Mobility Shows the Way Forward in 2013

If you're one of those organizations that don't believe in the power of mobility, chances are you'll soon be termed as outdated. Because if you turn a blind eye to the potential of mobility--despite BYOD, consumerization of IT and its cousins that have stirred up a revolution--your competition will get the better of you.

That's a bad place to be in when your competitors and consumers are going the mobile way.

And taking a cue from the impact that mobility has had on consumers, today's employees are pushing their companies to embrace consumerization of IT and facilitate BYOD. Enterprises can also latch on to the anytime-anywhere opportunity to do business that mobility provides.

Not just employees, even analysts from IDC and Gartner swear by the many benefits that mobility offers. While IDC expects an increase in worldwide IT spending to be driven by smart mobile devices--smartphones, tablets, e-readers--it also expects mobile device sales to account for 57 percent of overall IT spending growth in 2013. Also, Gartner expects mobile phones to overtake PCs as the most common Web access device worldwide by 2013.

Closer home, the mobility trend is definitely catching on. According to the State of the CIO Survey, the number of CIOs not interested in implementing a mobile technology came down from 10 percent in 2011 to 7 percent in 2012. The survey also found that respondents considered mobility as the second most likely factor (25 percent) to have a profound impact on CIOs in the near future, after cloud computing (35 percent). Moreover, 22 percent of the respondents considered creating a comprehensive mobile and tablet app development and adoption plan as one of their top three important IT initiatives for the next 12 months.

Calling on Enterprises

While mobility by itself is only an extension of the capabilities that enterprises already have, the business impact of implementing such a solution can't be underestimated. "Mobility is a very cost effective way of extending your enterprise system to the field," says Dinesh Rao, divisional CIO, Trade Marketing and Distribution, ITC.

One of the benefits that CIOs hope to leverage from a mobility solution is the ability to create a more informed decision-making process. This is what S.S. Sharma, head-IT, JK Tyre & Industries, is looking to achieve when he implements his mobility solution. He plans to implement a solution aimed at his company's sales force wherein a sales person can access all the information related to sales activities through a mobile application from anywhere at anytime. This will empower the company's sales force with the right information at the right time and help customers make informed decisions.

"When employees are empowered with the necessary information, they will certainly be more productive," says Sharma.

Improved productivity is in fact one of the advantages that ITC reaped when it implemented its mobility solution--a mobile app--for its sales force. For the sales force, this app is mostly for the purpose of completing the process of order capture. "This (implementation) is basically to drive our secondary sales from our wholesale dealer to the retailer." Not only has ITC been able to lower the transaction cost of order capture but their sales person is now able to visit more stores than he was before the mobility solution was implemented.

"In terms of overall productivity, we thought a (sales) person visited 20 to 25 outlets in a (regular) day. But what we figured out--by doing an analysis on the amount of time that a person spent on the market--is that he could cover 30 to 35 outlets (after the mobility solution was implemented)," says Rao.

Another feather in ITC's cap is that it has also setup a MEAP (Mobile Enterprise Application Platform) infrastructure that allows for applications to be deployed faster, and across platforms.

Mobile Video in the Making

In the case of B. Venkatakrishnan, the head-IT at Mahindra Vehicle Manufactures, the mobility solution he plans to implement will be used to provide an innovative way to add value to the customer when a Mahindra premium vehicle is purchased. This--improving customer support or services--is one of the top benefits that CIOs, who look to implement a mobility solution, expect to reap, according to the State of the CIO 2012 survey.

Venkatakrishnan's solution, which is currently in the pilot stage, envisions having a mobile application that customers can use to view--via a video--how their vehicles are being manufactured. The user can log on and see certain stages of the vehicle manufacturing process--the stages that the user can see are already pre-decided by the company. For this, IP-enabled cameras have been installed at the required locations within the manufacturing plant.

"Say, you have booked a red colored XUV, and at 11 o'clock the vehicle is going to get dropped on the TCF (trim, chassis, final assembly) line. You can login to the system and actually see--for three to four minutes--how the vehicle is passing through the various stages of the TCF line where we will show how the engine gets fitted, how the final polishing happens, and how the quality check happens," says Venkatakrishnan, adding that the project is in a proof of concept stage.

While the aim is to provide the customer with the ability to see their vehicle at the prescribed manufacturing stages in real-time, initially the company plans to use an offline archival storage mode wherein the relevant manufacturing stages of the vehicle are pre-recorded and stored for the customer to view later on. This facility will only be available for the customers who buy premium vehicles.

Error in Connection

The advent of mobility will force companies to devise new IT security policies. In fact, this is one the main challenges CIOs think they will face when implementing a mobility solution.

JK Tyres' Sharma considers securing data as one of the challenges he will come across in deploying his mobility solution. But he is planning to put some controls in place. "Once we make the solution available, whatever applications which need to be accessed, will be accessed through the cloud. The salesforce will see the required information, but they won't be able to edit that information," he says.

ITC's Rao stresses on the importance of creating relevant IT security policies when it comes to implementing a mobility solution. He states that the mobile platform is one in which organizations don't have much control over who's using what and that's why information security attains top priority status. He addressed the security problem by implementing certain control methods whereby the data on the mobile device is only available for a certain amount of time after which it automatically gets erased.

Another challenge in implementing a mobility solution is the wide variety of device types--smartphones, tablets, mini-tablets--and supported OS types--Android, Apple, Blackberry, Microsoft--that are available in the mobile market. So when launching a mobile app, CIOs have to be aware of whether they will be implementing a solution that is aimed at a specific type of device or at a specific type of OS.

CIOs have taken different approaches to address this issue. Rao has gone about implementing his mobility app aimed at only one smartphone segment. On the other hand, Venkatakrishnan states that once his mobility solution is completely implemented, it can be accessed through all mobile devices and OSes.

Call Forward

Looking at the advantages that organizations have reaped or hope to leverage, it's easy to see that mobility isn't just a stylish trend to implement. It actually delivers solid business value, be it in terms of increasing productivity or improving customer engagement.

So when mobility comes calling at your doorstep, don't turn away. It's a call you don't want to miss.

Eric Ernest is correspondent. Send feedback to eric_ernest@idgindia.com

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