Enterprise Mobility and Strategy

Mobile technology is redefining the way people access and exchange information. Mobile devices have touched most aspects of our life deeply – both personal and professional. Professionally mobile devices are almost eliminating the need to carry laptops for a lot of users. Smartphones and tablets will completely eliminate the need for a corporate laptop for most users when corporate information and business processes are available on smartphones and tablets. Probably laptops will only be used by software developers in the future!

So while mobility is making the universe more transparent for the consumers the same mobility is weaving a complex web for the enterprises in terms of choice, decisions and investments. Rapid changes in mobile technology have made mobile decisions a moving target.

Previously businesses looked at software investments as long-term investments of at least 5 to 10 years. All of a sudden mobility is redefining the long term, medium term and short term. Mobility is making software investments and choices a continual process. It is evolving continuously and rapidly. Visibility period of 3 years in mobility is a luxury.

In such a scenario businesses cannot relax. The best they can do is to define a mobile strategy and make smarter choices to benefit from mobility. These smarter choices should also make adaptation easy without draining the corporate resources. This brings to the question ‘What is mobile strategy’?

What is Mobile Strategy?

Mobile strategy is not only about which mobile devices to use, which mobile platforms to use or which processes one should mobilize. Mobile strategy is a lot deeper than the platforms and toolsets. Mobile strategy is about the business itself and the people involved in the business. However obvious the role, purpose and benefits of mobile devices seem, it is necessary to identify and quantify them in the context of the enterprise. Most important questions any mobile strategy should answer are:

  • What is the role of mobile devices in the company?
  • How can the company, customers and employees benefit from mobility?
  • What are the various aspects of the business which can benefit from mobility? Are the benefits direct or indirect? Ex: Top line / bottom line benefits or productivity boost or making work lives easier
  • Is mobility giving a strategic advantage or is it the only way to access information for the employees/customers?
  • How can mobility in conjunction with other technologies transform the business?
  • How can mobility make the work life better for the employees?
  • What processes and data access do customers and employees require from their mobile devices?
  • Should the enterprise support a single type of mobile device of multiple types of mobile devices in terms of the operating system, manufacturer, etc.?
  • Should the enterprise support company owned and/or employee-owned mobile devices?
  • How can the telecom expenses be managed due to the greater use of mobile devices?
  • How can the corporate policy be enforced on the mobile devices, if required?
  • How can the corporate data, business processes and intellectual property be protected from unauthorized use?
  • How can the corporate data and processes from the best of breed enterprise systems be brought to a bouquet of mobile devices in a scalable and secure manner?
  • What technology solutions and toolsets are required to realize the identified benefits and tackle the challenges of mobility?
  • What kind of an execution and support structure is required to successfully deploy various aspects of mobility in the enterprise?
  • What are the moving parts and fixed parts of mobility in the enterprise?
  • Based on the speed of change in mobility what is short term, medium term and long term in mobility?

Once the answers to the above are clear cost structures can be worked out and an execution plan can be put in place. But the 2 most important aspects that need to be kept in mind about mobile strategy are:

  • Mobile Strategy should place people and business at the center of the strategy.
  • Without people, there is no mobility! Mobile strategy is a continuous process. Evolve and adopt or perish!
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5 things to consider for a Mobile Direct Store Delivery Implementation

Direct Store Delivery

Direct Store Delivery (DSD) is method of selling or distributing products for variety of industries like Food, Beverage, Personal Care, etc. SAP offers a full-fledged module on DSD part of SAP ECC/ERP. DSD has tight integration to SAP SD, MM, FI & Logistics. This makes it one of the preferred solutions across the world which meets most of the requirements of customers’ out-of-the-box. SAP also offers a mobility offering as an optional module for customers who like to avoid the manual paper-based approach. There are a few considerations when implementing Mobile DSD in an enterprise.

1. Is the current business process good enough to implement SAP DSD
SAP DSD has some key considerations to get the best results in implementations. These are things like usage of Bill of Material (BOM), Empties management, Single Sales Area for each route. Without these you may be required to limit yourself to some features SAP DSD provides out-of-the-box or have to do custom development to achieve those.

2. Mobile DSD or Paper-based DSD
Over the last 6-8 years, there is a lot of demand for mobilizing the DSD process in enterprises. Mobilization completely takes away the manual effort of entering vital order/delivery, cash collection, stock & money checkout, check-in. Customers can be issued with real-time legal invoices with electronic signature capture, PODs, cash receipts etc. at the customer site itself. Mobilization leads to on-the-fly determination of promotions, seasonal discounts which are powerful features of an ERP like SAP ECC. In a summary – faster sales & logistics execution and eliminate pilferage completely.

