The Mobile Enterprise: Are You Ready?

Updated: May 21, 2010

Analysis


The benefits of transforming a business into a mobile enterprise are undeniable. By granting employees, partners and suppliers access to high-speed broadband networks, a company can cut costs, enhance employee productivity, bolster customer satisfaction, and streamline operations.

No longer must in-the-field sales forces return to headquarters to receive product updates and the latest price lists. Clients interested in identifying a package's location in the supply chain pipeline need only click on a mouse. And managers need not collect air miles to communicate and collaborate with geographically scattered colleagues.

But that's not all. The very definition of a mobile enterprise now extends beyond on-the-road email delivery to include companies that leverage instant messaging, web conferencing and wikis to boost productivity and operational efficiencies.

Still, as mobility becomes less of a luxury and more of a business necessity, organizations must bear in mind that remote connectivity not only forever changes the way companies conduct business, but it also calls for some high-stakes decision making. No wonder many companies have been slow to adopt mobile technology. With tough-to-quantify ROI, a confusing product landscape and integration headaches, taking the plunge into enterprise-mobility can be daunting. The key is determining what lies ahead for mobile technology, and whether or not your organization is ready.

Implications


Strategy: Developing a solid strategy is an important part of moving a step closer to next generation mobility. For starters, companies must determine which systems are critical to their daily operations, which employees would require access to these systems, what network requirements these systems bring about, and how the organization stands to benefit from remote access.

The second piece of the puzzle is cost-related and revolves around determining a strategy for implementing the system in a cost-effective manner, as well as ascertaining the potential cost savings associated with the implementation of a mobile system.

Workforce: Next generation mobile technology heralds the dawning of a new workforce. Finally, employees are free to work anywhere and anytime, establish flexible schedules, and swap information and resources with colleagues in far-flung locations. Overseeing a mobile workforce, however, calls for an overhaul of time-tested practices. For example, organizing teams may now be a function of a group's preferred mode of mobile communication rather than skill sets.

So too must companies consider establishing new performance metrics. Variables such as tardiness and attendance simply can't factor into an employee's performance evaluation, particularly when working remotely and outside the watchful eye of a manager.


Security:
For many companies, mobile technology equals huge security risks. After all, by granting employees remote access to a wireless network, organizations are essentially introducing personal handheld devices into a corporate ecosystem. The result: missing BlackBerries, stolen laptops and easily hacked devices containing sensitive information, viruses and intellectual property. Tight security measures such as monitoring tools, firewalls and enforceable policies can curb data leakage and the introduction of malware. Nevertheless, protecting your corporate network and data can prove a costly and labor-intensive undertaking.

Customer satisfaction: Service delivery expectations have never been higher. Salespeople are now expected to have product information at their fingertips; suppliers require real-time access to inventory information; and customers demand round-the-clock Web-based support services. Even the ubiquitous iPhone features applications that can instantly transform the device into a credit card processing machine for on-the-fly order placements and payments.

Senior-level buy-in: Convincing a company's senior-level executives to invest heavily in mobile technology can be difficult. For starters, today's mobile vendor landscape can be a confusing hodgepodge of carriers, software providers and hardware manufacturers. What's more, many companies mistakenly favor mobile devices-du-jour rather than take the time to consider which mobile systems are most befitting their business processes. As a result, poor product selection can lead to misspent dollars, not to mention integration headaches and resistance from senior-level decision makers to further invest in mobile technology.

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