Thursday, October 19, 2006

Mobile Software Platforms and Standardization

I just returned from a meeting in Rotterdam, The Netherlands where Unilever, one of the largest consumer packaged goods (CPG) companies in the world, has asked MobileDataforce to assist them on a 4th mobility project. This project involves laptops, handheld computers, desktop computers and hundreds of mobile users.

The Unilever project highlights an important consideration for companies interested in mobilizing multiple business processes – should a company select multiple mobile software applications or standardize on a single powerful and flexible enterprise mobility platform. Consider the following situation with me – Company X wants to mobilize the following processes:

1. Dispatching and retrieving work orders to and from their field services teams
2. Automating and mobilizing a parts inventory tracking system (parts used for repairs)
3. Employee time cards for the field service technicians
4. Vehicle tracking system – to see the location of all field services teams
5. New product sales system – if field services teams sell upgraded products or services

Let’s assume that the company already has database applications inside the office that manage these business processes. How are these 5 processes going to be mobilized? Does the company need to find 5 different mobile software solutions in order to mobilize each of these individual business processes? This is an important question. Can you image the amount of work to select, purchase, configure and deploy 5 different mobile software solutions. The time and work would be cost prohibitive!

The answer is to select a mobile software platform. A platform that the company can standardize on for the purpose of mobilizing all necessary business processes. A platform that once learned can be used to develop and support an unlimited number of different mobile solutions and where economies of scale can be gained.

The business values of standardizing on a mobile software platform are the following:

  • IT developers get trained on one mobile solution, not many – saves time and money
  • All mobile software solutions follow standardized synchronization methodologies – easy to learn and support.
  • Network connectivity works the same across remote laptops, Tablet PCs, PDAs and ruggedized handhelds – saves deployment and support time.
  • Helpdesk only needs to learn and support one system – saves time and money
  • Database Administrators need only permit one mobile platform integration methodology – ensures data integrity.
  • All mobile solutions including laptops, Tablet PCs, industrial grade handheld computers, Win CE and Windows Mobile PDAs use the same code base – just different screen layouts – easy to develop, deploy and support.
  • All mobile applications get managed from one administrative dashboard – saves time and money supporting and deploying new applications and software updates.
  • Experience has value - the more applications that are developed and deployed on a standardized platform, the larger your libraries of custom reusable code grows, and the more knowledge you have. This helps future projects become simpler, faster and easier to develop and support (economies of scale).
  • You need call only one company – the author of the mobile software platform – to receive software support. Not multiple companies, multiple support systems, multiple update schedules and multiple support fees and programs.
  • The more mobile users using one platform – the greater the price discounts for addition mobile users (again economies of scale).
  • Companies deploying significant numbers of mobile users become more than just a customer to a manufacturer of a mobile software platform. They become a strategic partner that influences product design, product roadmaps and timeframes. The relationship becomes strategic to both parties. Each party interested in achieving the same supporting goals.

    Of course this means it is critically important for you to find the right mobile software platform and software manufacturer that can support your goals and solution requirements. A company that is proven and experienced - a company that even the world’s largest companies like Unilever trust as their mobile software platform. I would invite you to contact us at MobileDataforce to discuss your project requirements.