You cannot shrink yourself to greatness. During the most recent economic downturn, companies focused intensely on cost-cutting and expense reduction to weather the storm. Price erosion, increased competition in stagnant markets and the relentless scrutiny of corporate performance metrics by investors, among other factors, has intensified cost-control efforts.
Against this backdrop, corporate leaders must seek out and capitalize on strategies that will improve enterprise performance while also providing a short-term return on investment. At the same time, smart companies are investing wisely now in growth strategies that will distance them from the competition as the economy rebounds.
The heartbeat of business continues to accelerate. There will be very few ways that technology can radically alter the fundamentals of the business process to accelerate the information-decision-action cycle absent of mobility. Mobility will be the most dramatic (and perhaps most disruptive) change in the business process since the PC replaced the typewriter. In fact, a question that should be on the minds of enterprise decision makers is: “How can we become a real-time enterprise without mobility?” The answer is simply, you can’t.
Good planning is critical. Mobile solutions, especially when wireless access components are added, are still complex. On the one hand, mobile operators not only don’t know how to sell wireless data access, but they’re still largely managed by ”ex-Bell heads” from the wireline days and do little more than focus on internal cost efficiencies. Coverage can still be a problem and carrier-led enterprise offerings where they exist seem more like science experiments than enterprise class solutions. On the other hand, most mobile application suppliers are tiny and under-capitalized to go the distance, yet these companies are the true experts in delivering a wireless mobility solution and most have the scars to prove it!
Having said that, many of the technical hurdles have been overcome. Intelligent handheld devices perform better and provide more sophisticated capabilities than previous versions, enabling users to securely access, transmit and manipulate essential information on the fly. Concurrent with improvements to the devices, wireless networks continue to mature, providing users with greater bandwidth and more reliable connectivity than in the past.
IT managers must reconcile the business case for wireless mobility against the technology and application solution risk. Perhaps the most fascinating outcomes from investments made in core information technology and systems are the raw data that show just how big the wait states are in the information-to-decision-to-action cycle. For example, one mortgage company was able to reduce the 90 to 120 day period it took to process commercial loans to 10 days or less. Another retail distribution company reduced its re-work, re-route time costs by 50 percent.
Shortening the knowing-doing gap is the key to gaining market advantage through just-in-time information management. And while e-mail should be considered a part of a broader enterprise wireless mobility initiative, it is likely not the reason to make the investment for most companies. It is about business applications.
The Mobile Endgame for IT managers and CIOs is to understand the workflow wait states and make investments in wireless mobility as well as make changes to the business process to drive revenue, reduce costs and exploit unused capital and human capacity. Check out next month’s issue for a look at the “How To” steps for IT managers and CIOs.
Bob Egan is president of Mobile Competency. He can be reached at [email protected]