Friday, March 9, 2012

Enterprise Mobility: They Also Claimed Women Have No Place In Business

In 1948, my mother was fired from her job as a writer for KFOX radio station in Long Beach, California because she got married. In the 1950s, she was denied a raise because her male coworker supposedly needed a raise more in order to support his family. In my mother’s lifetime, people sometimes said and often believed that women had no place in business. The attitude seems preposterous and antiquated only fifty years later but these attitudes, which were predominately intransigence to change persisted for a long time.

So today, when I hear some people say and even more people act like the Android, iPhone, BlackBerry,  iPad (and other tablets) have no place in business, I tend to smirk. Resistance to technology adoption within IT departments is rather ironic. Theoretically, the IT department should be in the forefront of new technology. But this is usually not the case. Too often, IT plays a game of vested interests and tries to defend the IT department’s turf against change. When barriers to change break down, it is usually because of competitive pressure or overwhelming evidence.

The role of the CTO or CIO is to push the business into productive use of technology. I think the time when anyone could claim that smartphones and tablets have no place in business and still retain their credibility has passed, any CIO or CTO who harbors such resistance is at extreme risk of being shown the door.

Businesses that pursue enterprise mobility are more productive, competitive and profitable.  The iPAD is quickly being adopted in progressive enterprises as a business tool that delivers functionality in a mobile way. But tablets are much more than just mobile and the main benefit of their size is not simply the enhanced functionality that comes through more screen real estate.

The phenomenon that makes tablets a particularly compelling mobile device is that they are social.I am not referring to social in the modern sense of social media. But rather that tablets are a social technology in a more literal sense in that they allow for easy interpersonal interaction with technology on a single device. In other words, with a tablet it is easy for me to hold it and for you to see it. In some respects, it is the modern day equivalent of the clipboard. I can face the clipboard to myself and write things privately or I can position the clipboard for you to see it and involve you in the interview. But unlike a clipboard that has a few sheets of paper and a pencil for interaction. I have the full power of an interactive media device and enterprise IT behind it. Well, I should have the power of enterprise IT behind it, but in some corners resistance persists.

Fortunately, there are many examples where businesses are making great progress through the use of smartphone and tablet technology. Cleveland Golf has armed their sales force with iPad’s for order taking. Since Cleveland Golf has retail customers spread across more than 1400 locations, mobility is essential. The ability to approach a store a manager on site, show them pictures and videos of new products, and then instantly process orders for those new products is an awesome way to accelerate business performance through the use of smarter technology and a collaborative way of working.
The iPad is also ideally suited to assist in Direct Store Delivery applications. Route sales industries such as beverage manufacturing and food wholesalers are dependent on the ability of their mobile workforce to process orders and deliver product instantly on site. Tablets accelerate their ability to process orders, help store managers visualize current stock, and aid the route salesperson in the delivery of cross-sell, up-sell and other special incentives and offers for retailers.

The iPad can also be applied effectively in Field Service Management applications.  Field service personnel can use tablets on-site to update service records, process parts and labor orders, query a knowledge base, and even watch video tutorials on how-to handle particular issues.

Multi-level Marketing, may be regarded as the red headed stepchild of business, but the nature of their “workforce” is prime for the advantages of enterprise mobile technology. Here again, I like the tablet for its ability to facilitate business interaction between two people engaged in a conversation.  Not only can orders be processed and marketing messages be delivered, appointments can be kept, destinations can be routed, and organizational structures and contacts can be easily managed and updated on the fly.

Franchise Businesses are also prime candidates for enterprise mobility. Both franchisors and franchisees have need for mobile technology. The sales and operational teams of the franchisor tend to be highly mobile frequently involved in managing, servicing or selling multiple locations. A tablet is an ideal technology for working on the go from the car, in a franchise location ot back in the home office or main office. There are a wide variety of franchise businesses, but one of the commonalities is that franchise owners and their employees tend to be highly engaged with the public – their customers. They are frequently on their feet and on the go within a restaurant, store or field service environment. Taking time to sit in front of a stationary device to transact business takes them away from their main environment: the store, kitchen or field. With a tablet or smartphone, their information technology can keep up with them while they are on their feet doing their jobs across multiple points of interaction. Anyone who has experience mobile checkout in the middle of a store without having to walk to the register knows what I am talking about.

Mobility enhances the conduct of most any kind of business: financial services, manufacturing, retail, government, energy, distribution and more. Enterprise mobility solutions are just the IT department’s way of keeping up with the times.

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