Digital vs. Mobile: What’s The Difference?

A Distinction For The Enterprise

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Steven Lerner

The digitalization of modern enterprises raises some interesting questions: How has digital changed the way we work? How will mobile and digital initiatives overlap during times of transformation? Are mobile and digital the same thing?

Depending on your definition, you might consider mobile to be synonymous with digital, but that’s really not the case. To understand the differences between mobile and digital, Enterprise Digitalization recently spoke to mobility executive Jim Floyd for a recording of our soon-to-be released podcast series. Here’s a snippet of that conversation.

Enterprise Digitalization: We are talking about mobility, and how it fits into all of the digital changes in the enterprise. We would love to get your take on some of that, Jim.

Jim Floyd: When I think of digital, I think of that code in the Matrix: It’s not tangible, and you can’t touch it. Digital, in my opinion, isn't tangible, but it does deliver everything. When I think of digital in combination with mobile, I think of mobile being a delivery mechanism right now for digital. One of the things that digital does, and I witnessed this on the train coming down here today, is a gentleman who was sitting across from me and he was actually writing out a check that he put into an envelope and then put a stamp on that. He is now going to have to mail that check, it's going to have to go into a truck, and it's going to have to go into a mailing, and someone's going to have to open that envelope, is going to have to take that check, mark it as received, and then send it to a bank and then withdraw those funds. Today, that process has been completely digitized. When you think about our world today, and for most people, they just take that for granted. Digital has done an amazing job of removing a lot of the friction in our daily world. I thought to myself, if I were to start my own business today, I wouldn't need a server. I would just use AWS or some service like that. I'd use the cloud. It's all digital, and I'd have zero infrastructure costs on site. That's what digital has, in my opinion, done for us that we just take for granted.

ED: How well do digital and mobile actually work together?

JF: As I was saying about efficiencies, I look at the mobile devices and our current state right now as the mechanism to actually get the work done. The applications are really the power in a mobile device. It's kind of like buying a car. When you buy a car, you expect to get four tires, a door, and the windshield. But nowadays, the phone or the mobile device (or the iPad or tablet or whatever it is) is merely the mechanical device that you do your work on. It doesn't matter. It's just glass and a keyboard. People can fight over their favorite operating system. I don't really want to get into that. The idea is that the digital nature of these applications and their backends and how they're designed and how they're supported and how they’ll eventually capture all the data and where it's is all that digital nature that the mobile devices, the endpoint for the input that human beings have into it. Now, will that change? I think it will in terms of format, I think it's going to change in terms of how people interact with them. It's going to change in terms of the idea that you do everything on a phone. I think devices will change a little bit more, to the point where maybe it's something that's bendable, or it sits on your arm. There's always going to be an input mechanism, whether that's your glasses or your fingers or your voice or whatever.

ED: Are digital and mobile the same thing?

JF: In my definition, they are not. I think mobile is mostly surrounding the devices that people use, as well as how and where people use devices.

ED: And by devices, you don't just mean smartphones?

JF: No. It could be wearables, it could be devices in a hospital that move around, anything like that. Anything that's technically mobile. We could have the debate about is a laptop mobile or not. There's a definition out there somewhere by some standards that actually says that laptops with Windows 10 operating systems are not mobile devices. But in a looser definition, the idea that there are things that are portable, i.e. mobile, is what I'm going for. So, are mobile and digital the same? No. I think digital, again, is the strength of the applications, the strength of the backend that gives you the ability to do the work you do or capture the information you need to capture and store the information wherever you need. And mobile is again as a mechanism, in my opinion, of how you get the devices from a human standpoint. To be very clear, I'm not referring to digital devices such as IoT sensors that data without any human input, for instance. That's a different classification in the digital hardware space.

To hear the rest of this conversation, stay connected with Enterprise Digitalization for the release our brand new podcast series.