Harness the Business Power of Smartphones, Tablets

Smartphones and tablets represent the biggest evolution in computing since the emergence of the Internet. The number of units sold, the growth of smartphones overall and the emergence of the tablet market segment that didn’t exist in any significant numbers as recently as 18 months ago are staggering. What it has done to impact the expectations and capabilities of the standard corporate worker has tremendous significance to companies as they look to forge a mobile vision and plan.

The world is becoming more connected every day. Consumers -“ your employees, business partners and vendors -“ are moving to mobile devices at a breakneck pace. To establish some perspective, consider that PC Desktops passed the 100 million unit mark in the mid-90’s, cell phones eclipsed 1 billion unit mark in 2002 and Internet users reached the same plateau in 2005. It is expected that smartphones and tablets will reach 10 billion units in the next 5 years, creating the same spark that the launch of Windows 3.0 had for PC sales, and the Netscape Browser did for Internet usage These devices represent a profound opportunity for organizations to rethink and impact change like never before. But making this leap requires some understanding of what this platform can do.

The biggest impact these devices have is on user expectations. We no longer have to wait to check email, read news, check the market or box scores. We merely flip open our smart device and get the information we desire. We have compressed the amount time from the “Point of Inspiration” to the “Point of Realization.” While most changes have come in the business-to-consumer (B2C) space, we have the same opportunities in the business-to-business (B2B) world. It is critical for organizations to evaluate its processes and identify where this burgeoning platform can change their business. There are three areas that I will highlight for your consideration but the opportunities are potentially endless when you consider the reach and capabilities these devices provide.

Reaching New Populations of Workers
It is common for retailers and manufacturers to not provide significant Internet access to their primary working populations. The first reason given is workers in these groups are supposed to be selling or making products and providing computing resources is a distraction from their primary mission. The second reason given is it is impractical to equip these employee populations with computing devices and access. With nearly 40 percent of the work force now owning a smart device, these populations now are easier to serve. The development of mobile-based employee portals that provision key capabilities, give quick access to information and automate otherwise manual processes are now possible and increasingly more common. Companies can control what the employee can do and employees will have access to systems at the Point of Inspiration, whether they want to submit a vacation request, view the latest product training or see the last quarterly report.

Changing the Business Process
Smart devices allow organizations to rethink traditional business processes by leveraging device capabilities -“ such as cameras and GEO location -“ to build applications that break with tradition allowing for more engaging and interactive transactions. For example using a smart device camera, a field service technician can scan a barcode and get all the related information about a piece of equipment. Using GEO Location a sales person can tell a perspective buyer what inventory is available locally. Also by using the integrated operations of the device, the exchange of information between a sales person and customer can be seamless when it’s built into the process.

Decreasing Lag Time
Business processes, be it sales, service, manufacturing or other, are transaction based; shortening the time to complete that transaction as well as freeing someone up to perform that transaction from anywhere is at the core of what smart devices can provide. From field service personnel looking at schematics, to sales people checking inventory to help-desk supervisors monitoring performance and responding to escalated issues, companies can look now improve the overall responsiveness of the organization by rethinking critical business processes and enabling access to information that reduces the lag time between the Point of Inspiration and the Point of Realization.

In all cases the ability for an organization to make these changes is based on the fact that nearly 40 percent of its employee population has a smart device; using that access is a competitive advantage for your company and reducing the lag time from inspiration to realization will have a significant impact overall. Mobile device usage will continue to grow. How you choose to address this growth from a business-to-business perspective is important. Understanding what applications will have impact, where you fall on the mobile readiness spectrum and determining what your technology approach will be are topics for future discussion. For now, mobile computing is here. 56 percent of senior executives say that their mobile device is their primary B2B communications tool. If they are using them then your employees are too, and you need to be ready.

David Proegler is the Consulting Practice Manager at Latitude Consulting Group. He manages all of its IT and Business Process consulting initiatives. Their primary focus is on the automotive and OEM sector with an emphasis on process and channel optimization. He has 20 years of experience in delivering IT and business management consulting services to Fortune 500 clients. He can be reached at [email protected].