Thursday, July 11, 2013

Revisiting Enterprise Mobility and 4D Strategies

In this article I want to revisit the subject of the 4th dimension as it relates to enterprise mobility and and its importance to many industries and business processes.

First, let's review our definition of 3D and 4D.  Three dimensional is made up of length, width and height in one context, or latitude, longitude and altitude in a geographic context.  With GPS coordinates you can find and identify a location on the earth or map.  The challenge, however, is that in the real-world, people and resources aren't stationary.  They move all over the place.  Knowing their location is only useful if you know the "time" they were at that location.  Time is the fourth dimension.  Latitude, longitude, altitude and time are the 4 dimensions we will be reviewing.

Knowing locations and times are critical to managing real-time operations.  The power of real-time business analytics is best realized when you have the capabilities of reporting and planning in a 4D environment. Here are some examples of how time added to location data can offer business value:
  • Predict travel times
  • Monitor actual travel times by capturing departure and arrival times.
  • Adjust schedules based upon the difference between the predictive and real-life travel times
  • Predict job completion times
  • Monitor actual job completion times
  • Adjust schedules based upon the difference between the predictive and real-life times
  • Dispatch service technicians based upon location, schedules, qualifications, costs, etc.
  • Capture KPIs and analyze them.
Most companies recognize the importance of using 4D in their strategies, however, it has only recently become possible to exploit 4D data in real-time.  Exploiting 4D data in real-time takes a real-time strategy.  You need IT infrastructure, databases, analytics and enterprise mobility solutions all finely tuned for real-time operations.

As many of you know my mantra is, "Mobile technologies without mobile strategies is wasted."  There are a lot of interesting things that can be done using 4D strategies and mobile technologies to provide a company with competitive advantages.

A while back I read a book titled, Stray Voltage, War in the Information Age, by Wayne Michael Hall.  In this book he takes the concept of 4D, and adds two more, cyberspace and cerebral to make 6D. Here is a quote from Hall, "Information superiority is firmly connected to making decisions that are superior to an adversary's and combines information technology and intellectual power to create conditions with which to make better decisions."

Hall is making the point that with mass volumes of data collected in real-time using remote sensors, data collection technologies and mobile solutions we need to improve our operational strategies and ways of thinking.  The data can provide us with real-time "situational awareness," but can we understand it and use it to make better real-time tactical decisions for our businesses?

More from Hall, "Human beings will need to improve their thinking capabilities to cope with the increasing complexities of the world...people will depend more on visualization to help understand complexity quickly.  Visualization will fuse data and information and display the result in a multimedia format.  Visualization will allow the integration of data, information and knowledge from all sources and will allow for the integration of numerous contributors."

There is power in taking all of the real-time 4D data inputs that you have, integrating them, analyzing and displaying it visually on a map with powerful infographs in real-time.  This can help us quickly understand what is happening in the field.

In my mind I see a field services manager using an iPad.  He can look down at his iPad at anytime and see the location of all his assets, resources, work crews, jobs (past, present and future) and equipment.  He can see bright yellow circles for all job status that are running over their estimated times, he can see work crews in transit and he can see all locations of upcoming jobs on a map.  In one quick glance the manager can understand where there are challenges, trouble spots and customer issues.

The visualization of 4D information allows for rapid and good decision making.  This is a true competitive advantage.
Kevin Benedict, Head Analyst for Social, Mobile, Analytics and Cloud (SMAC) Cognizant
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***Full Disclosure: These are my personal opinions. No company is silly enough to claim them. I am a mobility and SMAC analyst, consultant and writer. I work with and have worked with many of the companies mentioned in my articles.