Impact of the ‘Mobile Bang Theory’ on Outsourcing | Article

mobile applicationsThe Mobile Bang Theory, developed by Antenna Software, is a metaphor for composite application design. Jim Hemmer, CEO of the Jersey City, New Jersey-based mobile enterprise solutions company, explains it further as “small mobile actions that spawn multiple actions and transactions.” The business impact from composite mobile applications is high productivity and high return on investment (ROI). In fact, Hemmer says these applications can yield financial returns in an enterprise three times greater than the initial mobile investment.

As an example, a company that fixes HVAC equipment at a large retailer’s stores must comply with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency regulations about proper disposal of refrigerant or other substances in the air conditioning and refrigeration systems. The service rep uses a mobile device to close out the service request and inputs information about replaced parts and disposal of any regulated substances. The system automatically determines whether those parts are under warranty and need to be returned for a refund or thrown away. It also updates the compliance system for reporting to the EPA and even handles the time-and-expense reporting — all at once with the rep just updating information one time.

Field service reps at a large manufacturer of mailing equipment repair clients’ office machines and maintain trunk inventories — the equipment parts they carry with them each day. As the rep uses a mobile device to close out the trouble call and indicates any parts the rep replaced, the system automatically determines the level of trunk inventory and which items need to be replaced. The system then generates the invoice and work order and automatically ships the equipment to replenish the rep’s inventory — the rep doesn’t even have to think about it.

In another example, field reps at a large beverage company deliver beverage products to a supermarket or retail store. A rep scans the barcoded pallets then asks the customer to acknowledge delivery by signing directly on a mobile device. That information automatically links back to the point-of-sales system and triggers an invoice and a cash transfer that day. The solution has enabled the beverage company to reduce its order-to-cash process from days and weeks to within one day.

After a meeting with a prospect, a sales rep for a satellite TV company updates the CRM system through a BlackBerry smartphone, inputting information such as updated contact information for the prospect and next steps in the deal pursuit (such as sending a price quotation or scheduling a demo or follow-up meeting). Rather than the salesperson making phone calls to three or four different constituents throughout the enterprise to try to cobble together all the follow-up actions, the CRM system automatically kicks off a process where a thank you letter gets e-mailed to the prospect along with any relevant information the prospect asked for in the meeting; and the prospect has that information within moments after the meeting.

Mobility is having a profound strategic impact on companies’ IT

These types of mobile applications are enabled by the convergence of more powerful mobile devices, faster networks, and service-oriented architecture (SOA) and Web Services (which enable quick and easy application integration). “When you combine these forces,” Hemmer says, “you have a volatile situation that is changing the status quo and flipping the traditional IT model on its head.”

He adds, “Many enterprises are bracing for a significant business explosion and thinking about their businesses in an entirely new paradigm. They see mobility as the next mobile computing platform, and it has little resemblance to the PC/laptop computing world we’ve grown accustomed to.”

As in the examples mentioned earlier, these types of applications combine real-time interaction with relevant, accurate, information and location-based technologies, which accelerates business processes and impacts sales cycles and service response times.

Hemmer points out that “the business value of such mobile applications increases exponentially when companies implement them strategically across an entire organization instead of using them as just a point solution. This is a BIG BANG, and we believe it’s a real game-changer. This is the tip of the iceberg on what composite mobile applications can do to make a real impact on the strategic advantage and profitability of businesses in the next decade.”

With the demand for and results already realized with mobile applications, Hemmer says that CIOs and IT organizations are now recognizing that mobility is going to impact every part of a business — which, over the next several years, is going to be a “profound” impact — and they need to start thinking strategically rather than tactically about the impact. Instead of focusing on how to get mobile devices to certain business units, the focus needs to be on acquiring a platform that will enable designing, building, deploying, and managing the different applications that the enterprise will demand.

A mobile platform-as-a-service approach is necessary to simplify and control mobility initiatives. Hemmer says the key criteria for a mobility platform should include the ability to write once and deploy to any device, flexible on-demand or on-premise deployment options, and a centralized end-to-end mobile management system. A mobility platform should facilitate rapid application development, support any device, and integrate with any system.

The Antenna Mobility PlatformTM (AMP) is the mobile platform that enables Antenna’s customers to design, build, deploy and manage dynamic mobile applications. With AMP, customers don’t have to worry about the technical details of supporting multiple and diverse devices, networks, corporate applications, and databases. Nor do they need to be weighed down by the minutia of handling security, reliability, and performance. AMP is an open, flexible, aware, and scalable architecture. It enables organizations to quickly and easily mobilize business processes, applications, and data from a variety of internal and external sources from one unified, cohesive environment.

Outsourcing and Mobile Bang

Companies considering outsourcing their mobile applications need to consider several factors regarding provider selection, implementation, and integration.

