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Mobile-first, What’s Next?

G Satish

Recalibrating the enterprise system’s role in the mobile world – the Uber effect

Mobile-first has been the by-line for businesses, and for enterprise system vendors as well as consultants for some time now.  So, is mobile-first the logical conclusion of this cycle of mobile-in-the-enterprise?

As businesses today start to factor in mobile into their operations and thus their IT strategy, they would do well to keep in mind that simply inserting mobile devices into existing business processes does not accomplish transformation.  Use of mobile is, in many instances, a case of “can do with my smartphone whatever I can do on my laptop”. This is not transformation in any true sense of the word.  Merely incorporating mobile technology into processes short-changes businesses – mobile devices bring capabilities that go far beyond laptops. Mobile transformation initiatives need to look at how uniquely-mobile capabilities can change their existing business processes. Connixt addresses this issue in some detail here.

Maybe an example close to all our hearts (and the stuff nightmares are made of) will provide some much-needed perspective – the cable company time-slot issue.  You call your cable company and complain about spotty reception since last night’s rains.  After a 30-minute wait, you get a service rep on the phone who assigns a service slot – next Thursday between 2pm and 5pm.  OK, but you can see one of the cable company’s vans parked on your street working on something in your neighbor’s apartment – can’t that guy take a look before he heads out?  This could just be a 5-minute fix, and you’re watching a big game on Sunday.  “No”, says the customer service rep, who is plainly now looking to move on to the next customer who needs to be scheduled two weeks out for a 9am to Noon slot, “That’s not how it works.  We have a complex scheduling system and we can’t just yank our technician out and have them work on your problem.”  End of call.

Now, picture a different scenario that doesn’t include cable company hell.  What if you, the customer, had a mobile app where you submit a service request and the closest technician – the one in your neighbor’s apartment – gets a notification on his smartphone about your request? Now, there is no guarantee that the technician does have the time to fix your problem, but if he did have the time to walk across to your apartment, check out the issue and update the issue status from his app, you have already made progress.  If he does indeed diagnose it as a 5-minute fix, you lucked out.  If it is a 4-hour problem, you still lucked-out – in a way – the cable company now knows more about your problem, and the technician coming out to next Thursday is better prepared.

That’s a win-win for both customer and business – the cost of each truck roll for a field-service team ranges from a few hundred dollars to much more, depending on the industry.  The key is to provide the field technician the tools to view issues and have some flexibility in addressing them.  That saves money for the business, and gains a satisfied customer – what a novel idea!

Mobile enterprise transformation needs to move far beyond mobile-first towards mobile-centric. This requires looking at mobile devices not just as consumption points for back-end processes, but as vital initiators of business processes.  This also requires that enterprise systems that have long played the role of the “heavy iron” critical to every business process, accept that when the action is in the field, their role will change to being one of a book-keeper rather than the key driver.  The next time you look at Uber, think about this: Yes, Uber does track who rides where and how much needs to be paid to whom, but much of the decision-making is in the field, between two willing parties. There is no reason any enterprise with business in the field couldn’t move in that direction.

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