise. Just as with EveryTrail, the abilities of these apps not only reduce reliance on built-for-purpose devices but also enable a mobile workforce like never before. The real proof to me is when old-school organization like the US Army decide that warfighters of the future will be equipped with mobile technology using apps. Keeping your iPhone charged will become life or death instead of just an annoyance. An interesting next step will likely be apps that are built on other apps, just as Facebook has become a backbone for authentication.


We’re about to see an explosion of mobile capabilities for the workplace. SAP, Oracle and others are working to make for easy development of apps for their products. Inventory, production and sales numbers are already found through apps. The PC is fast-becoming the factory, with the output being the ability to interact with people and systems anywhere and anytime. Business process in just a few years will be captured, understood, changed and communicated in a mobile fashion. Like other technology leaps in the past, there will be those who leap and those who quickly fall behind. I plan to leap. I will likely create my own apps to get my work done as will many of us.

Technology timeline

Just for fun, here is my rough cut at a timeline of technology leaps that stand out in my mind. If you were born before these dates, you lived in a world without:

As each new technology creates a new way of thinking, the limitations created by our skepticism continues to drop. Teenagers today are able to envision things that their parents have a hard time accepting. This is a wake up call to be less skeptical and more open minded about how our personal and business worlds will be changed by mobile technology.


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Categories: Future of work, Mobility

Author:Chris Taylor

Reimagining the way work is done through big data, analytics, and event processing. There's no end to what we can change and improve. I wear myself out...

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5 Comments on “Tang, Teflon and the Great Shift to mobile #MobileBPM #BPM #BPMFuture”

  1. December 28, 2011 at 3:58 am #

    Great post Chris! You are absolutely right in addressing skepticism, and becoming more open minded. Skepticism is a learned behavior, and so is being open minded. It is a choice which attitude to make your predominate way of thinking. This doesn’t just apply to mobile technology. It applies to everything. We live in a changed economy and those that move forward are the individuals that have an open mind, use their creative abilities and see opportunity where others don’t. Those that hold onto the skepticism they have been conditioned with, will be left behind.

  2. Mark Eastwood
    December 28, 2011 at 8:13 am #

    Its definitely for real. IBM, SAP and Oracle already have apps, and more are coming. More people have a table of some kind so they finally have the truly portable, agile and flexible platform they need and want to work on the move. They can attend meetings and take notes or access a report and share without printing it. Access to information via tablets and phones is increasing at a fast pace and therefore productivity.

  3. December 29, 2011 at 9:40 am #

    Hi Chris and readers…. On the subject of mobile apps – I heard this young man (Nick D’Aloisio, aged just 16) on the BBC radio news this morning. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-16306742 . He built an iPhone app whilst studying for his GCE Exams! This attracted the attention of Horizons Ventures – a private equity investment firm controlled by a Chinese billionaire. He invested $250,000 into the project – and Nick bless him wasn’t even looking for investment! Well done to him!

  4. December 29, 2011 at 2:18 pm #

    Fantastic Nigel, well done for Nick!!! A great example of someone simply doing something they are passionate about and how this leads to success! This is how entrepreneurs are born!!

  5. February 10, 2012 at 12:13 pm #

    Nice post Chris. I think you are on to something but you are just scratching at the surface. A big source of skepticism about adoption of mobility strategies in the enterprise stems from the amazing pace of innovation coupled with the significant fragmentation of technologies required to execute any strategy. In addition, there is no guaranteed outcomes for the risk and the investment. This frankly is the nature of investment in technology and why there are always winners and losers. The problem is that you never know who will win or who will lose until after the investments have been made. By the time it is clear enough to be sure, you are probably too late to have a strategic advantage. I suspect this is the reason for the technology adoption bell curve. You are right about one thing and that is the consumers seem to be driving enterprises into mobility more than anything else which is an amazing phenomenon and one I hope we all can capitalize on.

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