Monday, November 25, 2013

Where the Physical Meets the Digital - GIS and Enterprise Mobility

One of the mega-trends I write often about is the merging of the physical with the digital and the resulting impact on businesses.  A key element of this trend is the association of geospatial or location data with events, tasks, projects, processes, assets and resources.  I asked my civil engineering friend and hero of all ducks, J.D. Axford, to teach us a bit about graphical information systems (GIS).  Here it is for your reading pleasure.

Three broad categories of information are combined in GIS.  As a point of reference, let's consider how a utility company would use these three:
  1. Landbase information typically comes from outside sources and depicts the natural (earth) and built (man-made) environment in which the utility operates – roads, rivers, and so on. 
  2. Grid information, defining the physical system (power lines, transformers, substations, power generation sites) the utility owns and operates, this information comes from their engineering, surveying, and maintenance crews. 
  3. Customer information is generated in-house and includes names, addresses, services provided, and maintenance schedules and requests, in addition to billing information. 
Combining these three data categories into a GIS enables a utility to support:
  • outage management systems
  • workflow scheduling
  • damage prevention
  • routine operations and maintenance 
  • asset management
  • workforce optimization
A GIS serves several purposes.  It is a geospatial database, plus a collaboration and communications tool for sharing geospatial data accurately, quickly, and broadly amongst enterprise teams.  This of course requires enterprise mobility solutions.  It ensures the field crews, engineering design and customer service departments are working together to efficiently meet goals. As always, effective communication require the data shared be accurate and available to those who need it, when they need it, and where they need it.  This is where the utility of mobile devices and especially tablets comes in.

In order to effectively use GIS, mapping software (like LatLonGo) must be developed that works across a number of different mobile hardware platforms to maximize its utilization.  It must also be able to integrate with ERPs, asset management apps and other business solutions.  Specialized software platforms are needed that support GIS integration with mobile devices.

Compressing data is another requirement so mobile devices have the space available to store GIS data, and so it remains accessible even when connectivity is lost. Collecting data through text and voice notes, photographs, and redlined maps and drawings are also essential and must be synchronized back to the main GIS server for collaboration and review.

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Kevin Benedict, Head Analyst for Social, Mobile, Analytics and Cloud (SMAC) Cognizant
View my profile on LinkedIn
Learn about mobile strategies at MobileEnterpriseStrategies.com
Follow me on Twitter @krbenedict
Join the Linkedin Group Strategic Enterprise Mobility

***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.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Enterprise Mobility is a Component of Digital Transformation

Companies don't want enterprise mobility.  They want increased sales, lower expenses, better products, improved customer service and more profits.  They want to be survivors during this period of massive digital transformations.  What do I mean by digital transformation?  I mean the fact that entire industries are being changed before our eyes because the physical world is merging with the digital.  I mean big data analytics, mobile applications and broadband connectivity to the internet through mobile devices that introduce completely new business models, processes, products and markets.   In order to be a survivor in this competitive climate, companies must have a clear understanding and vision of what digital transformation is, and how it is impacting their industry, market, products and company.

I met with a large national paper manufacturer today.  They have yet to start any mobile application projects internally.  I wonder if they have ever read about the impact of digital transformation on Kodak film sales?  I don't revel in writing about this. I cringe.  The challenge is not IT. It is in the business that chooses not to commit a budget to preparing for digital transformation.  That sounds to me like waving the white flag in the face of change.

When I talk to companies about mobile strategies, I am not really talking about mobile strategies.  I am talking about digital transformation and how mobile applications support this transformation.  If you buy into the fact that entire industries and marketplaces are being digitally transformed (think film, newspapers, media, retail, banking, travel, education, healthcare etc.), then you recognize mobile applications are about real-time prospect, customer and employee engagement, commerce, interaction and collaboration on any device, any place and at any time!  The mobile app is the interface between the outside world and the company.  However, the mobile app will provide very little value if the internal IT systems are not capable of supporting the demands of evolving marketplaces.

Let me emphasize the concept of "real-time."  Mobile devices and mobile applications feed our desire for instant results accompanied by instant satisfaction.  This desire generates intense pressures for companies to upgrade and transform themselves, their business processes and IT systems to be able to respond in real-time.

