Monday, July 11, 2011

More on Change Management and Enterprise Mobility

I had the opportunity to spend time with teams from two large utilities last evening at the ClickConnect APAC 2011 conference in Australia.  I was impressed by three specific discussion points:
  1. Change management challenges
  2. M2M
  3. Network connectivity issues
First, both utilities said the human factor in change management is a big problem for them.  Both organizations have an aging workforce that does not like change.  They shared that this workforce often has many inefficient and bad habits that they are not interested in changing.  When new apprentices are added to a team, it takes only six months for the old timers to teach the new apprentices the same bad habits.  What is to be done?

The positive note is that the young apprentices don't fear technology.  They have grown up with mobile phones, text messaging, email and social networking.  They are willing to embrace the use of these technologies in the workplace.  There is hope!

M2M (machine to machine) communications is being used extensively by the gas distribution company I met last night.  They have a broad range of different remote M2M sensors on their pipelines that wirelessly send data back to a central server.  Although these M2M devices are widely deployed, the challenge is still around how best to use the data from these remote sensors.  There is still a lot of work to be done that will turn this data into actionable intelligence.

It takes only one minute of discussion with a utility company in Australia to understand how necessary it is to have mobile applications that can run offline and online.  It only takes a short drive away from a main road to lose mobile phone connectivity in the outback.  Satellite phones and specialized radios are normal equipment for these IT organizations.  The IT assumption is that there will always be limited connectivity.  All mission critical mobile applications must work with this assumption.

Last week in Europe, I heard the same kind of requirements for offline and online mobile applications.  Several of the companies I was meeting with had a significant presence in Africa and South America.  Mobile application connectivity cannot be assumed.

I think back to a discussion I had with a member of the Sybase team in the UK earlier this year.  He shared that there were three locations between his office and his home where he could not get connectivity on his mobile phone.  I think we all need to remember these issues and not assume global connectivity when we are thinking through mission critical mobile application designs and architectures.

What does a mobile application that can run offline or online look like?  It will have the capability to store data in the mobile application on the mobile device that can be synchronized, at a later time when there is connectivity, to a back office database.  This kind of application requires a comprehensive mobile middleware solution that includes synchronization technology, on device data storage and backend integration capabilities.

Kevin Benedict, Independent Mobile and M2M Industry Analyst, SAP Mentor Volunteer
Follow me on Twitter @krbenedict
Full Disclosure: I am an independent mobility analyst, consultant and blogger. I work with and have worked with many of the companies mentioned in my articles.