The executive vanity app engine

Companies are falling over themselves to become the best when it comes to applications and it's the desire to show off new and innovative apps that's their prime motivator.

It's hard to ignore the trend of mobility sweeping through the enterprise sector and companies just can't pay enough attention to becoming the best when it comes to applications. 

According to the 2012 Gartner CIO survey, up to 61 per cent of companies plan on improving their mobility capabilities. Of those, about half are planning to become the innovation leader in their industry and this creates a situation where a sizable group of people is all trying to be ‘well above average.’  

I can think of three reasons for the intense interest in mobile applications and why this is a place to watch. Firstly, they are comparatively easy to make. Secondly, they are comparatively easy to deploy and thirdly, they are easy to operate.

Compared to traditional corporate IT systems, the extensive public infrastructure for distribution (app store) and operations (data communications, device capabilities, etc.) give mobile applications a different production profile.  These factors have led companies to create and deploy applications literally in days around the world to customers and employees.

But the most important driver of future mobile demand just might be executive vanity.

Executive vanity – the desire to look good in front of your peers – will be a powerful force driving mobile applications.

Don’t believe me?

How do you behave when you get a new phone or a hot new app?

If you want to show it off to others, even to be helpful, then you know what I mean.  Those instant self-produced demos make you feel good.

Mobility solutions are ready made for executive vanity as they are geared to be beautiful to look at, easy to use/demo, demonstrate your company’s technical prowess and are overall really cool.

Executives can qualitatively benchmark their company’s mobile capabilities against the competition or customers.  All it takes is a few seconds of ‘let me show you this…” and bang your mobile solutions are instantly marked to the market.

Many executives have sales experience and their job is to generate interest and revenue for their company they are encouraged to be active promoters of their company.  Mobility is fun to show off and so its easy to see executives engaging in mobility self promotion early and often.  Not to everyone, but to their peers.

The result will most likely be silence, if you are a leader, and a set of emails dated on Sunday night demanding new or upgraded applications if you are short of the mark.

Executives want to show off and mobile apps are tailor made for that.  I cannot imagine an executive making another executive jealous by showing off their ERP system.  The words “our ERP is better than yours” just don’t have the same impact as showing people a digital representation of your products on an iPad.

I have seen executives whip out the latest smart phone or tablet and say ‘you got to see this.’  They are not only proud to show off the app, they are even prouder to demonstrate their ability to run advanced technology – in this case a smart phone or tablet.

Vanity, the desire to look good and feel good about yourself relative to others is a powerful marketing force and source of value.

Vanity has driven consumer technology for some time and now it will become a major driver of corporate mobility technologies. 

Mark McDonald, Ph.D., is a group vice president and head of research in Gartner Executive Programs.