Last summer, we introduced the “Mobile Bang” theory, which described the kind of explosive impact that mobility can have on business processes. This is based on the notion that one mobile action can trigger myriad business reactions – yielding returns exponentially higher than the initial mobile investment. But now the world is locked in the tight grip of an economic retraction. How does this current situation challenge our theory? Does mobility still pack the same punch in this new world order?
The short answer is yes, the engine is firing on all cylinders. In fact, the economy is making mobility more important than ever. For business growth and innovation, most companies will continue to invest in areas with the greatest impact on ROI in the short term and competitive advantage in the long run.
It’s clearly not “business as usual,” though. Naturally, when money gets tighter there is more rigor around sign-off and development of IT projects. The good news is that mobile projects show clear evidence of improved cost containment and more effective asset and resource management – the key issues that enterprises are facing now. So instead of being back-burnered by the economic downturn, enterprise mobility has been escalated to the forefront of the corporate IT agenda.
The mobile flashpoint is upon us
The technology drivers and influencers of Mobile Bang have shown no signs of stopping. New devices such as the iPhone, Palm Pre and BlackBerry Storm continue to enter the marketplace, each vying for the attention of the enterprise and the mobile application developer community, offering interactive touch screens, longer battery life and lower price points, to name just a few enticements.
Unified communications (UC) is another boom market and mobile enabler, helping organizations to integrate voice, video and data with business applications on fixed and mobile networks, with the promise of greater productivity and collaboration. And lastly, even though the true adoption rate of SOA has been questioned recently, to stay competitive most organizations still strive for business system interoperability and the ability to share data from disparate sources in a fast, flexible and cost-effective way. SOA or not, a service-oriented style of enterprise integration simplifies and accelerates mobile deployments.
‘Big bang’ mobility is not about one system, one device, one network, one process, one person. Its true potential is realized in a composite fashion – by designing mobile applications that integrate multiple enterprise systems, legacy systems, third-party content, inherent device capabilities (camera, phone, GPS) and collaborative and UC technologies such as presence and Instant Messaging (IM). Mobility brings them together in a meaningful, relevant way and enables employees to work smarter and faster than ever before.
The economy, riding shotgun with these technology trends, is helping to shape the mobility landscape, simply because it has forced executives to assess IT projects in terms of ROI and justify the business case accordingly. As a result, mobility has earned a place at the grown-up table for its ability to deliver reliable returns to the business.
For starters, mobile solutions make the best of what you already have. It’s hard to ignore that simple logic. Investments in enterprise CRM and ERP systems, even legacy systems built in-house, can be leveraged – even reinvigorated – by simply mobilizing them and extending key business information out to employees.
Most medium-large organizations already have investments in mobility and are now looking for value-add capabilities like location-based services and collaboration tools for incremental value without significant investment. There is no reason to embark on costly reengineering projects when mobilizing an existing system will breathe new life into it and yield a better ROI in the short term.
The industry experts agree. In their session at the recent Wireless & Mobile Summit in Chicago, Gartner analysts noted that “mobile application adoption in enterprises grew at more than 25 percent CAGR from 2002 to 2008. Mobile applications are vital to running businesses. More enterprises need to apply second- and third-generation thinking to optimize their investments.” In addition, because organizations have already equipped employees with mobile devices for e-mail and phone calls, the natural extension should be to empower employees to do more with those devices and in the process improve customer service and increase top-line revenues. It’s a win-win situation.
Finally, there is the issue of cost containment. Nine out of 10 of our customers choose a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) deployment, which offers lower capital expenditure and offloads the hosting, managing and monitoring of the mobile deployment. A well-planned mobility strategy can help to reduce costs in many areas of the business – from IT resources for end-to-end management to hard dollars saved through operational efficiencies. For mobility, the speed to ROI is typically measured in months, not years.
The bottom line is mobile enterprise software and solutions allow an organization to create incremental improvements to business processes and technology infrastructure, which yield impressive results and rapid ROI. Most importantly, by staying agile, keeping up with the pace of change and modernizing infrastructure and operations through mobility, organizations can continue to grow business, amplify profitability and sustain competitive advantage for years to come.
Sparks are truly flying
In a downturn, history teaches that most businesses should work harder to get closer to customers and create fierce customer loyalty. Jan Carlzon, the former president of Scandinavian Airlines, who turned the company around in a time of recession, had a unique perspective on how to do this. He said, “Each point or interaction with your organization can be referred to as a ‘moment of truth.'” As Carlzon saw it, a coffee stain on an airline tray might give customers the impression that the airline was not serviced properly.
The same goes for a sales rep not having the right information on hand – this would probably not inspire much confidence in a company’s ability to follow through down the line. So, each moment – or interaction – is an opportunity to meet, exceed or fall short of their expectations. The Mobile Bang formula incorporates these interactions as follows:
Real-time interactions of people with timely and relevant data (location and context aware) ignites a virtuous business cycle and
accelerates real business returns
Our customers provide great examples of Mobile Bang in practice every day. They have defined unique “trigger points” in their business – high-impact moments in the sales cycle and service chain where mobility can have an explosive impact on specific business processes. By building and deploying mobile applications that leverage these trigger points, organizations are able to emit real sparks of improved profitability.
