Systems Thinking in the Expanding Mobile Space

Ipshita Nag By David Rosenbaum
January 27, 2011

As relationships between Google, Apple, Verizon, AT&T and other mobile developers, providers, and operators shift from competitive to cooperative and back again, and as operating systems fight for market share, the mobile space has become a dense forest of possibility for companies and customers alike. MIT System Design and Management (SDM) student Ipshita Nag’s thesis is devoted to mapping this evolving mobile ecosystem.

With her training as an engineer, Ipshita has kept one eye on emerging technologies. With the systems thinking and management education she received at SDM, she’s kept the other on the changing business strategies that seem to reconfigure the mobile landscape on an almost daily basis. In short, Ipshita is using systems and management thinking to cut an optimal path through the mobile forest to find a path to value for both providers and end-users.

According to Ipshita, the key question is: "What’s the best business model for carriers and providers as network access becomes commoditized, application stores/operating systems are fragmented, and mobile technology evolves at a rapid pace?" Her answer, which she developed by analyzing the mobile system and then looking at ROI for all stakeholders, is collaboration — in building devices, providing services, and developing markets.

"Integrating across the value chain either through partnerships, mergers or acquisitions, hedges investment risks, enhances core competencies, and increases access to distribution channels," says Ipshita, who received her bachelor’s degree in electronics and telecommunications engineering from Nagpur University, in India, and has worked for Infosys Technologies, Pricewaterhouse Coopers, and Aricent. "This also helps ensure relevant content, which leads to enhanced customer experience, user engagement, and common service/user experience across platforms."

Ipshita began thinking about collaboration—and the problems that can emerge in its absence—as a senior consultant at PriceWaterhouse Coopers. "I experienced challenges at the intersection of business, technology, and regulation," she says. "I saw that as responsibilities increase, people tend to become more siloed and I recognized the need to manage interdisciplinary processes across functions, to identify all stakeholders in any given system, understand their needs, and build a system that satisfies all. What I saw," she concludes, "was the need for systems thinking . . . although I didn’t know it at the time."

Ipshita began investigating MBA programs to gain the expertise she believed she needed to direct traffic in that business-technology-governmental intersection, but then she discovered SDM which, she says, impressed her with its flexibility to build in her own preferences, leverage her technical expertise, and collaborate with MIT’s world-class professors. Her studies, while enriching, have surpassed her expectations. "The quality of the classes was exceptional," she says. "And I got to work on projects with companies ranging from BT to Verizon to start-ups. I even worked on a U.S. Department of Defense aircraft maintenance system. I never thought I’d be doing that!"

Today Ipshita says she can "choose to think as an engineer, a strategist, marketer, or all of them together. My vision has broadened. I’ve learned to look beyond short-term gain to create collaborative strategies for product development and service delivery that can generate long-term value for all stakeholders." After graduating, she hopes to do just that.

Ipshita Nag
Photo by L. Barry Hetherington