3. Which scenarios are meant to be driven via Mobile DSD
SAP DSD supports Delivery Driver, Van Sales, Pre-Sales & Mixed scenarios. In an ideal situation keeping a single Mobile DSD solution for all these scenarios give the best benefits and hence ROI. Many times there is an overlap in-term of functions the workforce can perform. Integrating customer, product surveys and checklists has huge advantages to captures vital information at field via same sales workforce. Integration of some field service functions is also a key.

4. A right technology platform to Mobilize DSD
While mobilization is a key in reaping the benefits of a DSD, it’s very important to choose the right platform to enable mobilization. The key parameters are scalability, multiple device types with native support, offline capability, high volume data handling in the mobile devices, roles/group management, a platform for instant alerting and notifications, geo capabilities, central device administration & remote troubleshooting, the seamless online-offline capability of device software.

5. A right device to mobilize DSD
This is a very important decision in an implementation. Typically the thumb-rule is to leverage existing device hardware to run MDSD on it because there is a big cost factor associated to the hardware. Especially in a MDSD world a ruggedized form of device is considered, which much more expensive than a non-ruggedized device is. In an enterprise where devices have to be acquired, you will end up with a few choices today. For a delivery driver usage scenario, a ruggedized device needs to be considered. Here the choice is either an enterprise-ready Windows Mobile-based device or an Android device. Even though Windows Mobile is considered to be outdated, it still has an edge over android in-terms of enterprise readiness and easy available peripheral integrations like barcode scanning and printing. Android on the other hand could be giving the better results in terms of application software usability experience. Even custom ruggedized Android tablet hardware is an interesting option. For non-delivery driver scenarios, there is plethora of choices today; from iPhone to Windows Phone and tablets. Here the cost of the device would be a primary criteria and a Blackberry device could a good choice as many enterprises have plenty of blackberries rolled out to these workforces and hence it’s all about reusing the existing hardware.

Note: This blog also appeared as a guest blog on Enterprise Mobile Strategies.

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Why Mobile DSD (Direct Store Delivery) is a requirement?

In a world of fast-changing tastes and instant gratification, my can of favorite beverage had better be on the shelf. If not, the retailer and supplier will have lost a loyal customer. Direct Store Delivery (DSD) is a vital process that brings foods and beverages to the shelf. Mobilizing the DSD process makes the supply chain much more efficient, and ensures that the shopping experience is a pleasant one. In the world of enterprise mobility, mobile DSD is not a luxury—it is a must-have.

While SAP and other companies have solutions for DSD, the Mobile DSD (MDSD) area remains ripe for innovation. During our implementations of DSD and MDSD Solutions, customers have shared with us valuable feedback. The usability of MDSD solutions can be improved to enhance sales and productivity of the delivery drivers. The User Interface can be simplified for data entry and screen navigation. In many cases, there is a need to re-engineer the process flow to meet our clients’ needs.

One area to improve is in Sales Order creation. Immediate Sales Order replication to SAP can trigger the follow up leading to faster order fulfillment. Another area to improve is Customer Surveys. During the store visit, the supplier personnel collects customer data via surveys. This survey data can be integrated with CRM systems like SAP CRM, which can be fed into BW and analytics can be utilized to make better decisions.

Another insight from our customers is that it would be good to integrate the MDSD application with Asset Maintenance/Plant Maintenance systems to create and access Notifications. Many times, the drivers are doing multiple things —taking orders, merchandising as well as conducting maintenance and repairs on a variety of assets the supplier has deployed at the retailers – think refrigerators as an example.

Some customers have unique requirements for mobilizing DSD, and only a custom MDSD solution will work. In these cases, we utilize our domain expertise and deliver a custom MDSD solution. We also give our customers the option of either an on-premise or in the cloud solution.

Mobile DSD in conjunction with DSD has benefits for both the CP (consumer products) manufacturer and the retailer. The supplier can better monitor demand on the shelf, be more responsive, and better control merchandising and promotions. New products can be introduced better and innovations increase. The retailer in turn benefits from lower capital outlays and always having fast moving items in stock.

So the next time you grab that beverage, thank the process that enables you to quench your thirst – Mobile DSD.

Note: This blog also appeared as a guest blog on Enterprise Mobile Strategies.

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Top 5 Lessons from Mobilizing SAP on the cloud

Working with SAP customers on the cloud has been a rich learning and myth-busting experience in many ways. Contrary to popular belief, a number of SAP customers do have a strong affinity for deploying solutions via the cloud. So what are the insights from our first set of cloud customers on the Unvired Mobile Cloud?

1. Cloud is relevant and top of the mind for SAP customers

Many of them already use other solutions such as Salesforce, Workday, SuccessFactors, etc. and integrate these SAAS/cloud solutions to their SAP systems in a number of ways. A cloud-based delivery of the Unvired Mobile platform struck a chord with many of the CIO/CTO and IT heads that we spoke to. It is also a known fact that on-premise or hosted data centers running the dedicated SAP instances need to co-exist with the cloud-based platforms/solutions. A flexible approach to cloud deployment without disrupting existing landscapes is what customers want.