In addition to our desire for real-time information capabilities, we must be able to creatively innovate our way into the new landscape where the competition is around "information logistics" systems.  Where our success is dependent upon our ability to collect data (from mobile devices, websites, social media, apps, sensors and other database) faster than our competition, and then integrate, analyze, report and put it to use in new business processes and services faster than our competitors.  It is the ability to look at all of these capabilities and to envision new business models, products and services never before possible without real-time capabilities that will determine the market winners.

It is our "information logistics" systems that enable us to digitally transform and be competitive.  It enables us to market to customers with precision.  It enables us to provide better SLAs (service level agreements) because of better visibility into remote operations and delivery capabilities.  It enables us to manage our cash better, because we can manufacturer in a "just-in-time" paradigm based upon real-time visibility into demand and orders.

Yes enterprise mobility is a crucial element in all of this.  It supports the "information logistics" system required to remain competitive in a world undergoing digital transformation, but let's not become mesmerized by enterprise mobility.  It is not the end goal. It is simply an enabler on the journey through digital transformation.

**Have you read the new Mobile Solution Directory here - http://mobilesolutiondirectory.blogspot.com/?

Read more on the Future of Work here - www.unevenlydistributed.com.

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Kevin Benedict, Head Analyst for Social, Mobile, Analytics and Cloud (SMAC) Cognizant
View Linkedin Profile
Learn about mobile strategies at MobileEnterpriseStrategies.com
Follow me on Twitter @krbenedict
Join the Linkedin Group Strategic Enterprise Mobility

***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.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

The Race for Sensors to Supply Big Data and Enterprise Mobility

Today's competitive marketplace requires companies to collect more data, analyze more data and utilize more data to improve customer interactions and engagements.  Mobile devices are exceptionally designed to assist in this effort.  Apple's iPhone comes with an inventory of sensors:
  • Touch
  • Voice
  • GPS
  • Proximity
  • Ambient Light
  • Accelerometer
  • Magnetometer
  • Gyroscopic
I listened to an IT expert in the CIA give a presentation on how they could use the sensors on a typical smartphones to uniquely identify the walking style and pace of individuals.  For example, the intelligence agency may suspect a person carrying a phone is a bad guy.  They can remotely switch on the smartphone's sensors and record the walking style and pace of the person carrying the phone and match it with their database records.  SCARY ISN'T IT!?

Those are just a few of the sensors available that integrate the physical world with the digital.  Read this article I wrote to learn more about the incredible capabilities of sensors.

Mobile apps can also be considered the API (application programming interface) between humans and smartphones.  For example, a mobile application for recommending local restaurants may start by asking the user what kind of food they prefer.  The human queries their stomach, and then inputs the results into their mobile app by touching the keypad or using their voice.  Suddenly a server in an Amazon data center knows your stomach's inputs!  That is one powerful sensor and API!  Given the vast array of sensors in the human body incredible things can be done once those sensor inputs are digitized.

Although there are many powerful sensors in the human body the API is still the human's touch, typing or voice.  The emergence of wearable sensors and smart devices are a way to try to automate the process of data collection so humans are not required to take time and effort to input the data.

Sensors are also connected to the non-physical.  Sensors can connect with time.  Once time reaches a specified place, a digital alarm can go off striking your physical ear with sound waves.  That is making the non-physical inputs, physical.

The challenge for businesses today is to envision how all of these sensors and available real-time data can be used to improve customer service, product design, marketplace interactions and engagements so there are more profits at the end of the day.  

In the book Digital Disruptions, James McQuivey writes that for most of history, disruptions (business and marketplace transformations) occurred in a physical world of factories and well-trod distribution networks.  However, the disruptions of tomorrow are likely coming from digital disruptions - sensors, code halos, big data and mobile devices and wearables.

The task and challenge of every IT department is to understand and design a strategy that recognizes that the competitive playing fields of tomorrow are among the digits.

***Have you seen the new Mobile Solution Directory here http://mobilesolutiondirectory.blogspot.com/?

*************************************************************
Kevin Benedict, Head Analyst for Social, Mobile, Analytics and Cloud (SMAC) Cognizant
View Linkedin Profile
Learn about mobile strategies at MobileEnterpriseStrategies.com
Follow me on Twitter @krbenedict
Join the Linkedin Group Strategic Enterprise Mobility

***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.

Strategic Enough to Matter, Code Halos and Mobile Apps

Gartner IT Budget Forecast
If a massive herd of elephants were charging at you from 20 meters away, would taking a small step forwards or backwards improve your safety? NO!  In many situations it seems that is how companies are approaching mobile strategies.  They are staring massive marketplace transformation in the face, but responding by just starting a few mobile app POCs (proof of concepts).

