Nearly every executive I know thinks of their smartphone as a lifeline. We’re all on the road so much, it’s how we stay tethered to the enterprise. But we don’t often think of mobile as an essential business tool for our new digital industry. 

That’s changing quickly. Mobile app ecosystems and responsive web environments are critical to rapidly prototype designs, with smaller, more agile teams collaborating with customers. Mobile also gives us a realtime portal to data & analytics, allows informed decision making and helps streamline the decision making process.

Ultimately, mobile is a mindset. It’s a way to save time and resources and get customers to “yes” faster. The need for speed means that CIOs have to pull inspiration from everywhere.

For example, GE’s Digital IT Innovation team recently helped GE’s Oil & Gas team cut down the lengthy process of prototyping wellhead designs. To do it, the team drew inspiration from the ultimate modular tool—Lego. They built an iPad app that used all of the pieces that go into a wellhead. Instead of endless conference calls and email exchanges, the team and the customers worked together in a secure cloud, to quickly iterate in real-time on visuals and designs. 

One key to success with fast-moving mobile collaborations is giving the small teams the authority to make decisions without constantly reporting up the chain. That’s empowering for employees and leads to great outcomes for the organization, since the people closest to the business usually make the best decisions and the teams feel full "ownership" for successful business outcomes. 

Mobile also brings us much closer to our customers and helps us align with their goals. When we designed a next generation cockpit concept with an industry leader in Aviation, we were able to leverage mobile to get realtime feedback and cut a project that would typically take 12 to 18 months down to eight weeks.

Once again, we raided the toy store to create new efficiencies. Working closely with the customer and our software designers, we used a Microsoft Xbox Kinect to rapidly test different prototypes of HUDs (Heads Up Display) for the cockpit. We also saved on going back and forth with the customer by using off-the-shelf technology. 

The lesson for CIOs is that you don’t always have to go buy a complicated solution or even invent something new to solve complex problems. Sometimes the simplest approach is to empower your teams to use existing mobile and cloud-based technology—often from the consumer realm—to test ideas, build prototypes and get to the next step. It’s faster, cheaper and often yields more creative and interesting answers. 

About the author

Jamie Miller

President & CEO, GE Transportation

Innovation and transformation are the drivers for Jamie Miller, President and CEO at GE Transportation. For Jamie, a former PwC partner and Controller at Wellpoint before joining GE, technology is the tool to deliver new outcomes and ever-increasing value for GE’s customers, investors and employees.