We are the mobile generation, carrying sleek smartphones loaded with dozens of apps that we use for everything from catching up on news to finding the schedule of movies at nearby theatres to connecting with our friends via Facebook (News - Alert). We can’t imagine our daily lives without mobile phones anymore. And soon, it is also going to become an integral part of our business life. Why?
Why is there such an interest in mobility? Here are my five reasons.
1. Ubiquity: According to a recent report by Canalys, a market research firm, vendors shipped 158.5 million smartphones in Q4 2011, up 57 percent over Q4 2010. Global shipments for the whole of 2011 were 487.7 million units, up 63 percent over 2010. By comparison, the global client PC market grew 15 percent in 2011 to 414.6 million units. For the first time, smartphone shipments exceeded PC shipments. Gartner (News - Alert) says that by the end of 2016, 1.2 billion people will carry these powerful smartphone handsets and tablets. The iPad has become one of the most popular devices among executives. A large installed base of these devices has accelerated the focus on mobile computing.
2. Powerful devices: A few years ago, the mobile phones were bulky and the wireless networks were slow. The current generation is equipped with dual-core processors, fast storage and surprisingly sharp displays; and is supported by high network bandwidth. The Wi-Fi hotspots abound, while fast 3G and even faster 4G enables mobile users to download customer analytics and perform CRM transactions at very fast speeds. Performance is no longer the bottleneck, clearing the way for its use in many aspects of business.
3. Pre-integrated apps: Enterprise systems vendors are pre-packaging CRM mobile apps, downloadable from market places such as iTunes. These apps allow users to perform actions such as:
- View upcoming scheduled activities so that the sales reps are always prepared for customer interactions
- Get alerts on specific events such as deviations from approved discounts, credit holds etc.
- Approve (or reject) workflow requests such as customer discounts, invoices etc.
- Access real-time CRM analytics and reports
- Access and manage customer and partner information, including contact details, historical activities and past orders
- Field application where service professionals can access information about spare parts, order them while they are on-site and be connected to the warranty programs the customer has signed up for.
4. Levelling the playing field: Use of mobile technology not only allows organizations to become more responsive to their customers by having access to information at their fingertips (a great competitive advantage over other companies), but more important, the responsiveness with complete and accurate information enables them to appear bigger in size and richer in resources than they actually are (a huge coup in perception management for mid-sized companies). Since ERP and BI vendors are offering pre-built mobile apps at no or very little additional cost, even small organizations can afford to mobile-enable their workforce and increase their business.
Gartner recently stated that “The quality of the experience of applications on these devices, which can apply location, motion and other context in their behavior, is leading customers to interact with companies preferentially through mobile devices. This has led to a race to push out applications as a competitive tool to improve relationships and gain advantage over competitors whose interfaces are purely browser-based.”
5. Easier consumption of data: Significant forces on the demand and supply side are making it easier for mobile apps to consume enterprise data, increasing their ubiquity further. On the supply side, organizations are placing more applications on private or public clouds. These business applications come with web services APIs, so their data can be easily consumed by external applications using these services. On the demand side, consumerization of apps and their rapid adoption is driving vendors to accelerate the process of opening up the data within their systems via APIs. As a result of these forces, it has become easier for vendors to roll out pre-built apps and for organizations to even create custom mobile apps that accesses data from their business applications.
These reasons suggest that mobile computing for business use is not only here to stay, but it will become central to how we do our work. Organizations that do not integrate mobile into the very fabric of their overall business processes will see their competitiveness erode, opening up avenues for disruptive start-ups to upset the status quo.
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Edited by Juliana Kenny