Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Mobility Changes the Enterprise and Expectations

Companies rarely understand the full extent of the changes mobile software solutions will bring to their organization. They appreciate the concept of having access to enterprise content in mobile environments and converting paper document processes to electronic, but they don't often see the complete vision for how enterprise mobility can re-engineer business processes until they have walked the path for a while.  Let me share some personal observations that I have had working on mobility projects.

  1. Most mobile software projects start small and have a very limited user base and business focus in the beginning.  As the users begin to test and adopt the new mobile software solutions, they most often expand the project as they quickly recognize the efficiencies that can be gained by using mobile enterprise.  It seems many companies must see to believe.
  2. There is usually some point about 80 percent through the mobile software project when the lights go on!  The client can see beyond their immediate project to the greater potential for enterprise mobility.  This is where the client starts wanting to add to the list of features and expand the project scope.  
  3. Mobility is a process - a company may start with simple mobile micro-apps (small iPhone, BlackBerry, Android apps) for alerts, notices, paper replacement, etc., and then expand to geospatially aware apps that are integrated with business intelligence and knowledge management applications.
  4. Companies may start with mobilizing their field service technicians, but rapidly expand to mobile CRM, mobile shipping and inventory status, mobile enterprise asset management, quality assurance inspections and reporting, real-time mobile business analytics for the management team, route accounting and proof of delivery for the truck (or lorry) drivers.
  5. The more the company learns, the more they realize the benefits of mobile data solutions. The challenge is architecting an enterprise mobility solution from the beginning that can accommodate all of these future additions.  If a company has started down the path to mobilizing their operations and business processes but have chosen to customize each mobile application differently, they will quickly realize their error in not starting with a MEAP that can support all of the mobile applications on a common platform.  The MEAP (mobile enterprise application paltform)  is a server based product that supports a standardized way of designing, developing, deploying and supporting multiple mobile software projects in a standardized manner.
  6. Once the MEAP is in place, all IT developers, consultants and technical support personnel can be trained on the same platform and methodologies for efficiencies and speed of development.
  7. In addition to standardized design, development, deployment and support, a MEAP adds: version control,  permissions, application publishing, data security configurations, database integrations, device management and much more.
  8. It is important that field services organizations consider both the server side and the mobile side of an application.  There are many advantages that can be gained if the enterprise field service optimization solution is tightly integrated with the mobile solution.  Shared roadmaps can ensure that new features provided to the FSO application can be quickly extended to the mobile application.  It is not good to require a separate software development project every time there is a new set of features delivered to the FSO application.  The TCO (total cost of ownership) and pain goes way up!  Companies like SAP's mobility partner, ClickSoftware combine both the FSA and mobile application together.
  9. The field service technicians begin to hate paper very quickly after deploying good mobile applications.  They don't want to use the mobile device for some data collection but paper for others.
  10. The mobile user also has a smartphone, and they are increasingly sophisticated in their knowledge and use of smartphones.  Their expectations for mobile enterprise applications is quickly rising.
If you have experience implementing mobile solutions, what additional observations have you noted?

Kevin Benedict, SAP Mentor, SAP Top Contributor, Mobile and M2M Industry Analyst
CEO/Principal Consultant, Netcentric Strategies LLC
Phone +1 208-991-4410

Full Disclosure: I am an independent mobility consultant, mobility analyst, writer and Web 2.0 marketing professional. I work with and have worked with many of the companies mentioned in my articles.