Kitchen & Bath Business, October 2016

Of all the options available for communicating with clients, which one is the best? This is not a simple question, but it leads me to other questions. Why and when are different modes of communication used for business? We are all now communicating in many more different ways than we were prior to 2007, when Apple introduced the iPhone. In less than 10 years, the iPhone has completely changed the world of computing and communicating.


Before 2007, information technology (IT) was all about "systems of record," meaning that transactions were documented, recorded and retrieved. IT is now about "systems of engagement," where computing is mobile, spontaneous, emotional and contextual. The framework for these ideas and terms comes from Geoffrey Moore, an American organizational theorist, management consultant and author. 

Designers are taking advantage of these new opportunities to engage clients and prospects in this mobile era. I've used mobile business apps for IT almost excessively since 2013, so in an effort to answer the toothed questions, I drilled down to figure out more about six mobile business apps I use to engage clients: Apple Mail, text (iMessage), cloud storage (Box), Houzz, Facebook and FaceTime (Apple). 


Great mobile business apps are those that capture and store records and at the same time are capable of some or all elements of spontaneous, emotional and contextual engagement (systems of engagement). This chart shows relationship among modes of online communication and types of engagement. Some of the communication modes like email and text have been around for decades, but the engagement types -- mobile, spontaneous, emotional, and contextual -- are all post-2007.


- FaceTime (Apple) and similar apps like Skype meet all of the criteria for a system of record and a system of engagement to some degree. They can both be mobile, spontaneous, emotional and contextual. FaceTime is obviously very similar to in-person meetings and can be almost as engaging. Meetings using FaceTime can easily be recorded as video, which comes in handy at times when people remember things differently.

- Facebook isn't as engaging as in-person meetings but is making huge strides in that direction with recorded and live videos and virtual reality. Email and text messaging can be be mobile and aren't necessarily spontaneous but can be if all parties are participating. Both methods of communication are systems of record and systems of engagement in this way. It can be advantageous to use text or email rather than a phone call if you want a record of communication.

- Text and email can be contextual engagement in that they both include documented location and/or time so both text and email have context but usually not real-time context. I think you'd agree that it would be a stretch to claim that either text or email are truly emotional engagements. 

- Houzz records communications and can be spontaneous, but it hasn't been so in my experience. This might have something to do with the fact that 6:00pm is the most active time of the day for Houzz's 35 million users, but I'm not usually on Houzz at that time. My clients share their Houzz Ideabooks with me so we can discuss them and make selections for their kitchen projects, all within a mobile app. I number kitchen cabinet layouts, and my clients use the numbers to let me know where they want to locate accessories they find on Houzz in their own kitchen. 

- The Box app or "mobile server" captures, records and retrieves data from anywhere and from any device that's online and does it better and more securely than most local servers. In addition to being a system of record, I can use Box to collaborate with people spontaneously. When I share a file with my electrician, I get an email with a link when he replies. Word documents can be edited by multiple people in different locations and the current version comes up first. 

For years the Internet made everything feel impersonal, distant and unemotional, but mobile engagement is bringing it all back home. Kitchen and bath designers need engaging and emotional interactions to convey thoughts and feelings into real spaces that reflect the spirit of their clients. 

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