Employ a holistic, strategic approach. Think strategically about mobility. Avoid point solutions and siloed approaches; the diversity involved in managing mobility from this approach only results in driving up costs. A strategic approach involves not just the selection of the mobile platform or application developer but also eliminating use of any mobile device solution or network solution that locks a company into a proprietary package. “Proprietary solutions force IT to manage mobility projects on behalf of business units instead of the enterprise, and that’s a potential nightmare,” warns Hemmer. “Companies need to align their mobile solutions with their business requirements and objectives and need to make them scalable to multiple business units.”

Mobile architecture provider selection. To get the biggest “bang” for their buck, buyers should evaluate providers of mobile architecture based on their ability to design, build, deploy, and manage enterprise-wide mobile applications and solutions with the greatest flexibility and business value. Hemmer adds that “unleashing the full potential of Mobile Bang necessitates an architecture that is always-on with the built-in intelligence to react dynamically to each user’s location, profile, preferences, actions, etc. It’s important for companies to select a mobile architecture that can support context-aware applications.”

In addition to the technology, the evaluation criteria must include consideration of the people with whom the buyer would be working. Outsourcing success, even if it’s through an on-demand or Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) model, is still dependent on the relationship aspect. Buyers also need to be sure the provider has a proven reputation for its professional services team working with the client to ensure they optimize solution deployment for the client’s specific business needs and for the users.

Integration. Mobile solutions need to interact with a variety of back-end systems including CRM, ERP, and home-grown business systems, plus information and content that may be stored in external third-party systems. The mobile platform needs to be robust, not tethered to any specific back-end system, and able to support any device, system, and network.

Implementation. Mobile Bang involves streamlining and automating a lot of business processes (e.g., invoicing, inventory ordering, event triggering, etc.) as well as impacting multiple business units, geographic regions, systems, and people. Well-defined users and workflows and user requirements with supporting systems, data, and interfaces are a requirement. Hemmer advises that having a clear set of objectives that are tied to ROI goals is critical to success.

He also advises following a proven implementation methodology with a blueprint and checklist for managing the solution from beginning to end across a variety of technical and business environments. “Even when using the ‘best’ technology, a poorly executed implementation process will result in a poorly adopted or even unusable solution,” he warns.

Center of Excellence. Companies looking to incorporate mobility as a key aspect of their long-term business strategy can benefit from establishing a Mobile Center of Excellence. Hemmer says the center should include a dedicated cross-functional mobile-solution team comprised of application developers, end users, IT staff, business analysts, software engineers, and test engineers. The purpose of this cross-functional team is to ensure ongoing input for and adoption of the mobile solution within individual business units.

Mobility is hot, and it’s evolving quickly

Hemmer says the successful results with composite mobility applications are having a cascading effect beyond the field level. One company, for example originally deployed the application only in its U.S. services organization. Then the company deployed it to the European and Canadian service organizations. Later, the company realized the service organization’s application provided better visibility into customers than the sales force had, so it signed a contract to build an application for the sales group.

Similarly, once a European beer company saw the benefits of mobility apps when its field reps went out to customers’ pubs to do maintenance, the company’s merchandisers became interested in using mobility apps as well.

“There’s a groundswell of demand for composite mobility applications from department to department,” says Hemmer. It started with point solutions for one department, then adding another point solution for another department. Now CIOs of major corporations are coming to us and other companies and saying, ‘We have a number of constituents that we have to satisfy, and we’re interested in a central approach to doing that.’ We’re at a tipping point where CIOs are extremely interested in a centralized approach for solving their mobility challenges and opportunities.”

Hemmer describes the next wave of enterprise mobility as being like a tide of information, going back and forth between the mobile workforce and enterprise systems. A service provider’s job is to make this information “flow as frictionless as possible” to give enterprises greater visibility into their business, make them more agile, and improve their overall customer service. Antenna’s CEO adds, “Ultimately, we want to give them the confidence that as their business grows, shifts, morphs, and evolves, so can their mobility strategies.”

What’s next? According to Hemmer, “businesses are now evolving from a solution-centric model to a platform-centric model and are heading toward a mobility-as-a-service model.

Lessons from Outsourcing Journal:

  • Composite mobile applications provide high productivity and ROI that can be three times greater than the initial mobile investment. The strategic advantage and profitability value of such applications increases exponentially when companies implement them strategically across an enterprise instead of as point solutions.
  • Choose a service provider whose mobile platform-as-a-service includes the ability to write once and deploy to any device, flexible on-demand options, a centralized end-to-end mobile management system, support of any mobile device, integration with any internal or third-party back-end system and network, and an always-on architecture that can support context-aware applications.
  • Choose a provider with a proven reputation for working with clients to ensure the provider optimizes the solution deployment for the client’s specific business needs and for the end users.
  • Well-defined users and workflows and user requirements with supporting systems, data, and interfaces are a requirement for composite applications.
  • In developing composite applications, having a clear set of objectives that are tied to ROI goals is critical to success.
  • Choose a service provider that has a proven implementation methodology with a blueprint and checklist for managing the solution from beginning to end across a variety of technical and business environments.

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