In James McQuivey's book titled, Digital Disruption:Unleashing the Next Wave of Innovation, he states that competition in business is rapidly moving to a focus on knowledge of and engagement with customers.  Companies are developing an understanding of "code halos" (their customers' digital footprint or history of activities on the web, at a location and in various database systems) and they must now use this data to better engage with customers through their customers' "engagement format of choice" which is increasingly on a mobile device.

Finding, integrating and using a person's "code halo" represents a lot of work for an IT organization.  It takes strategy, budgets, resources and planning. It takes more than a small step as suggested in my earlier anecdote.   This is the kind of thing the CMO (Chief Marketing Officer) needs to be taking up with the CEO and CIO.

In the latest technology budget forecasts I have seen from Gartner (see chart above), more of the technology budget is being shifted to the business and/or marketing department, while the IT budget remains relatively flat.  I believe this suggests many companies "get it."  They understand their ability to stay competitive in the face of Amazon, Apple, Google and eBay, etc.,  just to name a few of today's digital disruptors, depends on their ability to effectively collect, analyze and utilize "code halos" and engage with their customers and markets on a mobile device.

When it comes to enterprise mobility and mobile apps - Get strategic and get competitive before it is too late!!!

***Have you seen the NEW mobile solution directory here http://mobilesolutiondirectory.blogspot.com/?

*************************************************************
Kevin Benedict, Head Analyst for Social, Mobile, Analytics and Cloud (SMAC) Cognizant
View Linkedin Profile
Learn about mobile strategies at MobileEnterpriseStrategies.com
Follow me on Twitter @krbenedict
Join the Linkedin Group Strategic Enterprise Mobility

***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.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Enterprise Mobility and the Gift of Time

McCall, Idaho - Winter Wonderland
I was standing next to a grizzled old man (definition: anyone older than me that can grow a beard), at the coffee shop today.  He said he had been standing in lines all day.  I said, "Makes you appreciate smartphones, doesn't it?"  He agreed and added they save me so much time!

That comment is a perfect example of "blogger's inspiration!"  I said, "What do you mean by - "It saves you so much time?"  He said his work is closely tied to the weather.  He runs snow removal services in beautiful McCall, Idaho.  As a result, he must carefully monitor the weather including wind direction, precipitation forecasts and the beginnings and endings of storms.  He can now do all of this precisely from his smartphone.  He said he is absolutely more productive.

He went on to say, "I want to start working at the tail-end of a storm to maximize my productivity and customer services."  If he starts work too early his work will be covered by snow and he will have too remove it again, adding expense and delaying his work for other customers.  If he starts too late, he will have dissatisfied customers."  He uses his smartphone constantly in the winter to maximize his productivity.

Enterprise mobility solutions can provide all kinds of "gifts of time" to employers and employees.   From simple collaboration with colleagues, prospects and customers using your smartphone for voice, SMS, Skype or Google+ instead of traveling to a face-to-face, navigating quickly and accurately to a destination or to collect data in the field that is integrated with back-office systems.  There are all kinds of ways time can be saved by utilizing mobile technologies.

In recent decades productivity gains in manufacturing have been driven through better processes and process automations, automated data collections, advances in SCM (supply chain management), logistics and ERPs.  Today, there are even more productivity gains to be had in each of these areas by using mobile technologies to improve real-time visibility into events, processes, statuses, locations, resources and snow fall!

Have you reviewed my new Mobile Solution Directory at http://mobilesolutiondirectory.blogspot.com/?

*************************************************************
Kevin Benedict, Head Analyst for Social, Mobile, Analytics and Cloud (SMAC) Cognizant
View Linkedin Profile
Learn about mobile strategies at MobileEnterpriseStrategies.com
Follow me on Twitter @krbenedict
Join the Linkedin Group Strategic Enterprise Mobility

***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.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Mobile Expert Video Interviews: Regev Yativ

I had the privilege of interviewing Regev Yativ, the CEO/President in the Americas of Magic Software this week.  Magic Software is over 30 years old, which gives them a unique and interesting perspective on enterprise mobility and what makes a good solution and mobile strategy.  Enjoy!

