Mobile Enterprise Executive Summit: Day Two

— November 08, 2010

The ninth annual Mobile Enterprise Executive Summit has come to a successful close. Day two featured the Mobilizer Awards ceremony, an opening keynote focused on Coca-Cola's wireless strategy, lively breakout sessions on mobile security and mobility management, and a closing keynote from the U.S. Air Force's Mobilizer-award-winning automated data capture supply-chain solution.
 
Representatives from diverse industries and business sectors were on hand to accept their Mobilizer Awards for outstanding mobile and wireless deployments. The winners include The U.S. Air Force, Dr Pepper Snapple Group, RIDGID (a division of Emerson), Hertford Regional College, and MasTec North America. Read all about their stories and the honorable mentions here.
 
In the day two opening keynote, Javier Polit, CIO of Coca-Cola's Bottling Investments Group, discussed the challenges of managing more than 19,000 handheld devices and tracking thousands of assets across the globe. His corporation's strategy was to standardize field transaction devices and applications in order to standardize processes. Polit's team found that mobile devices had to be selected based on which handheld worked best in a given location, as performance varied significantly across geographic locations. Workforces in certain countries have initially resisted being "monitored" via their enterprise handheld devices, but Polit says that once the business benefits are explained, most distributors are willing to comply.
 
In addition, the Bottling Investments Group needed to monitor its myriad assets, especially its coolers, which display Coca-Cola products in retail outlets. The solution was RFID asset tracking, backed up by GPS coordinates and verified by physical inspections.
 
The security workshop, led by Sean Poccia of CoMag Marketing Group, produced a variety of theories about how devices and data should be--or not be--locked down. Some participants supported security at the network layer, arguing that thin clients don't offer additional protection. That kind of security environment would encourage personal use of enterprise-issued devices, though other participants asserted that in government-enterprise scenarios, taxpayers would be disgruntled to know they were paying for someone else's personal phone use.
 
In his mobility management session, Chris Hazelton, research director of mobile and wireless at The 451 Group, noted that the introduction of mobile devices in the enterprise has resulted in fewer sick days taken by employees who have the tools in place to work remotely. Mobile device management (MDM) vendors are beginning to build software solutions that incorporate tools for managing individual liable devices as consumerization continues to revolutionize how enterprises approach device ownership. What's more, although many MDM vendors advertise a slew of features in their products, IT managers should note that these capabilities vary depending on the type of devices are being managed.
 
Workshop participants sparked a lively debate about the pros and cons of individual liable devices in the enterprise. One attendee, whose company allows only corporate liable devices, noted that within a month of the BlackBerry Torch coming to market, a significant number of the company's managers BlackBerrys "broke"; in essence, they wanted the newest, shiniest phone and weren't concerned about the economics of getting one. Along those same lines, another attendee observed that "rugged devices are treated like rugged devices." Employees tend to be less careful with handling a rugged device, and that partly may be due to the fact that the device is corporate-owned.
 
Individual liable devices, even though they can be a headache for IT directors to manage, may benefit businesses in that employees are more willing to take care of something that's truly their own. But another attendee wondered about lost productivity while an employee replaced a lost, stolen, or broken individual liable device.
 
In his closing keynote, Mark Reboulet of the U.S. Air Force spoke about the challenges of achieving automated data capture (ADC) in his military division's vast supply chain. There was no standardization of ADC architecture across various functions, such as distribution, maintenance, warehousing, etc. As such, the Air Force was constantly solving the same problem many times in many ways, and an astounding 60% to 80% of data collected was not actionable.
 
Reboulet discussed thinking about supply chain in terms of events and not transactions and thereby enabling the employees involved in the supply chain to do more with supply chain information. For example, the Air Force's fleet of planes have been "designed down," in that most aircraft are not flyable at any given time--which means the planes are very dependent on the supply chain and getting the right parts to the right planes, often with little time to spare before the craft is called up for a flying mission. So if the supply chain event indicates that the airplane part that a mechanic needs to finish repairing or assembling a jet is located three miles away, tools can be built into the system to either start the process of getting the part to the mechanic or the mechanic to the part, saving time and increasing productivity.
 
To be sure, the world of wireless and mobile technology in the enterprise can be complex and difficult to navigate. But as was demonstrated throughout the summit, there are multiple benefits to deploying wireless solutions and revisiting and revising mobility policies--and there are solutions for enterprises small and large.

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