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Showing posts from October, 2006

Mobile Forms, Mobile Applications & Mobile Business Processes

Our customers often follow a learning path when it comes to mobilizing their business. Let me identify several steps on this path: Mobile forms - replace paper forms with electronic forms on handheld computers, Tablet PCs or laptops. Evolve the electronic form to become a full mobile database application on a mobile computer Extend business processes out from the enterprise and into the mobile database applications. Replace many traditional communication methods (phone calls, faxes, web queries) with real time enterprise database queries from mobile database applications. Let me walk you through a scenario - Step 1 - Company M wants to replace paper service orders with electronic service orders on a ruggedized handheld computer. In phase 1, they are content to pick up the handheld in the morning with pre-loaded service orders, and return the handheld device at night to synchronize the work they accomplished during the day. This saves a great deal of data input and mistakes by the offi

Business Processes and Mobile Handheld Solutions

A successful business is made up of successful business processes. In business terms, in order to be successful, the business processes in use must produce overall profits. With those assumptions in place - let's discuss the following scenario: Company X is profitable, but wants to reduce the costs associated with their service order and dispatch processes. They want to reduce the time, paperwork and administration costs of dispatching, re-typing and processing field service orders. Company X determines that mobilizing their service order processes by dispatching and closing service orders using mobile handheld computer solutions that synchronize remotely with a service order management system in the central office would dramatically reduce the costs and improve profitability. The dilemma: Many off-the-shelf service order management systems don't currently have a mobile client that runs on a handheld computer, or the ones that do, don't support the "unique" bus

Public Roads - September/October 2006 Issue

In the mail this morning I received the most recent issue of Public Roads from the TFHRC . The Turner-Fairbank Highway Research Center (TFHRC) is a federally owned and operated research facility in McLean, Virginia. TFHRC is the home of the Federal Highway Administration's (FHWA's) Office of Research, Development, and Technology . They also publish the journal Public Roads . In this journal there is a lengthy case study of how the Idaho Transportation Department uses MobileDataforce's inspection and asset management software for handheld computers. Paul Ziman, operations, pavement, maintenance, and materials engineer with the Federal Highway Administration's Idaho Division Office is quoted as saying, "We are excited about the innovative use of PDA devices for maintenance acitivies... ITD (Idaho Transportation Department) has been pleased with the performance of the PDAs. Currently, the main use is as a platform for supporting electronic forms in the field. This me

MobileDataforce's EMEA Partner Summit

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This week we conducted our first European Partner Summit in Den Bosch, The Netherlands. We had 24 reseller and alliance partner organizations attend this event. I want to thank all of our partners for dedicating their time to this event. We appreciate it! Many of the Benelux's largest systems integration companies are now MobileDataforce partners. We spent the day training our partners on how best to market, sell and implement mobility solutions. Many of our partners are building complete mobility practices around the PointSync Mobility Platform . PointSync is designed perfectly for the systems integrator. They can deliver just about any kind of mobility solution imaginable using PointSync. I wrote a detailed blog article the other day on the advantages of standardizing on a mobility platform. Here is partial list of attending partners: Modatec Hewlett Packard Palm Symbol Technologies Intermec Sybase Gap Gemini One of our partners is now working on 8 different mobility project

Sharing Information & Thoughts On Mobile Solutions

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I believe that it is helpful and beneficial to share information on best practices for implementing enterprise mobile software solutions. I receive nearly daily feedback that this blog is useful and provides a valuable service. I also know our competition reads this blog so they also can learn how to run a software business. That is OK, I want their customers to benefit from MobileDataforce's shared knowledge. MobileDataforce is happy to provide speakers and consultants to help companies and organizations learn more about implementing mobile solutions. If you would like to discuss your mobility projects please contact us .

Mobile Software Platforms and Standardization

I just returned from a meeting in Rotterdam, The Netherlands where Unilever, one of the largest consumer packaged goods (CPG) companies in the world, has asked MobileDataforce to assist them on a 4th mobility project. This project involves laptops, handheld computers, desktop computers and hundreds of mobile users. The Unilever project highlights an important consideration for companies interested in mobilizing multiple business processes – should a company select multiple mobile software applications or standardize on a single powerful and flexible enterprise mobility platform. Consider the following situation with me – Company X wants to mobilize the following processes: 1. Dispatching and retrieving work orders to and from their field services teams 2. Automating and mobilizing a parts inventory tracking system (parts used for repairs) 3. Employee time cards for the field service technicians 4. Vehicle tracking system – to see the location of all field services teams 5. New produc