Video Link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-uAWK2RlZPQ&feature=share



*************************************************************
Kevin Benedict, Head Analyst for Social, Mobile, Analytics and Cloud (SMAC) Cognizant
View Linkedin Profile
Learn about mobile strategies at MobileEnterpriseStrategies.com
Follow me on Twitter @krbenedict
Join the Linkedin Group Strategic Enterprise Mobility

***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.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Satellites, GPS Tracking, Artificial Intelligence and Mobile Technologies

My good friend J.D. Axford, a civil engineer and hero of all ducks for his wetlands work, sent me a very interesting (if you are into GPS tracking, GIS, mobile technology, artificial intelligence, accelerometers, etc.) article he wrote on how the physical is meeting the digital in the world of construction and engineering today.  I am including it here for your pleasure and education.

Compaction, in heavy construction, is the application of energy to soil, crushed rock, or asphalt to increase density by driving out air, which enables the finished, compacted material to support buildings, roadways, and other structures. Compaction is specified as a percentage of the maximum dry density determined in the lab.

During construction, compaction is most often measured using a nuclear densitometer. Other reliable methods include the use of sand cone (ASTM D-1556) and rubber balloon (ASTM D-2167) methodologies; less formal tests used in the field include soil probes (a pointed steel rod pushed into the ground to gage penetration resistance and therefore estimate compaction), proof-rolling with loaded dump trucks while observing deflection, and even boot-heels. These all are necessarily spot-checks; consistency is sought by controlling the compaction process.  This requires the roller operator’s ability to track speed and passes over each section while estimating compaction, leading to both over- and under-compaction. Near-constant inspection is usually needed, and even so, compaction is a frequent source of job site disagreement.


Intelligent compaction (IC) is a system growing in use which combines on-board GPS, computers, and axle-mounted accelerometers to provide continuously-controlled compaction. The accelerometers measure stiffness, and indirect measurement of density, and feed that information to the computer, which uses GPS to produce a color-coded map of the working area; the colors are used to provide an intuitive depiction of areas already meeting specifications, and those needing more compaction. For asphalt work, IC systems (there are approximately eight US equipment vendors developing and selling IC), infrared sensors measure (and the computer maps) the asphalt temperature, a critical data set in ensuring timely compaction as the material cools.

As is normal, a test zone is compacted at the start of the overall compaction effort to determine the number of passes and speed the material requires to meet specifications. That information is entered into the on-board IC system as the baseline against which future work areas are compared and mapped. This eliminates guesswork, eliminates overwork, and improves the homogeneity of the finished product, saving money for the contractor and improving the service life of the compacted product.

Intelligent compaction, requires mobile technologies, GPS tracking and artificial intelligence to calculate all kinds of accelerometer and speed data, location and project requirements.  This is another example of how the physical is meeting the digital and improving processes.  You can learn more about how artificial intelligence is being integrated into field services by ClickSoftware here.

*************************************************************
Kevin Benedict, Head Analyst for Social, Mobile, Analytics and Cloud (SMAC) Cognizant
View Linkedin Profile
Learn about mobile strategies at MobileEnterpriseStrategies.com
Follow me on Twitter @krbenedict
Join the Linkedin Group Strategic Enterprise Mobility

***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.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Using Artificial Intelligence in Health Services Requires Real-Time Enterprise Mobility

I am intrigued by the increasing use of artificial intelligence in areas like field services management and home healthcare services.  I read a use case (http://www.clicksoftware.com/Collateral/Documents/English-US/KinCare-Case-Study.pdf) this morning about KinCare and ClickSoftware in Australia.  KinCare provides all kinds of home and healthcare services across a wide geography in Australia.  They are one of the largest providers of in-home care and assistance in Australia and they get paid by providing documented services compliant with government regulations.  There are designated fees for each service and there are little to no margins for errors. It is very easy to screw up and to lose a lot of money in this kind of operation.

Let me provide an example of KinCare's services:
  • Nursing care
  • Personal care
  • Domestic assistance
  • Social support
  • Respite care
  • Transportation
  • Case management
Some of their clients need all of these services.  These services are often provided by different people at different times.  Let's image tens of thousands of clients, care givers and service providers located all across Australia.  All of these participants and their appointments must be scheduled and coordinated.  Does that sound like a big enough challenge for you Mate?

The only way to run this kind of operation efficiently is to make sure the care givers and service providers are connected (via mobile devices) to an intelligent software system (using artificial intelligence and context aware systems) to understand how to most efficiently provide and schedule hundreds of thousands of services.  In addition, must also make sure each care and service provider is qualified, available and in close proximity.  Also it is important to note that these services are critical to a persons health and welfare.