Here are a few examples:
- Sales reps at 3M Brazil increased the number of opportunities closed and won by 34 percent.
- AT&T Business Services reduced its billing cycle from a labor and paper-intensive 15-20 days to a mere three to five days.
- DIRECTV reported a 30 percent increase in the number of accounts that can be visited in a week by its dealer reps.
No doubt about it, to gain momentum in a tight economy, your front lines must be equipped to win deals and delight prospects and customers with their responsiveness, knowledge and ability to solve problems – fast. Each of these organizations illustrates that by providing employees with real-time relevant information on mobile devices, it’s possible to streamline and automate complex processes, improve the quality of sales data and make it easier for reps to perform their jobs and contribute to business growth objectives.
In demanding field service environments, mobility has proven unequivocally to optimize company performance. As mobile solutions have evolved over the past decade from simple messaging and dispatch systems to dynamic composite applications with real-time transactional capabilities, the benefits have been compounded. Inventory management and engineer productivity, for example, experience dramatic results:
- Pitney Bowes Canada’s field service organization improved response times by 16.1 percent; improved productivity among field service representatives, saving 60-90 minutes per day and increased number of service calls performed per day by 5.3 percent.
- A medical equipment manufacturing company has decreased inventory write-offs by almost $2 million, an improvement of 2,680 percent – all of which the company attributes to its mobile solution.
- With its mobile merchandisers more flexible and capable of handling order adjustments on the fly with their BlackBerrys, Coca-Cola Enterprises expects a 75 percent decrease in their trips to the sales center this year, reducing the overall expense of $3 million per year significantly.
The above examples represent a cross-section of industries, demonstrating that any organization can experience a Mobile Bang. The key is to use mobile technology to automate complex processes, thereby eliminating guesswork and manual intervention.
For example, a composite mobile CRM application could be designed to automatically send sales collateral to a prospect after a sales call, or automatically trigger notes to be sent to the team after a meeting, or even automatically generate an invoice on the spot after a service call – right from the mobile device.
In addition, the introduction of powerful collaboration tools such as mobile IM enables workgroups to instantly see who is available by integrating presence and real-time status into the application. These capabilities produce significant time and cost savings for our customers.
Smaller Windows, Better Visibility
Mobility not only improves the end-user experience and generates productivity gains in the field, but it also impacts the business and IT management experience – an area that sometimes gets glossed over in these discussions. The fact is that employees using a mobile application from a smartphone are able to capture data more consistently and accurately in real time. So instead of complaining about low CRM user-adoption and unreliable, out-of-date data, companies have unleashed their systems and data into the hands of their field workers, thus providing better visibility into their operations:
- Toshiba America Medical Systems improved overall reporting, achieved greater data integrity and has its “finger on the pulse of real-time service operation.”
- Heineken Ireland was able to improve the ROI from its Siebel system; enhance the service delivered to its customers and increase visibility and reporting capability for management.
- DIRECTV saw a 100 percent increase in visibility of application data from internal systems.
The value of greater operational business intelligence ripples through every aspect of an organization, ensuring customers’ needs are met, sales and marketing activities are planned effectively and costs are reduced wherever possible. Now the latest location-based technologies enable managers to go even further and “clean the lens” on field-based operations, heightening insight into employee productivity and organizational efficiency.
The combination of mobile enterprise systems, GPS and Geographical Information Systems (GIS) has the potential to transform traditional business intelligence (BI) systems by tying real-time mapping with live operational data. For example, Coca-Cola Enterprises (CCE) provides its management with a real-time window into locations and activities of merchandisers by geographical areas, leveraging the GPS capabilities on their BlackBerry devices and feeding information back for enterprise reporting purposes. This not only enables merchandisers to manage schedule and order changes on the fly, but also creates tremendous visibility for managers.
Future-proof foundation for innovation
Largely undeterred by economic forces, mobility continues to radically change our life and work styles. According to comScore, the number of people who access news and information daily on their mobile phones doubled from 10.8 million in January 2008 to 22.4 million in January 2009. That’s a seismic shift in consumer behavior, the rumblings of which are inevitably felt in every CIO’s purview as more people continue to expect easy and instant access to information that is essential to them.
So how does the CIO grapple with this volume of volatility – the growing diversity of mobile devices to manage and control; the networks, enterprise systems, middleware, external systems and value-added technologies to consider; the metrics of success to measure; and of course, the inevitability of change.
To fully embrace the Mobile Bang (and not get blown away by it), companies need a well-considered mobility strategy and a platform-based infrastructure to design, build and deploy mobile applications. And then they need a centralized way to manage their environment as well – there’s the rub. One of the biggest challenges of any mobile deployment is managing, monitoring, securing and controlling the applications when things change on a daily basis.
Choosing an on-demand deployment model can help mitigate these concerns, and becomes even more attractive in a down economy when resources are thin and budgets are tight. This holistic approach enables organizations to extract the greatest value from enterprise systems, future-proof investments and embrace diversity and change, empower employees with the information they need when they need it and ultimately transform their business through mobility. Times may be tough now, but companies that use the current economy as a way to evaluate how to improve business will certainly come out on top.
Jim Hemmer is the CEO of Antenna Software, which delivers real business mobility to the world’s most demanding enterprises.