Thursday, June 25, 2015

Mobile Commerce, Speed, Operational Tempos and the Real-Time Enterprise, Part 3

This is part 3 in the article series.  Read part 1 and part 2 here.

The Shelf Life of Data and the Need for Speed

Today enterprises are facing a massive challenge that will require new strategies and investment. In fact, 80 percent of survey participants reported that increasing demand for mobile apps is forcing IT departments to rethink and change how they have designed IT environments.  Rethinking and changing IT environments requires investment and budget, and 83 percent believe the demand for mobile applications will force enterprises to make major investments in their IT environments to better support real-time interactions with mobile apps and to remain competitive.

Our survey reveals that real-time mobile data is critical for personalizing and optimizing the mobile user’s experience and promoting the adoption and utilization of mobile applications and websites. We have also found that organizations, IT environments, and business processes will require changes in order to support a faster operational tempo. One of the key reasons these changes are necessary is the shelf life of data. Data has greater economic value the faster it can be collected, transmitted, analyzed, consumed, and utilized. This brings us back to the speed requirement. If the mobile user can instantly be presented with a personalized and contextually relevant experience based on real-time and previously collected and analyzed data, then the user will realize the greatest value and utility.

Situational Awareness and Information Dominance

Military strategists today believe the size of opponents and their weapons platforms are less representative of military power than the quality of their sensors systems, mobile communication links, and their ability to utilize information to their advantage. We believe these same conclusions are also relevant in the commercial sector.

An enterprise’s ability to use information as a competitive advantage is central to a successful business strategy today. If a manager has the responsibility of optimizing the schedules of 5,000 service technicians during an ice storm, or routing 10,000 delivery trucks, then the faster they receive accurate data from the field - the better they can perform their jobs.

Information advantages often involve improving situational awareness — the ability to understand events and actions around you. This takes visibility and data. Visibility happens when people, mobile, and sensor data collection technologies are integrated with IT systems and processes that enable the measurement, collection, transmission, analysis, and reporting of remote activities and events. The faster this can be accomplished, the faster data-driven decisions can be made and tactics deployed.

Historically, it has been difficult to manage remote workforces due to a lack of visibility. There are too many unknowns and a lack of accountability, which forces managers to make decisions based upon conjecture, rather than on real-time data analysis. Robert L. Bateman writes in his book Digital War, “The three questions that have befuddled soldiers since the beginning of human history are:
  1. Where am I?
  2. Where are my buddies?
  3. Where is the enemy?" 
Bateman speaks to the difficulty of managing from afar. The lack of real-time visibility often means critical operational decisions and optimized scheduling choices are delayed, which results in the inefficient utilization of resources and assets. Today technologies exist to eliminate many of those operational blind spots.

Network-Centric Operations and Data Collection
The problem: Technology [used between WWI and WWII] was viewed in discrete packets as it applied to narrowly defined areas. As a result the US military did not fully develop the possible combinations of technology with tactics.” –Robert L. Bateman, Digital War
Many commercial organizations today retain the narrow view and strategy that Bateman wrote about. They continue to think about and deploy mobile and sensor technologies in line-of-business (LOB) silos. They believe in the utility of these technologies, but have no enterprise-wide strategy for combining mobile and sensor technologies with tactics to achieve an overall information advantage across the enterprise.

Modern military organizations use the term Network Centric Warfare strategies to describe an information-based strategy for winning wars. These strategies have been taught in military organizations for decades, but are less understood in the commercial sector, where these strategies can be found with names such as Network Centric Operations or Networked Field Services. Military organizations that have implemented Network Centric strategies are accustomed to using a wide range of mobile devices and sensors to create a web or grid of data collection capabilities that are all wirelessly networked together for the purpose of enhancing real-time situational awareness, organizational agility, collaboration, and decision-making. Commercial enterprises share many of the same requirements, but as our survey data shows, they have yet to adopt the necessary enterprise-wide strategies or IT systems with enough speed to support real-time interactions.

Given the importance of an information advantage, what should commercial organizations focus on in 2015 and beyond? Broadly the answers are:
  • Recognizing that information can be used as a competitive advantage
  • Recognizing the importance of achieving real-time operational tempos
  • Developing and implementing enterprise-wide network centric operational strategies
  • Utilizing mobile applications and sensors to reduce operational blind spots and improve situational awareness
  • Personalizing and contextualizing the mobile user experience using real-time data and Code Halos strategies
  • Employing artificial intelligence and machine learning to improve the speed of decision-making and the execution of tactics
An organization’s ability to be competitive now and in the future largely depends on its ability to successfully navigate the process of digital and organizational transformation to achieve an information advantage.  If you would like to brainstorm these issues and discuss your specific business environment please contact us.

Kevin Benedict
Writer, Speaker, Senior Analyst
Digital Transformation, EBA, Center for the Future of Work 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.