The mobile devices are used as mobile data collection devices, sensors (GPS) and reporting systems in the service delivery process. Mobile devices feed real-time data to the real-time analytics and artificial intelligence systems that schedule all parties across the country.  Since all of these participants are mobile, it takes very careful and fast analytics to ensure all parties can meet in the right places, deliver and receive services efficiently, document services and invoice for those services.

Smartphones and tablets, broadband internet connectivity and ultra-fast artificial intelligence capabilities integrated with human resource, talent management, scheduling, case management, patient and service management, billing and dispatch systems are all required to make this work.  Wow!  Speed and artificial intelligence systems are revolutionizing these kinds of operations today.

When I am out teaching mobile and SMAC strategies to large companies the topics of speed, context aware and artificial intelligence comes up every time.  These are the game changers today.



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Kevin Benedict, Head Analyst for Social, Mobile, Analytics and Cloud (SMAC) Cognizant
View Linkedin Profile
Learn about mobile strategies at MobileEnterpriseStrategies.com
Follow me on Twitter @krbenedict
Join the Linkedin Group Strategic Enterprise Mobility

***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.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Mobile Expert Video Series: Romeo Elias

I had the privilege of interviewing mobility and BPM expert and the CEO/President of Interneer, Romeo Elias on their company's products and strategies for providing a cloud based enterprise mobility solution.  Enjoy!

Video Link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cwygz5F80nI&feature=share&list=UUGizQCw2Zbs3eTLwp7icoqw


*************************************************************
Kevin Benedict, Head Analyst for Social, Mobile, Analytics and Cloud (SMAC) Cognizant
View Linkedin Profile
Learn about mobile strategies at MobileEnterpriseStrategies.com
Follow me on Twitter @krbenedict
Join the Linkedin Group Strategic Enterprise Mobility

***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.

Digital Millennials and The Real Reason Employees Want BYOD

"Thanks to the merger of globalization and the I.T. revolution that has unfolded over the last two decades - which is rapidly and radically transforming how knowledge and information are generated, disseminated and collaborated on to create value - the high-wage medium-skilled job is over."
~ Stephanie Sanford, Chief of Global Policy and Advocacy for the College Board.

The middle-class jobs of the past, the jobs you and I could start with and retire from, are mostly gone today.  It is much harder for millennials to find jobs that require simply hard-work, responsibility and dedication.  In today's world, in order for a millennial to live a traditional middle-class lifestyle that supports home ownership, cars, a college education and a family, it takes a different mindset and inventory of skills.  A set of skills our education system has yet to fully understand and embrace.  These are the skills of a digital millennial (DM).

DMs depend less on company issued laptops, smartphones and tablets, as they prefer to bring their own personal devices (BYOD) and tools that can accompany them from job to job and employer to employer.  DMs depend less on companies for  software applications and seek cloud-based applications and services that are tied to them personally, not just their current employer.  DMs seek recognition for their work beyond the four walls of their employer.  They want their contacts and followers (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+) to be on their own personal networks, not just their current employers'.  They want their accumulated work history, reputation, skill sets and competencies to be in the public domain, not buried inside the file cabinet of a past boss.

I propose that DMs will also favor and advocate for investments, retirement and health insurance plans that are abstracted from employers, and attached to them personally.  These plans will follow them throughout their careers with no dependency on a particular employer.


To quote from Thomas L. Friedman, "The globalization/IT revolution is super empowering individuals, enabling them to challenge hierarchies’ and traditional authority figures from business to science to government." As businesses increasingly take advantage of technologies that reduce their dependence on and loyalty to the middle-class as a workforce,  the aware DMs or "super-empowered middle-class" will recognize their need to view employment as a transient state, rather than a semi-permanent state and will adjust their habits and practices to meet these emerging realities.

Let me quote from McKinsey Global Institute's James Manyika,  "How we think about 'employment' needs to expand to include a broader set of possibilities for generating income compared with the traditional job.  To be in the middle-class, you may need to consider not only high-skilled jobs, but also nontraditional forms of work.  Work itself may have to be thought of as a "form of entrepreneurship" where you draw on all kinds of assets and skills to generate income."

