Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Mobile Strategies and Situational Awareness

Robert L. Bateman, author of the book, Digital War, A View from the Front Lines writes, "Situational awareness allows us to replace the wastefulness of mass operations with the extreme economy of precision operations."  If you know where all of your resources are located and their availability to be used, it becomes much simpler to manage an efficient precision operation.

Throughout military history some of the biggest challenges for commanders was finding both the location of their enemy, and the locations of their own armies (not to mention supplies).  This resulted in huge inefficiencies due to the need to spread armies over large areas as a defense against the unknown location of an opponent.  In addition, once a battle began, it was nearly impossible to accurately see and track events in real-time due to the "fog-of-war."

In many ways, a similar challenge exists today inside many enterprises.  It is often the case that companies will purchase equipment, parts, supplies and materials and warehouse them in many different locations simply because they cannot effectively monitor, track or deliver them in real-time at the point-of-need.  As a result of this challenge, there are over-inflated and inefficient levels of inventories and assets (and often workforces) that result in poor cash management.

The same challenge can also arise when an ERP does not effectively track the use of workforces and skills.  I read a case study involving PG&E where they were inefficiently managing their assets and workforce across many different regional offices.  They solved this problem, in part, by consolidating dispatch offices and deploying a real-time and dynamic scheduling system.  This provided them with far greater visibility into the current work performed by each crew alongside a clear view of the future work on the schedule.  Here is how they described their improvements:
  • Management centralized control over the scheduling of field crews to help ensure usage goals were met.
  • Accurate measurement of current-week crew utilization rates, as well as projected utilization rates for future weeks.
  • Flexibility for management to move crews among service regions to ensure customers receive gas and electric services efficiently and effectively.
  • Consolidation of scheduling staff from having dispatchers at sixty-seven offices down to having dispatchers at just two offices.
In my Enterprise Mobility Survey 2011 Report (available free hereI found that 42.6% of survey respondents identified "improved visibility and accountability" as motivations for deploying mobile applications to their mobile workforce.  In addition, 34.7% identified "improved employee interactions and collaboration," as motivations.

All of these steps and solutions are dependent on mobile strategies and enterprise mobile technologies to provide managers with situational awareness.   Here is more from author Robert L. Bateman, "Situational awareness is the most revolutionary technology in the history of warfare.  Situational awareness can lead to a tenfold increase in velocity.  Situation awareness involves being aware of what is happening in the vicinity to understand how information, events, and one's own actions will impact goals and objectives, both immediately and in the near future."  Bateman even converted this concept into a physics formula, "operational and tactical speed contribute to a force being out of proportion to the mass at any given location."

Situational awareness can even impact the way we manage people.  Here is a excerpt from the U.S. Army publication, Battle Command, “Technology has the potential to revolutionize the way we command in battle by becoming the tool that will allow the commander to move freely about the battlefield to where he can best influence the action without separating himself from his staff and other sources of information, communications and control.”  It is also true within the enterprise.  If you can manage your company, resources, workforce, projects and business from an iPad, then you are no longer restricted to the cubicle or corner office.

Kevin Benedict, Independent Mobile Industry Analyst, Consultant and 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.