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Leveraging Enterprise Mobility: Soumen Mukerji, Associate Director, Consulting, PwC
The world of communication has changed beyond recognition in the last few years.
In the first 100 years since the discovery of telephony, the progress has been in measured paces. It took more than a century for the discovery of mobile phones and ever since then, the pace of change has been exponential.
In the last 5 years in particular, this progression has taken the shape of a hockey stick and is now being widely touted as the consumerisation of communication. Tablets and smart phones have made it possible to believe that staying in touch can be real time, interactive and enjoyable. If history is to be looked upon as a guide for the future – the world ahead of us is on the cusp of an unforeseen metamorphosis of the way we communicate and exchange thoughts and information. Analysts believe that this massive change will be driven to a large extent by the ecosystem of mobility leveraging the ongoing cultural revolution of online collaboration and social networking.
In a recent global CEO survey by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), corporate leaders were asked to respond to a few questions regarding the likely focus on IT investments and their end objectives. The results of the survey showed that an overwhelming 70 per cent of the CEOs believed that the IT investments are meant to enable operational efficiencies and growth and believed that there is an urgent need to embrace emerging technologies such as mobility and data analytics
The case for “Enterprise Mobility (EM)” gets more sound when one considers that global mobile penetration stands at 76 per cent with developing countries such as India and China adding close to 300 mn mobile subscribers every year. The proliferation of platforms and devices and the seemingly unquenchable thirst for new applications is opening up a new horizon of opportunities for the organisations. They are now able to reach out to a larger population with increased agility and reduced costs. But to convert this new found opportunity to a viable business proposition, enterprises need to adopt a new ecosystem of mobility that fosters ease of access, democratisation of information and a sophisticated technology backbone to support the traffic.
The benefits of adopting a robust enterprise mobility strategy are quantifiable and direct. Corporations around the world are waking up to this realisation and adopting and enabling mobility in more ways than one. The table in Figure-2 is an example of a few case studies where a mobile strategy has been implemented with sound benefits in terms of lower costs, higher revenue and increased customer satisfaction.
The enterprise mobility phenomenon is cutting down old barriers and reshaping the rule books. In a world of ubiquitous Blackberries, smart phones and tablets, gone are the days when the leadership had to depend upon a scheduled routine to get its reports and information. Today the demand for information is real time or as near to real time as possible – and more often than not delivered in a hyper personalised format on handheld devices. The forces of globalisation have made incessant business travel a way of life, and consequently the need to be “in the know” while “on the fly” has given birth to a genre of information delivery – “mobile business intelligence (mBI)”
Before understanding the dimensions of mBI, it is worthwhile to understand the genesis of this trend. A recent study by PwC across the C-suite focussed on the exploding expectations of the leadership of the nature of information availability on the mobile devices. Blackberry had revolutionised corporate communication by making emails available in handheld devices – this was the first taste of information on the move for most corporate executives. As the chart in Figure -3 shows, the expectation baseline has now moved northwards and most people expect the world in their oyster through a mobile device.
Benefits of a mobile BI solution – In a recent survey, Gartner identified a few key benefits to the organisations in adopting mBI solution. The pie chart in Figure -4 identifies the most important ones in terms of their priority for a busy corporate executive always on the move. While many of the benefits may seem commonsensical and obvious, it is interesting to see that the access related benefits (easy, pervasive and fast) takes the lions share and is reflective of a sense of much coveted independence from the static information exchange that the classical BI models thrive in.
Some of the collateral benefits of a mBI solution are:
Ability to make real time business decisions by virtue of having information literally at the fingertips and any time - in a recent case study, the CEO of a commodity manufacturing organisation reported a quantum improvement in his ability to realise better price in a commodity market by adopting mBI. His production schedules and inventory positions are now available near real time – and that helped him to plan his schedules better to reap the benefit of commodity price trends in a fairly volatile market. The key features of exceptions and alerts on several business parameters are activated in the mBI solution, thus allowing this CEO to manage his business in a more effective manner.