DMs of the future may find their dreams for a middle-class lifestyle can only be accomplished by engaging in multiple income generating activities.  They may rent out a room in their home through AirBnB, rent their car out through Lyft, sell products via eBay and contract their time and skills out through online contractors marketplaces.


DMs may view traditional home ownership as more of a liability than a benefit as their income sources and locations are less predictable.  They may seek stability in digital assets rather than physical.  We see this modeled when physical photos were replaced by digital photos, and as one's life-narrative migrated from a neighborhood and employer to Facebook and LinkedIn timelines.

DMs will find it hard to maintain a long career with one company or a dedication to just one area of expertise.  They will find it hard to cruise into retirement.  They need to adopt a new lifestyle that recognizes and values agility, persistent learning, networks and the survival skills and tools necessary in this new world.  In today's world, those tools look a lot like cloud-based services and marketplaces, social networking platforms and mobile apps running on personal smartphones and tablets.

For more information on the future of work and similar trends visit, www.unevenlydistributed.com.

*************************************************************
Kevin Benedict, Head Analyst for Social, Mobile, Analytics and Cloud (SMAC) Cognizant
View Linkedin Profile
Learn about mobile strategies at MobileEnterpriseStrategies.com
Follow me on Twitter @krbenedict
Join the Linkedin Group Strategic Enterprise Mobility

***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.

Thursday, November 07, 2013

Supporting GIS and Mapping Solutions on Muddy Tablets

J.D. Axford, P.E. CESCL
I want to introduce you to a long time friend of mine J.D. Axford.  He is a civil engineer with all kinds of acronyms after his name (P.E., CESCL, etc.), who has worked for most of his career in the Northwest of the USA in and around water and mud.  He is a hero among the duck population for his many years working with wetlands.  He is you may say, an expert in outdoor field data collection.

I can remember a time about 25 years ago when J.D. and myself were perched above a waterfall along the East Fork of the Lewis river in Washington state measuring water flow and collecting data together.  It was, in fact, cold and muddy work.

He shared with me recently the list of things he typically carries in his service backpack to collect data:
  • bubble levels
  • incline-ometers
  • rangefinders
  • GPS accurate enough to serve as an inspection-level pre-survey grade checker
  • wet papers
  • job reports
  • field notes
  • redline drawings
  • change orders
He is a big fan of finding ways of reducing the items in his backpack by utilizing mobile apps.  In this article J.D. shares his insights on data, data collection, mobile devices, GIS and how they are all used in utilities work.

Collecting data is a big job.  Utilities both generate and demand tremendous amounts of data. They are designed and operated with the use of a lot of geospatial and asset data.  Maintenance and repair work generates data, which is of particular importance in predicting future staffing needs, maintenance costs, and for the management of risks. In the distribution side (in electrical utilities) data is generated that is used to predict economics parameters, consumer demand, and other trends essential to profitability.

A lot of data is also generated by field crews which come from tasks related to vegetation control, drainage and other similar items. This work and the data generated are of increasing importance as infrastructure ages and budgets tighten. The information must be captured accurately by field staff and uploaded to geospatial databases and document management systems and then be made available to all the stakeholders.

All of this data collection, especially the outdoor data collection, benefits from mobile devices. Think about the environment. Maintaining a utility grid requires working remotely, often in multiple locations per day and on a variety of different projects and issues.  A lot of data is collected in rugged, cold, damp and muddy locations.  In these environments, tablets are very useful as they are light-weight and offer the simultaneous ability to capture, store, query and process data.  Tablets can significantly reduce the time and effort needed to manage data if you can keep them from being damaged.

As important as tablets have become to many engineers and utilities, they still have limitations as memory is limited, the service environment can be harsh and connectivity lost. There is also the challenge related to different tablets using different operating systems.  Some GIS and mapping applications only support one operating system. Many of these limitations, however, can be solved by the right software.  Vendors like We-Do-IT of Australia have developed tablet-based GIS software solutions made to operate online and offline, on a wide variety of tablets and operating systems while integrating with most GIS and ERP systems.

*************************************************************
Kevin Benedict, Head Analyst for Social, Mobile, Analytics and Cloud (SMAC) Cognizant
View Linkedin Profile
Learn about mobile strategies at MobileEnterpriseStrategies.com
Follow me on Twitter @krbenedict
Join the Linkedin Group Strategic Enterprise Mobility

***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.

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Selling and Buying Enterprise Mobility

One of my first jobs after I graduated from Portland State University was to work at Dale Carnegie and Associates.  I helped sell and teach all kinds of professional development classes on public speaking, management and sales.  I still remember one of the rules we taught in the Human Relations Approach to Sales class, "Customers don't want to buy your product or service, they want the results of your product or service."  I believe that rule applies equally well today to enterprise mobility platforms, mobile security and development tools.

