Observe Trends When Scaling Up Good Ideas

When I co-founded Mobile Automation in 1997 we had developed an idea (and some technology) to allow IT Administrators to send large files to mobile employees with laptops when they were away from the corporate office.

Back then, high speed Internet access outside of your office ethernet connection was very rare and the few employees who were starting to carry laptops had to depend on slow, unreliable dial-up Internet connections.  Getting large application updates or installations was very difficult and we saw a huge opportunity to fix that problem.

As we started to ponder the future direction of our company and product line we did some soul searching on what trends were happening in the industry and asked ourselves some very basic questions:

What if the speed at which mobile users could connect to the Internet increases dramatically?  If it does, what would happen to our market?  What would our target customers do?  What would our company’s value need to be in order to remain compelling?

This exercise was very helpful for us as it forced us to take our initial “good idea” and think about it in the context of time and technology always improving.

It was during this brainstorming session that we determined that two major things would most likely happen:

  1. If users could connect to the Internet at near-office-like-speeds then they would most likely be comfortable spending longer times away from the office (mobility would increase).
  2. If employees are spending longer times away from the office they will have less access to IT support resources and may have more difficulty solving problems with their laptops (remote support needs would increase).

Our basic value proposition was good for today’s environment but we knew it wouldn’t last forever.  We needed to find a way to embrace these likely changes in technology and the market.

We decided to focus on a different world than the one that existed in front of us in 1997.  We decided to assume that eventually a majority of users in any given company would be mobile a majority of the time and connecting at high speeds.  Very quickly, we decided to round out our product offering with features that would help take advantage of a more mobile work force and assist users in keeping their laptops functioning smoothly even if IT support resources were not sitting down the hall.

Ultimately, these changes proved extremely valuable as our competitors were limited in their approach and not prepared for the disruptive change in mobility that occurred in the early part of 2001-2003.

What we did wasn’t that significant to us at the time.  We simply observed where the trends were in the market and what was likely to become a reality.  Instead of fearing the future and keeping focused on the pain of today we simply observed logical trends and planned for the unavoidable.  We ended up taking a pretty good idea and helped shape it into something really great!





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