Sanjay Sharma is your usual sales rep who”s on his routine sales round.
Only this time he”s sporting an all-new PDA. He now uses his mobile device to
use the waiting time, in between meeting clients, to catch up on lost time
reviewing account and product information, scheduling sales appointments and
completing his sales administrative tasks. His company, a large FMCG major, soon
discovered that salesmen like Sanjay spend one third of their time waiting in
the offices of clients with little or nothing to do. This, subsequently, was
having a negative impact on the company”s overall productivity.
So, what”s the story here? Well, Sanjay”s top management, in consultation
with the CIO and his IT team, decided to provide mobile devices (mostly Reliance
phones and in some cases PDAs) to employees to allow them to port their
mission-critical enterprise applications to a mobile platform. The company hopes
that this move will result in more sales leads, more orders and consequently
Similar usage in many other industries like pharma, express services,
insurance, consumer goods and auto holds the promise for improved productivity
and efficiency and CIOs have started examining the potential of mobile
computing. The trend seems to be catching on fast: pharmaceutical firms like
Pfizer, Glaxo SmithKline, Ranbaxy and FMCG giants like Hindusthan Lever have
already started ”mobilizing mission critical staff”.
To set the term straight, ”mobile computing” in its most general sense
refers to the use of any computer that is not hard-wired to the central or host
system with which it needs to interact. The required interaction occurs through
a wireless, real-time connection, a batch synchronization procedure, or a
combination of wireless and batch. Enterprises globally are seeking means to
extend corporate data to an increasingly mobile workforce. IDC estimates that by
the end of 2006, roughly 66% of the US workforce would be mobile workers. Mobile
workers are defined as employees spending at least 20% of their time away from
According to Gartner, mobile applications are becoming strategic parts of a
company”s IT portfolio, rather than being tactical tools for productivity
gains. Satish Pendse, CIO, Kuoni Travels, however feels that India Inc. is yet
to mature to this level. "Barring a few exceptions such as sales force
automation with the pharma or FMCG industry, mobile applications have not yet
started contributing to the topline for most Indian enterprises".
Enterprises spent up to 5% of their budget in mobile applications in 2003;
the percentage will double by 2007 globally. In comparison, Indian enterprises
have just about started moving in the mobile computing direction. In a survey
conducted by Dataquest among 68 large organizations, 25 of them planned to
invest in wireless networks and sales-force automation projects during 2004,
while 14 planned to go in for other mobile applications.
Enterprises need to make a number of technology decisions based on the
constituent parts of the mobile solution- the mobile devices that can be used,
the mobile database components and the middleware, developing mobile
applications, and interfacing with the back-end systems. The technical
considerations aside, CIOs would need to understand a few key points before
embarking on a mobile computing initiative.
Arun O Gupta, senior director- business technology, Pfizer, points out that
mobility is just an added advantage to an enterprise and doesn”t really
replace conventional connectivity solutions. To the largest possible extent, the
aim should be to extend the existing technology stack instead of creating a
standalone infrastructure that is expensive and cumbersome to manage and
support. "The virtual office is still a long way. The existing business
processes need to factor in the mobility, they do not need re-engineering. Like
the Internet or e-enabling of the enterprise was not at the cost of existing
channels of engaging customers, mobile computing and access will complement the
Part of the externally visible sheen in mobile computing is the mobile device
that empowers the person. The choice of the device though important is quite a
non-issue as long as the organization is clear what it wants to achieve.
Enterprises can choose from a multitude of types and brands of mobile devices
ranging from phones to laptops to the lowly application-specific handheld. In
India, one could look at mobile phones (both GSM and CDMA), while the
penetration of laptops increase. PDAs though are yet to become affordable.
Similarly, devices like smart phones and tablet PCs are still quite a distance
away from Indian enterprises.
The nature of the work process often decides what device form factor will be
suitable for a particular task. For example, if the device will be used for
client interaction or demonstration purposes, consider laptops or tablet PCs
with big screens and good resolution. Some devices are designed to support the
needs of highly specialized tasks or quite extreme environments. For example,
warehouse staff needs barcode scanners integrated into their devices in order to
integrated product information into SCM systems. To decide on how ”thick” or
”thin” the client device needs to be in terms of processing power, the
amount of data managed and the frequency of access between enterprise networks
and the mobile employee has to be considered. At present, bandwidths are not
sufficient to support the full range of applications and thicker clients
predominate. However, as networks develop, thin clients can be employed on a
Application is the Key
Enterprises have a wide choice in terms of the applications that they
mobilize. These may be packaged or customized, applications that are already in
use in the fixed environment, such as a SAP R3, or applications that have been
developed to fit the capabilities of wireless networks and a very specific
mobilized task. The whole purpose of mobile applications is to provide wireless
and remote access to business systems. Says Ishwar Jha, senior manager-IT, Sony
Music, "If the mobile application is not integrated with enterprise
application then it will only be the fancy device in the hands of mobile
workforce without any major RoI for the organization. For enterprise
applications such as ERP/ SCM/CRM, the value provided by
the mobile applications can be classified in to two categories: for one, capture
of data very close to its source and in the real time basis i.e. when the data
gets "created" and secondly, availability of information to the
business users whenever needed and wherever needed.
