Enterprise Mobile Apps: Let the Revolution Begin

March 6, 2012
In today's manufacturing world, leaders must embrace new intelligence tools or risk obsolescence.

In the same way that personal computers and the Internet revolutionized business in the 1980s and 1990s, Enterprise Mobility Applications (EMAs) powered by smart mobile devices and innovative networks will transform the way we work in the decade to come. This transformation has already started, and for CEOs and CIOs the stakes are high. Organizations that succeed with EMAs will achieve a competitive edge, while those that fail will risk obsolescence in a world of always-on, always-on-the-move business functionality.

Have mobile devices and applications started changing the ground rules in your industry? Where is your business in the EMA adoption curve? What are your competitors doing? EMAs have such revolutionary implications that we conducted a survey of 164 senior North American business and IT executives whose companies -- in a variety of industries -- are at the forefront of EMA deployment. What we found is that these companies are already achieving benefits, and believe there are even greater advantages to come as EMAs evolve and mature.

The Path to Transformation

First, let's put the emergence of EMAs into context. There are two primary market forces driving EMA adoption. The first is the confluence of smart mobile communications devices, such as enterprise-ready tablets, and rapidly growing technologies like 4G and cloud computing. The second driving force is the imperative created by consumer mobility, which far outpaces enterprise mobility in offering features, functionality and perceived value.

Using a smartphone, a consumer can easily download an array of useful mobile apps on-the-run, as needed, at little or no cost. Contrast this with the enterprise world where for most users mobile access to a CRM or supply chain system is a pipe dream. Consumer technology innovations, which will only accelerate in the years to come, have left business employees frustrated and impatient with a platform they perceive as antiquated.

But the gap between the consumer and enterprise worlds is closing as businesses see the opportunity and seize the advantage. These companies have moved beyond Informational EMAs -- such as mobile email and remote access to business-critical information on corporate networks -- to embrace Collaborative EMAs, such as sales presentations that combine the portability of cloud computing with the interactive and graphical capabilities of tablets.

The third and most awaited phase of this development process will be Transformational EMAs. The true transformational EMA will not only automate but will reinvent critical business processes. As businesses migrate from Informational to Collaborative to Transformational EMAs, enterprise benefits will dramatically accelerate.

The Big Bang: Sales, Operations, and Employee Productivity

With leading organizations already starting to see the merits of EMAs, we wanted to know the perceived scope and nature of their value. What are the projected improvements in sales force productivity? How will business intelligence improve? How can business operations be streamlined? How will EMAs affect customer engagement? These are questions that we expect you have for your business as well.

In the area of sales performance, 93 percent of our survey respondents expect EMAs to improve sales win rates -- on average, participants projected an improvement of 28 percent. They anticipate a 23 percent reduction in sales touch points and a 24 percent reduction in total sales cycle, as well as a 27 percent projected increase in deal size. How will EMAs create these benefits? Field sales teams equipped with robust EMAs will have mobile access to insights from historical account data, pricing, and supply chain information -- plus improved presentation capabilities to better communicate product value. Our respondents say mobile-enabled enterprises will take sales from the competition and allow them to grow faster relative to the industry.

For internal operations, we found that 84 percent of our respondents anticipate "moderate," "significant," or "critically strategic" improvements thanks to EMAs. The greatest expected contribution to internal operations enablement will be powerful new mobile supply chain and logistics applications that boost efficiencies in the speed and accuracy of transaction processing in a factory or warehouse. That, of course, will create more accurate tracking of inventory, shipment confirmations, and quality tracking -- all of which translate into customer benefits.

EMAs will also generate business value in field workforce management. Nearly two-thirds of respondents describe anticipated benefits from EMAs to be "significant" or "critically strategic." EMAs will help with the management of a distributed workforce, ensuring they have the tools and information to excel at their jobs. Our survey respondents say EMAs will transform field business processes by optimizing these resources and putting new and more powerful forms of information into their hands -- and, in turn, shooting information from the field back to the home office.

What will facilitate this? We believe the next wave of applications in this area will include intelligent scheduling and dispatching, real-time communications, and powerful new forms of data collection and management. Businesses will realize benefits such as improved preparedness of field workers, which will lead to smarter decision-making that in turn will improve customer service and retention.

