|Pay-Per-Drink Mobile: Don't Get Left Out
Caroline Scofield, Executive, Westcon South Africa
You could bet your bottom dollar that every trends and predictions article for 2012 included hot tips to mobility and cloud-based computer or software as a service. But I'd argue that if these are still on a company's to do list, they are falling behind, fast.
Cloud-enabled mobility services are being used today in the field by forward-thinking companies who are seeing the benefits and realizing the returns on investment already. And thanks to this, these companies are pulling away from the pack and widening the gap very quickly.
The key to this take up of enterprise mobility has been the holy grail of cloud-based pricing models applied to mobility services. Thanks to belt-tightening during the global recession, enterprises have demanded "pay-per-drink" mobility options, allowing them to allocate these mobility services to operational expenditure rather than capital expenditure. Hardware, software, consulting and subscriptions are paid for on a month-month basis. Need an upgrade? Send everything back and replace it with new kit or applications.
This has allowed enterprise mobility services to fall within reach of companies wanting to save money, improve efficiencies, be more competitive and offer a better service - in fact, I'd argue that any enterprise is guaranteed to be able to solve an operational problem with mobility.
For instance, TNT couriers in Europe saw a return on its investment into a mobile label printing service within 104 days - less than six months. Simply by kitting out warehouse employees with a handsfree, wearable printer, TNT was able to increase productivity, minimize waste, reduce labeling and delivery errors and streamline processes.
Clean invoicing is a major driver of mobility services, and a Global beverage company discovered there were several knock-on benefits to this that it hadn't expected. Delivery drivers were enabled to generate accurate invoices on the spot, giving mothership an immediate view of supply and demand, allowing them to optimize production schedules on the fly. What's more, the drivers were then able to on-sell excess inventory on their delivery route, minimizing returns and maximizing the revenue-generating capability of the delivery process.
Other mobility implementations include on-the-spot gathering of inspection information in mines, asset tracking of valuable goods and livestock, and timely maintenance by major utilities. A common driver for many of these implementations is delivering or collecting mission-critical information at the point of activity - empowering speedy decision-making and transactions on the ground, and giving senior management an accurate and timeous 30,000 foot view back at head office.
A word of caution however. While the current environment is immensely favorable for practical implementations thanks to the convergence of SaaS-based pricing and mobility. And the technical mobility advances have been made (yes, it is possible to implement a mobility service deep beneath the earth's surface for the mining industry). But, it's seldom a simple case of plugging together the various pockets of technology that exist supplied by a range of vendors and hitting the ground running. Shrewd enterprises are turning to expert mobile systems integrators to plan the service, pull the pieces together and then support the company for the following months and years as its requirements develop and change.
Part of this support includes navigating the space where technology and humanity intersect, which is key to the success of any mobility service. An accurate generalization is that white-collar workers usually accept mobility with gusto, as it makes their jobs easier. Blue-collar workers need a bit more hand-holding for a mobility service to succeed. For a start there may be literacy issues to consider and these should be borne in mind during the design phase: making the interface as user-friendly as possible. But also, blue-collar workers often see technology as a threat to their jobs and livelihood, so need to be incentivized to embrace mobility to ensure a successful roll-out.
Enterprise mobility is no longer a "prediction" or a "trend to watch". Rather companies need to act quickly to scratch mobility off their "to do" list and move it to their "in progress" list, or better yet, their "completed" list. This boat has sailed and modern businesses need to stay mobile to survive and thrive.