Mobile in your pocket, business in the cloud

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Mobile in your pocket, business in the cloud

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In late June of 2014, the US Supreme Court decided a case related to information on cell phones. While the decision is important, it's this quote from the Chief Justice that also caught our attention. He said that cell phones are "such a pervasive and insistent part of daily life that the proverbial visitor from Mars might conclude they were an important feature of human anatomy."

With quotes like that in Supreme Court decisions, the pervasive use of smart phones and tablets is undeniable. Both B2C and B2B companies of all sizes can't deny the importance of optimizing their businesses on mobile devices.

ForwardView magazine spoke to Marci Troutman, the CEO of SiteMinis, whose company is the leading mobile web technology and services provider, to get her perspective on mobility and business today. Here's an edited version of our conversation with Marci.

ForwardView:

Coming off that quote from the Chief Justice about cell phones, is your smart phone an extension of your body?

Marci Troutman:

It is. I'll tell you a little story. I actually had to run over to the DMV and ended up leaving my phone in the house. One of my sons came home and frantically tried to get a hold of me because I had left my phone at the house and I wasn't anywhere to be found. He thought something was amiss. That's how much of an extension it is on me. They're in shock and worried about something going wrong if the phone's not with me.

ForwardView:

When you google SiteMinis, your company motto appears next to the search results. It says, "We make your site work on the mobile web." In fact, not every website does work on the mobile web.

What are some of the typical obstacles and challenges a business faces when it wants their site to be mobile enabled? Do we call that being "mobilized"?

Marci Troutman:

Yes, I guess you could call it being mobilized. However, "mobile-enabled" can have different meanings.

If a company has a web site, they can most certainly scrape - or they can pull the content to responsive design in order to get what you get on mobile. But that is not the best solution for working across every phone because responsive design does not work well across all platforms.

So SiteMinis actually developed CliqLaunch to combat that issue where MobileFirst would come into play. Companies can pull content they need through HTML5 containers, and then lay out the rest of the site, making sure that it is going to work on MobileFirst and cross platform extensions. In that way, when most companies actually go mobile—or mobilize—they can say, "Yes, I'm reaching the bulk of my customers." And yes, they can actually make the most of what mobile is good for.

We define mobile-enabled as the bare minimum to get by for your smart phone users using responsive design or scraping. So MobileFirst is the mindset where you're designing a mobile experience that will work for all of your customers. There's a big difference between the two in our opinion.

Mobile does need to be thought through, as an option, because it's not going away. It's a pillar that has to align with all the other verticals in your company. And it will stay there. So you need to think about it, not just play with it and expect your customers to have a wonderful mobile experience.

ForwardView:

What do you tell the business—perhaps it's a small or medium-sized business, with tight resources or higher priorities—that hasn't shored up its mobile presence?

Marci Troutman:

I would share some statistics with them. An Erickson report from this year estimates there are 1.9 billion smart phones in the world and 5 billion feature phones.

Since mobile is new and growing at a rapid rate, companies still need to accommodate all of their consumers, right? And if they aren't actually where their consumers are, they're going to lose business.

When the people who have feature phones actually upgrade they're all going to want…well, they're all going to demand a full experience on their new devices. And if you can't deliver that, they may move on to someone who can.

I would say to those companies, that if you wish to continue to grow your business, you might want to consider actually taking a look at your social media, your texting, your emails and anything and everything your customers click on and determine how they will play out on the mobile web.

ForwardView:

Why would SiteMinis be the right place for them to start?

Marci Troutman:

Because we have one platform that is backward facing and forward facing. A lot of companies now only accommodate newer phones, like smart phones. But they won't pay any attention to what is backward facing.

If you're a company that is growing, you may have attracted someone in another country, not using the latest mobile device. With our platform, we automatically recognize the device that is trying to access your mobile content. You want your site to work on any phone trying to access it. So no matter what you're building in the platform, it will come out and work the proper way on the handset that your customer is actually holding.

ForwardView:

Given that SiteMinis provides a mobile web site and platform across pretty much every web-enabled cell phone and smart phone OS out there, you're probably handling a massive volume of traffic on behalf of your clients. How do you do that?

Marci Troutman:

With the help of IBM SoftLayer—they've actually been a tremendous help to us. Obviously we are not a hardware company, we're a software company. Who we partner with on the hardware side is going to make or break us. That's just the name of the game.

We did our research and in choosing SoftLayer, it's tremendous—it's a seamless piece to our clients—much easier on us to make sure that it's seamless for the client.

ForwardView:

How did SiteMinis come together with IBM and the SoftLayer solution?

Marci Troutman:

Well, we didn't really think about IBM until a couple of years ago. I was at an executive breakfast meeting with huge companies; I don't know how I got invited, I mean, we were still a relatively small company. At our table, we decided each of us could ask one thing of anyone else sitting at the table. I was the last one to go, after all the others had asked some pretty deep stuff. I thought this might be my best chance to ask for the moon, and I turned to the IBM executive at the table and said, "I want to partner with IBM. How do we make that happen?" She simply replied, "Done," which surprised me a bit.

She then actually walked me through all the ranks and introduced me to everybody; and at that point I'm in love with IBM. Every partner that I have come across within IBM has just bent over backwards to make sure that we, as a mid-size company is going to succeed.

