Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Operational Tempo, Faster than Real-Time, Enterprise Mobility and the Next Y2K Event

I often discuss the concept of operational tempo in my digital transformation and mobile strategies sessions.  I define operational tempo as the speed or pace of operations.  The advent of broadband Internet, mobile devices and mobile applications have dramatically changed our expectations for the operational tempo of businesses.  None of us are willing to wait 8 minutes for a response on a product availability query from our smartphone.  None of us want our turn-by-turn navigation app on our iPhones to update only once every three minutes.  We seek real-time operational tempos, or perhaps even faster than real-time.

How can a mobile application be even faster than real-time?  It can know what you need before you even ask!  Mobile apps that are context aware can predict what you will need without you even asking for it. Let's imagine a service technician driving to his/her next job site.  The apps (and connected back-office systems) review traffic flows, guides the service technician to the optimal route, checks the client records for all relevant SLAs, warranties, financial issues, equipment location and past maintenance and repair records and service notes and provides them without being asked.  As the service technician nears the customer site, a text is automatically sent to the customer announcing his/her's imminent arrival.  In addition, the mobile application has checked the service vehicle's inventory of parts and creates a list of available on-board parts that are likely needed for the job.

The scenario we have just considered is real and can be done today with software from companies like SAP (SAP Workforce Scheduling and Optimization by ClickSoftware solution).  This system includes an artificial intelligence agent known as ClickButler that is tuned into the needs of mobile workers.

In order for artificial and context aware systems to provide their promised value, they must be connected to real-time data.  In addition, this data must be analyzed by a system fast-enough to support the operation tempo required by the users.  It is this challenge that Forrester's John McCarthy states will cause another Y2K event in many enterprises.  In other words, it will force companies to replace systems that are incapable of supporting real-time processes that are required to support mobile users.

In 2014, all companies should be reviewing their back-office systems to identify and replace the systems that simply cannot function in a "real-time" environment where the operational tempo requires instant everything.

Kevin Benedict
Senior Analyst, Digital Transformation 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 digital transformation analyst, consultant and writer. I work with and have worked with many of the companies mentioned in my articles.