If information is available whenever and wherever needed in a convenient
manner, then the time to take decisions and initiate action is reduced, thus
Says Pendse, " For an FMCG or pharma scenario, the sales person is
usually travelling and is away from his office for one week at a time. If a
cheque of his customer bounces, then he gets that information only when he
returns back to his office, say after a week. Instead, if the system can send
alert on his mobile whenever the cheque bounces, he can initiate appropriate
action much earlier."
Mobility also facilitates extension of scope of the enterprise application.
For example, for a consumer of pharma companies, ERP”s scope in the erstwhile
scenario was restricted to organization”s own offices, factories and C&F
agents. Says Jha, "Mobile applications have facilitated extension of the
scope to its sales force who is spread across geography and its distributors who
are also spread geographically. In future, the same may also get extended to
retailers and end consumers."
End customers too have a value proposition, which can serve as a
differentiator to the business. For example, in service industries like travel,
tourism, hotels, transportation, banking and insurance, the end-customer”s
convenience improves dramatically when he gets access to the enterprise data on
an on-line basis.
This alone can differentiate the organization from its competition, in the
minds of its customers. Many a times it helps to expand the market or to create
new markets. As a thumb rule for a service industry, increased convenience helps
to expand the market or create new market. Mobile applications fit this bill
The benefit of real-time associated with mobile applications is due to the
near elimination of the time lag between an event and it being captured into an
enterprise application. This also eliminates the chances of data not getting
captured (due to "transmission losses"), errors in data-capture etc.,
thereby improving authenticity and timeliness of the information generated.
There is also an improvement of productivity, since the person directly
associated with the event is the one capturing it, instead of a separate person
capturing it at a separate place. In a FMCG or pharma scenario, the travelling
salesman can capture some information when he gathers it at a retail point,
instead of capturing the same at the end-of-the-day in office. Thus actions can
be initiated earlier and overall cycle-time gets reduced.
What CIOs Should Consider?
Purely from a business perspective, the CIO needs to ask the following
- Is the information associated with the process or job function
- Would converting to a mobile environment make the staff more productive?
- Will it reduce the cost of operation or increase customer satisfaction?
If so, then there is a strong case to investigate going in
the direction of mobile applications.
The next step is to make a more detailed value analysis of
introducing mobile apps to supplement or replace parts of existing enterprise
applications. This analysis should specifically examine internal costs, current
expenditures (for instance, on communication resources and information
technology), and provide a detailed cost scenario of what would happen with the
introduction of the mobile strategy. The goal of this step is to assess the
opportunity cost of spending resources on the project as opposed to other
projects in the portfolio. Pendse believes will be one of the most important
elements in justifying the project internally.
Mobile initiatives can range from enterprise-wide to
automating a task to test the waters. It is important to minimize the scope of
the project if you are doing this for the first time.
Agrees Jha, "We have first developed a test application
for order capturing and subsequently made a business case for starting the
mobile application infrastructure. This has helped us to justify the cost and
Since mobile applications mandate a behavioral change, it is
essential to develop user profiles as part of the mobile application design. If
users are inexperienced, it creates all sorts of problems for the designers and
developers of information and software systems. The key is to understand the
challenges that the users present to the design and development team before
major design decisions are made.
No enterprise can make it alone. Partnerships are very
important and there are three basic categories of partners: network providers,
hardware platform providers and software/application providers. Companies should
choose the software provider first because application integration is of
paramount importance. Ideally, companies want to have access that is ubiquitous,
regardless of the device platform. Network and hardware platform decisions will
be derived from these.
Maxims for Enterprise Mobility
Develop a mobile strategy now Enterprise demand for support of mobile
computing initiatives now requires extending the full complement of enterprise
resources to do business anywhere, anytime. The enterprise that proactively
pursues a comprehensive mobile computing strategy will be successful in building
competitive advantage. Gupta believes that the creation of a mobile worker
extends the work time beyond conventional 9-5.
