As mobility becomes part of our main stream life, IT challenges escalate for every company. Questions about release management, security, device deployment, connectivity and application enhancements haunt every IT manager. As a result, customers can become confused when selecting the most appropriate software strategies that will provide the required functionality without breaking the bank.
Firstly, let’s step back and examine software in comparison to hardware. Software development may be the most complicated undertaking a company could ever embark on. Many CIOs have lost their positions because they chose the wrong product or embarked on a project that exceed the planned budget by 300+ percent.
Software is unlike building a home, a bridge or a car – there is no guarantee it will ever work and yet companies around the world run their businesses on software. So, how do these companies do it? Many have large, expensive IT shops, many outsource and many buy-in products and customize for their own specific needs. Now, life is becoming more complex as companies try to integrate mobility software with existing back-end business systems.
Questions such as how can we integrate multiple device types into our legacy systems?
How do we improve efficiency by enabling single devices to interact with multiple applications and how can we provision (remotely) a single device for multiple users are all common themes for companies racing to maintain a competitive edge.
Before we start discussing the future and potential options, let’s just reflect on the projections made by industry analysts. By 2015, shipments of Mobile Broadband devices will exceed 350 million/year. Tablet shipments will increase 239 percent in the next 12 months and 4G will drive the use of mobile devices to 100 million subscribers.
We cannot be sure how accurate these predictions are but what we can be sure of is that mobility is exploding. We will be accessing more data, more often and much faster. As customers, you need to think how you are going to improve your efficiencies and maximize your investments. As the market explodes, so do your options. One must take into account that those companies with the largest marketing budgets are often not the best solutions and normally overpriced. So, start doing your own research now and walk yourself through a process of requirement gathering and determine potential options to consider.
Streamlining your Mobility Infrastructure
Companies have been successfully using mobile solutions for many years for processes such as DSD, Field Service, Asset Management, CRM and or workflow but few have developed a mobility strategy that will encompass existing and future processes.
So, what is a mobile strategy and why do we need one?
As our businesses grow and we continue to work around the clock, the need for mobile solutions will continue to increase. In the past we could survive with point solutions to solve a business need, but there are only so many point solutions we can implement and maintain without causing an infrastructure nightmare.
Those companies that want to continue to evolve must adopt a mobility strategy which consists of a single point of control to manage all mobile networks. Imagine for a moment that your company is running BlackBerry’s for your sales force, iPhone’s for your execs, iPad for your engineers, Robust devices in your warehouse and field.
The company performance experiences a dip in revenue and your CEO decides that he wants to have the ability to access revenue, sales inventory, costs and customer information from his mobile device. Where do you start if you have multiple point solutions? How do you enable access to the various systems remotely? How do you explain that he cannot have a single sign-on and Business Intelligence is not possible in your company?
Now, think of a customer who has the forward thinking to predict the uptake in mobile applications. He has watched the growth and adoption and experienced real business process improvements that mobile solutions can bring. His plan requires a mobile enterprise application platform where he can plug in each mobile business process, manage and maintain from one single point of control. By using a single mobile platform, he has control, he knows where his data resides and he can enhance, change and modify all mobile applications from one single point.
This is now a reality. Mobility platforms are now available from multiple vendors but some are better than others and some far more expensive than others. Customers should not only seek information from consultants but should be pro-active and talk with other IT professionals that have actually purchased and deployed mobile application platforms. The good news is that there are companies running CRM, SRM, Plant maintenance, warehousing and workflow on a daily basis across multiple mobile devices types and all working effectively, but it took the vision and planning of a team of savvy mobile experts to design and deploy the solutions.
Choosing the right Solution Strategy
Analysts and consultants agree that a single mobile platform to manage all mobile transactions is the way to go, but in reality difficult discussions are still ahead. Which platform, which vendor and how long will it take to deploy are serious questions most companies are wrestling with.
The objective of moving to a single platform is to improve efficiencies and one would think that mobility would become easier to manage, but if the wrong platform is selected, you may find yourself facing a $500,000+ software license bill with a larger bill for professional services. You may also face other challenges with enhancements, redesign of the mobile apps, upgrades and flexibility of configuration. So, although the strategic direction is correct, the costs involved really need to be justified and understood. You can assume that the mobile space will continue to evolve and the number of users you think you need to support could easily triple as the demand grows.
Mobile enterprise platforms can be the solution that pulls your mobile environment together but as you start to understand the technology and the benefits, you may also want to think about the next phase which will be around deployment.
None of us have unlimited budgets and I would hate to see any customer launch themselves into deploying a strategic mobile platform architecture only to find that the costs involved could be in excess of $2M which is not unheard of. So, what would be the ideal scenario that a company of any size could afford and here is an example. A small engineering company with a remote maintenance crew of 20 engineers has plenty of work but suffers from lack of cash flow. Their engineers are on the move every day, traveling from customer to customer repair elevators. Once every seven or eight days, the engineers stop by the office to do their paperwork and upload the customer information to the admin office. The result is lag of 40 days on average between repair and payment.
The obvious answer is a mobile solution that allows the engineer to upload the data after every job. Provide an invoice to the customer or even take payment by credit card before he leaves the customer site. The process is so easy to improve and it would remove the pressure from the cash flow simply by utilizing mobile devices. However, after three separate quotes from mobile software vendors, the CEO could not purchase a solution for less than $150,000. This was very hard for him to justify and he continued with his old process to this day.
Upfront costs, annual maintenance and professional services can switch off the smaller companies and make it impossible for them to improve their efficiencies.
Now imagine the same scenario but I walk in to the CEO and suggest Mobility as a Service. He can chose from a range of mobile devices. We purchase, configure, test, charge and deploy to his staff. We train his team, we manage the devices remotely. We also provision a secure area in our cloud and he streams the information for billing as needed.
No upfront fees, no maintenance, no responsibilities and he only pays on demand.
His $150,000 costs are now $30/month/device over a 3 year contract.
At this point, mobility will provide true value to every customer large or small. There should be no reason why any customer should have to pay extortionate fees and annual maintenance for software when it could easily be leased.