Related to this is employee productivity. Our survey respondents see great gains here as well, driven by collaborative technologies such as presence, which is the ability of a person or device to communicate with others and to display levels of availability regardless of whether that person is in the office or on the go. As workers spend more of their time outside of a traditional office setting, presence will ensure communication between colleagues is seamless and effective.

Close to 20 percent of our survey respondents said they believe presence could become a strategic differentiator for their business in that it will translate into instant conferencing of workers regardless of location. This has the potential to improve decision-making and eliminate indecision in customer service and sales.

Add to this the strong potential envisioned by our survey participants for EMAs to deliver business intelligence improvements to their organizations. More than 40 percent see this as significant and another 20 percent view it as critically strategic. For example, imagine a global commodities organization whose on-site field workers use tablet-based EMAs and the cloud to relay real-time data on crop production to a model that predicts corn, wheat, and soy bean supply.

What's Holding Things Up?

Big opportunities can spark big concerns -- although with a little more knowledge the concerns are less pressing. Data security, for example, is a clear concern held by the respondents in our survey. But, this issue will wane for two reasons. First, data encryption is increasingly being offered "out of the box" for many of the business communications devices on the market. In addition, a new group of Mobile Device Management (MDM) tools has assuaged the concerns of IT departments by helping them ensure device security compliance for data residing on devices and corporate policy compliance prior to network access.

All this is well and good, but where are the crucial apps that make true transformation possible? That's another concern respondents cited. They're waiting primarily for operational EMAs that address workforce operations and management and field force management, but are also eager for EMAs that address human resources, finance, and legal functions. To create tailored applications and expedite delivery, the vast majority -- 88 percent -- perceive strategic value in developing proprietary EMA capabilities themselves.

There are some other potential barriers to adoption, particularly in the form of resistance from users who have had unsatisfactory experiences with existing enterprise mobility solutions. This group of respondents cited the performance and stability of current EMAs, a lack of features, and screen size as the primary drawbacks. Then again, these are concerns that reflect the capabilities of today's EMA solutions, so we believe these hesitations will diminish as the technologies mature.

Laying the Groundwork for Transformation

Companies that invest in EMAs today will gain a competitive advantage over those that postpone adoption. Almost 60 percent of our survey respondents are still in the nascent stages of EMA adoption -- but another one-third of respondents already have plans to launch their own app store within months. The most aggressive of our survey respondents, some 3 percent, already have app stores up and running.

When it comes to EMAs, making the shift from great concept to great execution -- including making meaningful business and technology investments -- can seem an overwhelming task. Platform choices, business process readiness, and data security integrity are issues that just scratch the surface of considerations that can stall a company's EMA plans before they begin. Moreover, perhaps you've already made initial investments in Informational or Collaborative EMAs -- what becomes of them?

As a first step, companies will need an EMA maturity model to address the complex decisions that surround EMA adoption. This model, or roadmap, ideally created with an experienced partner, will help you define your strategy; develop a supporting organization; establish business processes; identify infrastructure and other technologies; and define the goals, metrics, and incentives required for success.

Taking steps now to lay the groundwork for EMA success includes asking key strategy questions such as: Do we want to drive sales or reduce costs with our initial EMA rollout? Do we have a joint IT/Business EMA task force? Do we have a planning, development, and implementation partner with deep device and application experience?

We've seen this kind of business transformation in many incarnations over the years. Most recently, the eReaders and the online marketplace transformed the book industry, and the music industry was changed forever by mobility and online retailing. We have no doubt that mobile enterprise applications will similarly challenge business models -- in virtually every industry, providing competitive advantages to those who plan and adopt now, whether the business is an established player or an entrepreneurial upstart.

The responses from our survey participants demonstrate that Enterprise Mobility is fast approaching a tipping point. CEOs and CIOs who don't heed the lessons of industries that were crippled when previous defining technologies took hold will be wondering what happened to their markets. The answer, of course, is that their markets flocked to competitors who transformed their organizations through mobile technologies.

About the Authors:
Jan Timothy Woodcock is a Partner at Wipro Consulting Services and a member of the consulting and leadership team in the Global Media and Telecommunications Practice. He is based in New York and may be reached at [email protected].

Marc Jacobson is the Senior Manager of Strategy for the Global Media and Telecom business unit of Wipro Technologies. He is based in Boston and may be reached at
[email protected].

See Also:
"How to Move Beyond Spreadsheets to Improve Operational Decisions"

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