Undergo process realigning The CIOs should ensure that the
mobile worker concept generates business benefits by reducing lag for data
capture and information availability. According to Pendse, the length for a
process is being reduced since the person capturing the data and the time of
capture is changing. There is no need for some person, justÃ‚Â to generate the
information, to feed the mobile worker. Instead the mobile worker can generate
the same himself and consume the same himself. The information can also be
generated by the computer and “pushed” to the person who consumes the
same. Adds Pendse, “Access to the applications need not be restricted to
the internal teams only. Customers themselves can access the information from a
point and time of their convenience.” This calls for internal as well as
external process realignment since the mindset is 24×7 and the geographical
limitations cease to exist. The channels and means of contacting the customers
also undergo transformation leading to major process realignment.
Ensure secure transaction Security vulnerabilities are on a
higher side since we are yet to see good secured, standard protocol for wireless
communication. This may be one of the reasons while wireless based mobile
applications not picking up at a rapid pace. Agrees Jha, “There are
certainly a concern in terms of authentication and someone committing the
unethical transactions.” Smart card and digital signature based encryption
solution is in the top of mind for the CIO for facilitating the secured
infrastructure for their enterprise.
Keep an eye on Wi-Fi Wi-Fi is yet to pick up in India to the
extent believed earlier. But this should not close the CIOs to the idea of going
the WLAN way as and when the technology matures and the regulatory hurdles are
overcome. The hospitality industry in the country has shown the way; CIOs in
other verticals should follow suit at the right time. Gupta reveals that one of
PfizerÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s experiments with wireless audience response systems has been able to
show a quick recovery of the investment with the ability to capture and analyze
data with speed.
Avoid consumer-focused vendors Most of the service providers
in the country today sweat by their data applications which they claim to suit
the enterprises. But scratch behind the surface, and you will find that most of
these applications are really catering to the consumers, not enterprises. For
most corporates, it is the question of porting their regular applications to a
mobile platform, and not at the service providers for offering new killer apps.
PendseÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s advice to other CIOs: “DonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t swear by the application;
instead, swear by business value. If the said application is providing value to
your business, then make efforts to convince the stakeholder about it. Educate
them, involve them and let them take decision regarding the adoption; donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t
force the decision down their throat.”
The FutureÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Bright, the FutureÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s PDAs: Lauren
The company has already deployed PDA applications and provided hardware to
several companies in the Indian and overseas market
Lauren Information Technologies is laying its bet on PDA-based applications.
This solution providing company has already deployed PDA applications and
hardware to several companies in the Indian and overseas market. Says Rawlin
Pinto, CMD, Lauren, “There is great scope for PDA-based applications in the
pharma and insurance sector and we have already come up with a generic
application that can be tweaked and used for any pharma company.”
Lauren, that recently introduced its portfolio management software, Networth,
is coming out with the PDA version of this product. It will also launch a CRM
software application for PDAs. Citing an example about the scope of the
solutions, Rawlin recounts how Lauren has deployed a distribution management
application at 1,800 PDA nodes for ColgateÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s stockists and salesmen in the
country. Following a successful run with this technology, Colgate is now
marketing this application to its counterparts in Malaysia and Philippines.
Rawlin says that these applications must be all-pervasive and should work
with heterogeneous environments to succeed. Lauren makes sure that its products
can work seamlessly with Symbian, Linux, Palm and Pocket PC OS. “Since the
application works on multiple platforms, we have to configure only the last-mile
conduit at the customer site,” adds Rawlin.
Lauren has also developed a PDA-based application for Aventis, which has been
supplied to 25 doctors. The deployment is still in the initial stages. Among
other pharmas, it has worked with Pfizer for a test deployment of an application
to 35 people in New Zealand.
It has also worked with AFL for a trace and track system with Symbian OS.
Here the application is loaded on a PDA attached to a scanner. Every consignment
is scanned and the data is transferred to a central server, so that customers
and the company officials can keep a track of it.
Some of the applications are also created to work with multiple devices like
laptops, desktops and even mobile phones. “With mobile-technology catching
on, we plan to come out with more mobile-based applications, making sure that it
is shrunk to fit the smaller display screen,” says Rawlin.
Another sweetener to creating PDA-based applications is the supply of the
hardware, which is inevitably done by Lauren. However, Rawlin insists that he is
not into the hardware part of the business, but coincidentally whenever they
deploy the application the client prefers to buy it from Lauren. “This is
because it is easier for them to go to one company for all their needs,” he
Vinita Bhatia in Mumbai/DQCI