The Magic Quadrant for Handheld Computers

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I was in Paris, France last week at Symbol's EMEA Partner Conference. While there I heard more evidence of a trend I have been watching for a while. The 2 largest ruggedized handheld computer manufacturers - Symbol and Intermec have both recently come out with small, ruggedized, full functional handheld computers. These handheld computers combine the ruggedness of larger handhelds, and include barcode scanners, GPS, phones, WiFi, bluetooth and more. Symbol says that their MC70, pictured above in PointSync Developer , has become one of their top sellers. It is especially appealing to the "field service" market. That is also the market MobileDataforce focuses on. I have also recently seen a lot of very interesting looking small ruggedized handheld computers coming out of Korea and China. These are sub $1,000 USD devices that can reasonably be used as handheld computers, phones and barcode scanners. They are a little bulky for the suit coat, but work nicely attached to the

More on Buy vs Building Mobile Solutions, Part 3

There are always reasons and/or business justifications for wanting to mobilize a business process. Something has motivated the individual or company to march down the path of mobilization. So when considering whether to buy or build a mobile solution these additional factors should be considered: Tolerance for risk Opportunity Costs Expected ROI Competitive Advantages Let's briefly discuss each of these considerations. Tolerance for risk - are you willing to risk attempting to develop an enterprise mobile solution for the first time (If your team is an experienced mobile development team, then you can ignore this point)? It can be done, but the first time requires a lot of thought, design meetings, trial and error, debugging and above all else - time. What if the design can not scale? What if the synchronization engine that your developer made is too slow? What if after 8 months the system is still only half complete and full of bugs? Opportunity Costs - this is one of the most

More on Buy vs Building Mobile Solutions, Part 2

This seems to be the topic of the week this week - so let me add more thoughts to this topic. If your organization has .NET programmers that are available now and they have a lot of time on their hands, then yes it is possible to develop your own enterprise mobile application. Here are a couple of questions before you start: Have your programmers completed successful mobile applications before? If this is their first time there is a steep learning curve that must be considered. Is the same programmer going to code the mobile application, code the security, code the synchronization logic, code the database integration and code the business logic? If there are multiple developers/programmers involved - ask question #1 about each of them. Are these programmers going to also write your user guide and document the solution? How long will your programmers stay with your organization? What if the programmer leaves? Who will support it and maintain it? There are many parts to an enterprise m

Buy vs. Building an Enterprise Mobile Solution? Part 1

This is a good and fair question. Let's start our discussion with a scenario - You want to monitor assets for your government agency. That means you want to track all the street signs, sewer pipes, manhole covers, guard rails etc, that your organization owns using a mobile software application on a handheld computer. You also want to mobilize your inspection processes involving these assets. In addition, you would like to integrate a "work order" management system to dispatch repair technicians when work is needed. You would like all of these processes to be mobilized on a handheld computer that synchronizes with your central databases. The problem - Often the above processes involve more than one desktop application and multiple backend databases. How would you mobilize all of these? You can't buy 1 mobile software package that will integrate with all of these desktop applications and databases. Why, some of your applications are home grown, undocumented and specif

PMM Selects MobileDataforce Software for Handheld PDAs

Last week MobileDataforce was selected to provide mobile asset management/field inspection software for a large project in South Africa. It will be used by the South African government to assess property taxes. Properties will be inspected, data will be collected on a mobile handheld device and the data will be synchronized to an enterprise database. The software application that will be used is MobileDataforce's PointSync . It will be integrated with GPS and mapping software so the exact location of all property assessments can be identified and documented.

Manitoba Hydro Selects MobileDataforce Software

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We do a lot of business in the electrical utility industry. This previous blog article identified many of the mobile utility projects we have delivered. This week we gained a new customer in Canada called Manitoba Hydro. They selected MobileDataforce as their mobile software platform for field inspections. They listed over 17 inspections that they want to mobilize (convert from paper to mobile handheld data collection). The solution will involve using rugged PDAs in the field, MobileDataforce software for the mobile inspection application and synchronization to an enterprise database.

Clinical Research Company Selects MobileDataforce

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MobileDataforce just won the contract to develop a large clinical research solution for stroke victims. This project involves healthcare providers using handheld PDAs and PDA software from MobileDataforce to monitor treatment programs and the clinical results over a number of years. MobileDataforce is becoming more and more involved in the healthcare field. We have recently delivered solutions for remotely monitoring young patients, mobile asset management in hospitals, safety inspections of hospitals and now clinical research. The clinical research project involves using handheld pdas for data collection, software from MobileDataforce , and synchronization with an enterprise database. Ease of use, flexibility, and quick application development were reasons given for MobileDataforce winning the award.