An old friend of mine tweeted that in the recent presidential elections, the biggest winner was Big Data. The implication is that the race for president – and probably many other lesser races, as well – went to the candidate that used technology most effectively. As ever, money was a huge issue, but perhaps for the first time on a national scale in the United States, tech trumped it.
In my opinion, Big Data wasn’t the only winning technology. Mobility was also very evident in the race. Both presidential candidates released mobile apps for supporters to track them in the polls, and each attempted to harness mobility to allow users to lend a hand to their respective campaigns. It was probably not a coincidence that, according to Pew Research results, traditionally disenfranchised youth and minorities – the voting blocks that came out most strongly in support of the incumbent — are more likely to have a smartphone, and to know how to use it.
But technology can be a fickle mistress, and perhaps for some political camps, a strange and unpredictable bedfellow. The Atlantic reported that the republican presidential campaign’s attempt to launch a massive online “get out the vote” effort, code-named Project Orca, backfired in the final hours of the campaign, with disastrous effects. To be fair, the democratic campaign had its own struggles with technology, though history is always kinder to the victors.
The bottom line is that in business, as in politics, mobile technology can be something of a “secret weapon.” Except that it’s no longer secret to anyone who’s paying attention, and as a weapon, it is equally capable of cutting both ways.
A useful lesson for business IT executives is that in most ways, the success of a mobile technology initiative requires the same the formula for success as any major tech undertaking: The first steps are to clearly understand the goals of the project, to communicate those goals to both users and line-of-business decision makers, and then to form and execute a plan that incorporates the feedback of all affected parties. Unless the plan is predicated on open communication, and those lines of communication remain open and in use during the entire deployment cycle, the chances of eventual success are relatively slim.