Here’s what cutting edge companies know: mobile is more than just an effective way to stay in touch with customers, it’s a game changer.

Smartphones and tablets are driving employee productivity. They’re dishing up rich insights about customers, operations, and employees. And they’re the spark for new business models and services. These are just a few of the findings of a new IBM Institute of Business Value survey of 600 companies, "The 'Upwardly Mobile' Enterprise," which revealed that fewer than half of these organizations have a well-defined mobile strategy.

Mobile leaders are decidedly different:

  • Around 81% of these pioneers are using mobile to fundamentally change the way they do business, compared with 39% of the other firms we spoke with.
  • Some 78% versus 44% of other companies say their highest priority is making it easier for employees to work outside the office, in large part so that their organizations can respond more quickly to customers.
  • Roughly 70% of these mobile leaders report that they had strong skills in analyzing mobile data and are integrating mobile apps with their current IT systems for external or cloud-provided data services, (compared with 36% and 41% of non-leaders.)
  • As a result, 73% say they’re reaping measurable results from their mobile initiatives, versus 34% of all the other companies.

In fact, this survey underscores the huge opportunity mobile represents. Since so many organizations haven’t seized onto the potential of mobile -- or the goldmine of 1.5 billion smartphone subscribers -- then savvy companies have the chance now to leap ahead. In talking with mobile leaders, a few main steps emerged about how to do just that.

Develop a strategy
Just as we in the early days of the Web, many companies are taking a haphazard approach to mobile, trying out a slew of unconnected projects and technology. Now is your chance to craft a comprehensive approach from the ground up. And to be bold. Take the time to pinpoint where mobile can change your business processes and models, lower your costs, or redefine your place in your industry.

For example, using mobile, a German carmaker is creating a new market for the German carmaker while helping reshape the notion of what it means to rent a car. With this new service, rather than going to a central office to pick up their rental car, consumers can simply use an app to find a car parked on the street near them.

Serve the Customer
Mobile is ubiquitous. Some 90% of smartphone owners have their devices within arms’ length 100% of the time. So focusing on the customer is Mobile Strategy 101. Become an expert at analyzing customer behavior and finding ways where mobility can improve customer service and revenue growth. For instance, by putting smart devices into sales peoples’ or technicians’ hands and tying them into real-time inventory, delivery, or customer data systems so that the devices are relevant.

Be sure that every experience, whether on the phone, Web site, or app, is engaging and satisfying. Because mobile users don’t forget. Some 61% of customers who visit an unsatisfying mobile site are likely to head to a competitor.

Create a Foundation 
With mobility in its early days, it’s crucial to focus on laying a foundation you can build upon. Bring your own device, apps, mobile commerce, and machine-to-machine networks are the projects that you adopt. Integration, design, security, and analytics are the fundamentals you master to ensure that these projects succeed. This is why mobile leaders make optimizing their tech infrastructure a priority.

It’s on top of this foundation that companies can quickly roll out new apps. For example, a grocery chain created virtual shopping aisle displays on the walls of train platforms in South Korea so that shoppers could pursue to shop via a mobile app on their phone while waiting for the train. The result? Within just three months, online sales jumped 130%.

Above all, what our survey shows is that for all the focus on mobile these days, corporations need to -- and have the chance now -- to think bigger.