What do you think are the results of enterprise mobility platforms that customers want to buy?  I will start the list and you can finish it:
  • Increased speed or tempo of operations to gain a competitive advantage
  • Efficient data collection so better and faster business decisions can be made
  • Quicker reporting of events and KPIs to a wider audience to provide full situational awareness and promote good decision making and issue resolution
  • Improved workforce productivity due to real-time data collection, artificial intelligence and reporting
  • Reduced expenses and waste due to inefficient resource allocation
  • Improved visibility to remote operations and projects so better data driven decisions can be made
  • More collaboration, faster and with more remote workers contributing to good decision making
  • Higher profits due to efficiency gains
  • etc.
It is useful to understand that if these results could be achieved without purchasing mobile platforms and tools they would be.  No one wants to purchase, develop, test, maintain and support these mobile solutions.   They are a lot of work and distract from your core business.  The reality is though in today's world, mobile platforms, mobile app development tools, app stores and mobile security solutions are a necessity.

Any discussion with a mobility platform and tool vendor should, at a minimum, start with identifying the business results your company wants.  Any feature or function the mobility vendor shares and demonstrates should be tied back to a business result on your list.  Don't let a mobility vendor discuss features that aren't tied back to a business result.  Although painful for the mobility vendor's sales team, holding the vendor to this exercise makes the presentation far more entertaining and valuable for you!

Last week I wrote an article titled Enterprise Mobility, Business Executives and Mobility Vendors.  In that article I reported that more CIOs and CEOs are getting involved in decisions about enterprise mobility.  Why?  I believe executives are seeing enterprise mobility as a catalyst for digital transformation.  It is one step, although a very important step, to transforming their companies to meet the demands of a digital market place.  A market place where the competitive differentiators are digital competencies.

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Kevin Benedict, Head Analyst for Social, Mobile, Analytics and Cloud (SMAC) Cognizant
View Linkedin Profile
Learn about mobile strategies at MobileEnterpriseStrategies.com
Follow me on Twitter @krbenedict
Join the Linkedin Group Strategic Enterprise Mobility

***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.

Sunday, November 03, 2013

Mobile Strategies, Cloud Computing and the Role of Speed and Agility

If I can develop and pursue my plan to defeat you faster than you can execute your plan to defeat me, then your plan is unimportant. ~ The Art of Maneuver by Robert Leonhard

In our world of near ubiquitous connectivity, the competitive arena in many industries has moved from the physical to the digital, and from the tempo-of-old to the tempo-of-the-new.  The word tempo means the rate or pace of activity (aka, business operations).  Any IT decision made today should consider how different options and choices will impact today's and the future's tempo of operations.  Can and will the solution you choose support tomorrow's required tempo of business?

In many countries in Latin America new and emerging e-invoicing requirements have been passed by national tax authorities.  In some countries today, the seller of a product needs to electronically record a sale/invoice (in real-time) with the tax authority before a product can be delivered.  The tax authority issues a real-time unique transaction code to be attached to the invoice number.  Once the product is delivered, the buyer electronically acknowledges receipt (in real-time) with the national tax authority, and the process is closed and documented with the tax authority.  If a product is found to be sold and delivered outside of this real-time electronic reporting system, stiff penalties will be applied.

These e-invoicing systems are designed to document and make visible transactions in real-time for tax collection purposes.  This process requires an entirely new and faster tempo than most companies are currently prepared to support.  This is but one example of how the tempo of business is being impacted by digital transformations.

Today, companies are looking seriously at cloud computing solutions and SaaS (software-as-a-service) options in increasing numbers for the purpose of improving the operational tempo of their IT environment.    If you instigate a global five-year ERP implementation plan today, your business will likely be unrecognizable by the time the implementation is completed.  This means your ERP implementation will likely be misaligned with the new and different demands of your market and industry.

Every aspect of your IT environment must be evaluated today in the context of tempo.  What tempo will each solution and integration methodology support?  Will my enterprise mobile strategy support the tempo of change and evolution of the devices, networks and apps my target customers want?  Can I keep pace with the demands of my market?

