Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Enterprise Mobility, Institutional Knowledge, New Processes and Context Aware Solutions

One of the most interesting benefits of mobile technologies is the ability to develop completely new business processes and workflows that provide new and unique values.  These are important, and rarely are considered as part of potential ROIs.  Let's think about the following scenario:

A diamond bladed concrete cutter is required for some utility work.  What needs to happen?  The cutting machine needs to be scheduled, located, inspected, transported, and a qualified operator needs to be available to run it.  In addition, a series of safety procedures need to be completed to ensure a safe working environment.  Perhaps municipal government agencies also need to be notified and permits received before the work can begin.

As you can see from this scenario, there are a lot of moving parts and steps that need to be completed in order for this job to be done optimally.  Many of the steps in the workflow are also dependent on other parts.  I can imagine companies developing cloud based workflows that include all of these steps, dependencies, procedures and tasks and connected to mobile applications.  When a job requires this cloud based workflow, it is activated and mobile applications that are integrated to a variety of back-end systems, plus GPS tracking systems, work together to input the data and complete the cloud based workflow.

How many different customized workflows do you think the world needs?  I don't know, but it is a large number!  The value of a mobile solution connected to this workflow is that predictive and context aware activities can start to be implemented automatically by your cloud based workflow.  If a documented workflow has 18 steps, how many of these steps can be automated?  If a diamond bladed concrete cutter needs a trailer to transport it, can available trailers be located by checking GPS locations and then scheduled automatically?  Can the schedules of all of the potential operators in the region be automatically reviewed to see who is available, and then scheduled?  Can government permits be requested automatically?

Most activities in the field have not been automated or even documented.  Required activities have traditionally been completed by experienced personnel that had been trained over many years.  The challenge is that in many field services environments like the utilities industry, they are losing large numbers of their most experienced people over the next 5 years to retirement.  These industries are struggling to harvest the institutional knowledge in the heads of their most senior workers so the next generation can benefit from their wisdom and experience.
If this institutional knowledge can be captured in cloud based workflows and connected to mobile technologies that would ensure real-time communications with the mobile workforce, then this also could be a major benefit.

Kevin Benedict, Mobile Industry Analyst, Mobile Strategy Consultant and SAP Mentor Alumnus
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.