ForwardView:

That's a terrific story. What guidance or advice would you give to other medium sized companies who might be considering IBM, but think IBM is too large for them?

Marci Troutman:

I would say we've been around the block; we started our software development in 2004. We have talked with and worked with quite a lot of companies. Based on that experience, I would just say, anybody that is hesitating needs to make sure they put IBM into their research…and not make a decision until you actually do the research with IBM included in that group, because you may be surprised. I was pleasantly surprised. Now I'm grateful, and I love the relationship.

SiteMinis has actually saved more than 50% on server costs working with IBM, along with the incredible customer service and real time access to the dashboard.


SiteMinis has actually saved more than 50% on server costs working with IBM, along with the incredible customer service and real time access to the dashboard.


ForwardView:

How specifically is SiteMinis using IBM's cloud and SoftLayer solution?

Marci Troutman:

First off, we needed a cloud based server environment that would be easy to use, easy to scale, and would meet the requirements of security that our clients needed for a world class experience.

Secondly, we needed to significantly reduce our overall cost to the company, before we just kept scaling. Where we are now is logical, makes sense and as we add what we need, we understand what the costs are involved, it's very helpful to us.

Being able to scale like that, being able to actually offer a world class experience, being able to utilize the name IBM and leverage IBM customer service when we need it is absolutely fabulous.

These things just make SoftLayer tremendous for us. And I think our clients feel the same way because it's a single solution back to them. And for them not to feel any bumps is paramount. IBM has eased our hard work to offer superior service to our clients.

ForwardView:

I understand the customer service that SiteMinis offers its clients is stellar.

Marci Troutman:

Yes. A lot of our team came out of big box retail and so we've got that embedded in our heads—the customer is always first, the customer is always right.

ForwardView:

The time for SiteMinis to manage outage resolution has also been reduced because of the IBM SoftLayer solution, right?

Marci Troutman:

Absolutely. There's a dashboard. And anytime there's a spike in traffic that we're aware of—if there's a campaign, for example—our team can actually sit on that dashboard and watch real time what's going on, being able to monitor activity. If there are changes in the hardware and something needs to get done, we're able to respond very quickly.

ForwardView:

Given that, are there any client stories or client success stores that you're particularly proud of?

Marci Troutman:

We have always strived to make sure that it's a seamless experience for our clients. I would say that our work with IBM and SoftLayer has helped us to keep it humming for our clients.

ForwardView:

Your premier product is called CliqLaunch. What would you say is something that a company would be surprised to know about CliqLaunch?

Marci Troutman:

I would say one of the most interesting uses of CliqLaunch is when companies use it to mobilize their marketing campaigns. Often IT has to be involved, especially if you're using responsive design or you're utilizing something that is pulling from a PC site. CliqLaunch reduces the time to do that. You don't need to involve IT to build it for you and you don't have to have something scraped. It doesn't have to be on a PC.

If one of your brands is putting together a huge campaign and spending a ton of dollars on it, you could actually do a MobileFirst campaign. Your digital creative teams can easily build it with the SiteMinis platform without any coding—or users can also add JSP or HTML5, and a lot more. Users can also make MobileFirst websites just as robust, probably quite a bit more robust than a lot of the mobile web sites out there today, but absolutely comparable to what an app would be without a download needed by the customer.

I think that is something that when our clients, both existing and new, look at CliqLaunch, they're blown away. They want to be able to hand this platform over to the digital teams and say go crazy - lets mobilize our campaign, lets mobilize our social, lets mobilize our text.

The other thing that I think surprises people is that you can be up and live on the platform in a matter of minutes; that you can actually have the campaigns deployed in a matter of hours. With it being in the cloud you end up with a session right away.

ForwardView:

We started our chat this afternoon with a quote from the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. I think I'd like to bring us to a close with a quote from you. You said, "The cloud's impact on mobile commerce is unrivaled." Given your place in the industry as an expert, why do you believe that's true?

Marci Troutman:

I think I was referring to the ability to access data from anywhere. It's extremely important as the world gets smaller, based on how fast technology is moving and how everybody can access anything and everything, that people be able to do that without being locked out. In the cloud, it's always available. It can just be brought down and you can just sign it and you can just open it up and pull out data - I think is extremely important especially for mobile commerce and the fact that that's growing.

I think that as companies start to go global, especially retailers, they need the cloud for mobility. It's extremely important for their mobile experience to be something that is always reachable.

ForwardView:

Looking ahead, what do you think is the next big thing in mobile?

Marci Troutman:

Well, I actually believe we're still in the midst of mobile as the next big thing; I think brands are moving slower than the industry anticipated. I think the consumers are moving faster than businesses. We're not that far removed—maybe 7 years or so, from the major cell phone companies being concerned about privacy policies on texts because everyone had a flip phone. And then, just right around the corner from that, is when network smart phones came out. So it's not that long ago that this all started.

I would say the next big thing while we're still adapting to this ever-growing phase of "everybody looking at a piece of equipment" is probably the wearables, like Google Glass and the watches or fitness monitors. I think that's the new wave of things. I don't think it's going to bypass what's going on with mobile, but I think it will just be an extension. But I'm curious to see which of those wearables stick and become the big thing.


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