It is critical that enterprises today evaluate themselves in a brutally honest manner and identify weaknesses that drag down operational tempo.  These limitations will have an increasingly negative impact on bottom lines as the operation tempo of your market and competition increases.


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Kevin Benedict, Head Analyst for Social, Mobile, Analytics and Cloud (SMAC) Cognizant
View Linkedin Profile
Learn about mobile strategies at MobileEnterpriseStrategies.com
Follow me on Twitter @krbenedict
Join the Linkedin Group Strategic Enterprise Mobility

***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.

Friday, November 01, 2013

Where the Physical Meets the Digital in Field Services and Asset Management

I am fascinated by the notion of the physical world converging with the digital world and the benefits that become possible as a result.  Not in the context of a humanoid weeding my garden, although that would be nice, but in the context of making better business management decisions based on more efficient data collection and reporting.  The term digital transformation is often used to describe this convergence.

Think of growing the best possible garden full of award winning fruits and vegetables.  The garden may consist of some physical things like dirt, seeds, containers, plants and tools, but the key to success is the information about the garden.  The information about the soil, types of plants or seeds, appropriate time to plant and harvest, weeding and watering schedules, the best fertilizers to use based upon the soil conditions etc.  This information can be collected and input into a software application as digital information.  Once digital, software applications can analyze this information and create schedules and plans on how to optimize the production of the garden.  Business operations are much the same.  The more data that can be collected and analyzed on location, physical assets and facilities, environmental conditions, tasks, status, etc, the better planning and optimization can be done by software applications utilizing artificial intelligence.
Integrating Geospatial with ERPs

Let's consider utilities and other geographically dispersed operations.  Effective data collection, management, analysis, and reporting of data is critical.  They own and management data-driven systems of pipes and wires, poles, valves, substations and switches all associated with data such as location, service history, asset details, maintenance records, applicable product warranties and history.

Utilities must know a massive amount of geospatial information about their assets and the environment around them.  Think about an underground gas line.  The utility needs to know the exact location of it, creeks, rivers, roads, property owners and property lines, access routes, location relative to other construction sites, environmental impact studies and issues, minor and major transportation lines crossed, just to mention a few data points.  In addition, a lot of information is dynamic like new construction sites, road building, digging, erosion, etc.  Not only must the utility collect and store static information like asset details, but dynamic data about activities and tasks around it.  Wow!  You can quickly see that efficient information  collection is critical.

Efficiently operating a utility grid is mostly about implementing an efficient logistics of information system connecting field data collection and management and planning solutions in the office.  If you are a sub-contractor for services, it is also the way you get paid.

Today many are considering the use of tablets for collecting and querying required field data.  The problem is tablets still have painful limitations. First, while tablets have the computing power of laptops, their memory remains limited, which impacts their capabilities when working with large geospatial databases unless you purchase specialized geospatial software purpose-built for tablets.  Secondly, connectivity in the field is often intermittent, while geospatial data access needs are constant.  This necessitates a robust offline mobile app and data storage capability often missing from tablets.  And finally, there are multiple tablet operating systems available, which often dictate the type of applications, databases and geospatial applications that can be used by your workforce.

If your organization is considering the use of tablets in the field look for applications that can support multiple tablet operating systems, offline data editing and data collection and integration with all of your required ERPs and geospatial enterprise applications and databases.

Now let's get back to the notion of the physical meeting the digital.  In a utility, the digital information (code halos) related to a physical asset and the tasks around it are the keys to planning, scheduling and maintaining it for optimized productivity.  That means efficient data collection is critical to digitizing your physical environment and gaining the benefits of artificial intelligence built into your planning, scheduling and asset management solutions.

Today efficient data collection can be facilitated through M2M (machine-to-machine) embedded wireless chips integrated with sensors that automatically report on conditions and statuses of equipment, assets and facilities, and by field workers using smartphones, rugged laptops or tablets.

How efficient is your data collection system?  Are there gaps that are preventing you from fully digitizing your physical operational area and leaving you with geographical and operational blind spots?

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Kevin Benedict, Head Analyst for Social, Mobile, Analytics and Cloud (SMAC) Cognizant
View Linkedin Profile
Learn about mobile strategies at MobileEnterpriseStrategies.com
Follow me on Twitter @krbenedict
Join the Linkedin Group Strategic Enterprise Mobility

***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.