2. Security

Data security is of paramount importance to all customers SAP or otherwise. Business data is being unlocked and the safeguarding of that data, while it is put to innovative usages, needs to be the bedrock of any cloud platform. The heads of IT recognize that email on mobile is already putting sensitive data on the device and data from business systems like SAP is not new but only enhancing the amount of data on the device. Also, MDM solutions complement the security needs of the Mobile platforms.

Security in the mobile context can be Data on the cloud, data in transit and data on the device. The Unvired Mobile Cloud platform does not replicate the data from customer systems to the cloud. Data is held on the cloud in encrypted form only for as long as it is required to be delivered safely to the device. Data in transit is secured via standard HTTPS/SSL and data on the device is stored in encrypted databases.

3. Time to deploy, rapid change

Companies want to deploy mobile solutions rapidly and don’t want to wait. Reasons are many but the primary one is that deployments on mobile are in response (or to preempt) to business demands (like approvals on the Go, sales order creation etc) and are time sensitive. In many cases, deploying the solution a few months later means reduced business relevance. So solutions need to be rapidly deployed and be adaptable to rapid changes requested by business users.

4. ROI matters, no more POCs

Good old fashioned ROI still matters. Customers are hesitant to make huge investments in POCs with limited production relevance. Customers want quick and free trials with their own SAP systems and mobile devices eliminating the POCs. After the trial, customers are more interested in the iterative roll out of mobile processes and investing in shorter bursts as and when required. Customers want to see the bang for the buck quickly as unlike investments in SAP and other systems wherein the investment is depreciated over 10 to 15 years, mobile investments are for much shorter periods of 2 to 3 years. BYOD phenomenon, short device life and mobile manufacturer/telco driven periodic device refresh have driven the shorter shelf life in the mobile investments.

5. Pay as you go/scale as you go

This was by far a must have that many customers pointed out. Rarely do customers go for a big bang deployment of mobile users. Additional deployments requiring purchasing of (expensive) additional users are a dampener for larger mobile adoption. Also, significant churn in employees’ headcount due to challenging business circumstances means customers want to not just buy additional users but also return users. This new trend/requirement of return of users can be satisfied in a fair manner only by a true cloud solution with transparent pricing.

Note: This blog also appeared as a guest blog on Enterprise Mobile Strategies.

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Lowering the Activation Energy for Enterprise Mobility Implementations

As we talk to customers, it is clear that enterprises have not adopted Mobility as quickly as consumers. We have had many conversations with customers, and two main points stand out. The first is that they are finding it difficult to justify the ROI for many mobility projects. Yes, it is true that there are certain scenarios like Field Service or Sales where the value of mobility is accepted, but beyond these, it becomes more difficult. When enterprises look to mobilize processes like Purchase Order Approval or Travel Expense approval, the barrier to mobility has to be reduced.

An analogy can be drawn to the Activation Energy concept we all learned in Chemistry—for a reaction to occur, the activation energy barrier has to be overcome/lowered. Similarly, in our world of enterprise mobility, the ROI barrier has to be lowered.

Our second insight gleaned from customers is that IT departments today are under extreme pressure to deliver multiple projects with dwindling resources. One large SAP customer was all set to mobilize their applications when they had a major restructuring in their IT department. Another high tech customer in the US is rolling out SAP to their subsidiaries globally, leaving no time or resources for mobility projects even with a recognized need. A third customer was given the mandate to mobilize multiple business processes running on SAP in just one month.

These situations suggest that the old model of installing software on-premise and conducting, say a 3 month POC to prove the ROI of a project is obsolete. Companies do not have enough budget, and the cloud is increasingly getting the mindshare of the CIO. The consumerization of IT has made all of us seek instant gratification—we want the mobile application instantly, inexpensively, and without any bother.

All this sets the stage nicely to usher in the era of the Mobile Cloud. The Mobile cloud delivers a rain of mobile applications at a low cost without consuming the resources of a strapped IT department—no hardware investment, and minimal time commitment. It is a Pay As You Go model and eliminates the need for a capital investment. It is scalable, provides flexibility, and insulates the firm in a rapidly changing technology environment. The data security concerns of the cloud are understood by now and have been successfully managed.

As more applications move over to the cloud, can the mobile cloud be far behind? Are you ready to lower the activation energy for your Mobility projects? There is no reason that your Mobile initiatives be confined to just a few use cases. It is time to make Enterprise Mobility ubiquitous. The mobile cloud may be just the catalyst you need.

Note: This blog also appeared as a guest blog on Enterprise Mobile Strategies.

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