Increased collaboration between the field force and the Headquarters by frequent and relevant information exchange on targets achievements – the COO of a Beverages company was able to improve the fill rates in the secondary markets and drive a culture of target based daily sales routine by using mBI across its large field force. No longer does a sales representative wait for a report at the weekend to understand his performance – mBI has metamorphosed the performance discipline through daily reports on his smart devices. This is as much a change in culture as in technology adoption. The “push” element in mBI solution that allows the field force to review their performances can also be manifested in a “pull” mechanism that would allow the COO to retrieve business intelligence on the mobile devices. This model supports advanced data visualisation including interactive charts, graphs and maps.
Increased agility to respond to customers – an Insurance company adopted enterprise mobility as a means to empower its field service agents with key decision parameters to help customise Policy sales process. In the past the Agents had to rely upon the back office to get a quote and revert to the customer prospect to sell a policy, often by when they would have made a decision with competition. Using a mobility solution, agents are now able to generate a quote much faster and while still with the client prospects – thus cutting down the sales cycle time and improving the conversions prospects.
Implementation of an effective mBI solution requires focus on a few key parameters, which often evolve as challenges to adoption :
- Identification of information types that will be delivered – and in what frequencies:In the world on mBI, “less is more”. The customers of this facility are likely to be the C suite executives with limited attention span and time in hand. It is important to identify the nuggets of information and analytics that would interest them and avoid sending too much of data. The focus needs to be on capsules of insights and at the desired frequencies, so that decision making can be expedited.Visualisation of information in line with platform and device specifications
- Much of mBI thrives on the art of graphics and design aesthetics. A picture can convey a pattern in much quicker mind span than a statistical table. Effective BI – be it on mobile devices or traditional toolsets, needs to acknowledge the importance of visualisation of data. The perfect graphical representation will depend upon the platform and the device features and most of the operating systems for smartphones now offer BI applications for basic reporting.Choice of technology framework – devices, platforms, firewalls, BI tools, Applications
- The biggest conundrum for the IT organisations is to choose the right eco-system of the product and technology stack from the myriad options available in the market. The decision to make the right selection would depend upon the factors of convenience, economy, integration with the existing IT assets and versatility of the application from the Operating system provider and product development and support roadmap.
- Integration with source systems
- The strength and utility of a BI solution is proven by its ability to provide a cohesive enterprise performance management framework drawing data from multiple source systems. This challenge becomes more acute in a mBI solution where the ask is to provide relevant intelligence in a succinct manner that is decipherable with ease on mobile devices. Many of the device providers have now brought out Mobile apps to address this need. The organisations needs to make a choice between direct integration with the corporate data bases allowing a “pull” - or using a batch file to “push” information to the mobile devices. There are considerations of costs, security and latency in both the options and one needs to weigh the options before making a choice.
- BYOD and interoperability issues
Gartner estimates that by 2013, 38 per cent of the American and 20 per cent of the European employees will work with their own devices. “Bring your own device (BOYD)” is a phenomenon that is catching the world of mobility by storm. The demands from the Gen Y workforce to allow them to use their personal (and very often hyper customised) devices and apps in the workplaces is leading to concerns on security and interoperability with the corporate norms and IT backbone. The enterprise mobility ecosystem needs to overcome this challenge in a cohesive manner through a mix of awareness campaigns, redefined security protocols and potentially driving a uniform standard of application / device architecture. What is inevitable is that the mBI solution needs to cater to the BOYD trend, which essentially would impose a requirement on the BI solution to be capable of being delivered across a range of devices and platforms.
Network dependencies - speed, costs, quality
The basic premise of any mobile solution is the availability of the mobile network and the quality of connectivity. Corporations accustomed to access through LAN environments may often find the speed of download and the latency of wait a tough ask. 3G will definitely ease the problem as much as the downward pressures on roaming charges and other tariff elements. Adoption of mobile BI will be inextricably linked to these elements of network as corporations will piggy back upon the large Telecom investments to unleash the power of mobility in the domain of corporate performance measurement.
The millennial CIOs who are tasked with serving the employees and customers who have grown up in the first decade of the new millennium have to not only think outside the box – but in some cases burn the blasted box itself! Mobility of business intelligence is a classic case study where the IT organisations are being tested on their home turf. The modern age knowledge workers demand and deserve the power of mobility in their workspace. The modern age CXOs have realised the power of mobility for enterprise performance management and are impatient to get more information – quicker, easier and lighter. The organisations that adopt mBI have seen quantum benefits being realised. The onus is now upon the IT community to bring down the barriers of adoption and device simple, common and global standards to embrace this new normal.
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