Magazine Article | July 21, 2009

Mobility: Where Do You Start?

Source: Field Technologies Magazine

You must look at each aspect of your business and a potential solution in order to find the best fit for your situation when it comes to mobile solutions.

Integrated Solutions, July/August 2009
In today's economic climate, businesses have a plethora of issues to confront on a daily basis: managing cash flow, worker productivity, customer service, and competitive pressures — the list goes on. Effectively meeting all of those challenges requires consistent evaluation of business processes. The question for many business owners has become how to choose the best options for integrating technology into their businesses. That question has become even more important now that the option to mobilize so many processes has become a reality. Mobile technology has become ubiquitously available in categories such as: voice consolidation, doing business anywhere, high-speed wireless broadband, instant communication, mobile asset management, field workflow management, field service, and emergency response. Many companies are now looking at how to use these technologies to create a mobility strategy that will drive more efficiency into their business as well as create competitive differentiation. For companies just beginning this evaluation the question becomes, "How do you map and schedule your adaptation of a mobility strategy into your organization?"

The Business Processes Evaluation is extremely important in order to identify the areas of your business on which to focus. First, identify the areas of your business that are under stress and map out the established processes. Then, prioritize each area of stress based on the key metrics of your business. What areas are critical to your operation? These are the areas that you will first target and the functions that will provide the highest return from mobility strategy. Once each area of stress has been ranked, identify the financial and operational impact on your business.

This is one the most important steps in successfully developing a mobility strategy. In your effort to identify a partner, you should look not only at your existing vendors, but also outside existing relationships. When identifying a mobility partner, you will need an organization that understands your business and industry. You also need a partner with the resources and technology to assist your organization in identifying the mobility solutions that will have an immediate impact on the critical metrics that you have targeted for mobility. In addition, a vendor must exhibit a willingness to become a "trusted partner" who understands the day-to-day operations of your company and can make informed recommendations regarding how best to develop a mobility strategy. An important piece of having your mobility partner understand your business is to allow a ride along or "day in the life" with key personnel that will allow them to experience mission-critical areas of your business and make a more effective recommendation. The insight that they can provide into the processes that you have identified as mission-critical will produce more targeted mobile solutions.

Once you identify a potential solution, consider the following elements as they relate to your operation: function (will it perform required tasks, can it be easily integrated into your company's culture, what are the IT implications, is it a proven technology?), asset leveraging (use as many of your existing assets as possible to hold implementation costs in check and allow ease of employee adoption), and cost (what type of financial commitment is required, is there a minimum software or application subscription period?).

Consideration must be given to ease of implementation, including how quickly the new process will be rolled out; the level of training that will be required, and who will support it. The support through implementation is critical to the success of mobility. Once a mobility solution has been implemented, a formalized follow-up schedule should be put in place. With any new process, its success is partly based on continued monitoring and adjustment. This is where partner engagement should be required to include periodic evaluation. Any revisions due to feedback from field users must be integrated quickly to assure anticipated ROI projections. Follow-up evaluations of the mobility solution should occur with partner participation on an agreed upon schedule.

Efforts to embrace mobility can foster many benefits to your organization and your customers. What is important is to take the first step. Russell McGuire comments in his book, The Power of Mobility, "From a business perspective, a new technology can introduce radical changes — changes so dramatic that they fundamentally change the nature of the business, the nature of the products, and the reasons why customers buy the product."