Business Agility: Strategies for Gaining Competitive Advantage through Mobile Business Solutions
- By Nicholas D. Evans
- Published Nov 12, 2001 by FT Press.
- Copyright 2002
- Dimensions: F
- Pages: 272
- Edition: 1st
- ISBN-10: 0-13-066837-0
- ISBN-13: 978-0-13-066837-0
- eBook (Watermarked)
- ISBN-10: 0-13-151715-5
- ISBN-13: 978-0-13-151715-8
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Product Author Bios
Nicholas D. Evans is a Director within the Emerging Technology Practice of one of the world's leading professional services organizations. He focuses on the delivery of Wireless Internet consulting engagements such as wireless strategy, architecture, and implementation.
Mr. Evans is an industry-recognized E-Business consultant, speaker, and author. He has a regular M-Business column published in Internet Week reaching over 275,000 readers and has written for numerous other computer industry magazines. He is the author of several books on web technology, including titles from Microsoft Press and Powersoft Press. He is frequently quoted in the industry press and has been featured in thought leadership sections alongside Peppers & Rogers and the Patricia Seybold Group.
Mr. Evans was formerly the National Technical Director for E-Business at PricewaterhouseCoopers within their Global Software Solutions Center. In this role, he was responsible for selling and delivering engagements to major PwC clients nationally. Mr. Evans co-founded the National Internet Practice for Coopers & Lybrand in 1997.
Mr. Evans' clients have included 3M, AT&T, Abbott Labs, American Airlines, American Family Insurance, Best Buy, BP Amoco, Compaq, Conoco, First USA, Intel, Kodak, Major League Baseball, Schering Plough, SunTrust Bank, Texaco, Van Waters and Rogers, and many others.
Mr. Evans holds a B.Sc. (Hons) and M.Sc. from Southampton University in England. He is a frequent advisor to the venture capital community and serves on several advisory boards.
m-Business technology enables you to achieve extraordinary organizational agility Ñ and deliver unprecedented value to customers wherever they are. In Business Agility, Internet Week columnist Nicholas D. Evans draws upon real case studies to illuminate today's best m-Business strategies and tactics, and offers a complete step-by-step blueprint for execution: planning, process models, architecture, implementation, and much more.
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Table of Contents
2. The M-Business Evolution.
3. Design of an M-Business.
4. Process Models and Applications for M-Business Agility.
5. Industry Examples.
6. M-Business Strategic Roadmap.
7. M-Business Architectural Frameworks.
8. M-Business Technologies and Implementation.
9. Future Trends.
Notes and References.
Mobile Business = Business Process + Electronic Business + Wireless Communications
Mobile business, or M-Business, is already changing our lives. It is often thought of as the business opportunity that has been brought about by the convergence of electronic business with wireless technologies. We can now conduct business anytime and anyplace in order to meet the informational and transactional demands of end users, remove former process and technology bottlenecks, and hence increase customer satisfaction, revenues and productivity, and reduce costs.
But beyond this simple description, we are entering an entirely new erathe era of business agility, which is the next evolution of business itself. This is a superset, not a mere extension, of electronic business. It is here that mobile business will have its most profound effect. The changes will be widespread. They will affect our companies, our markets, our economy, our lifestyles, our politics, and our global perspectives and interactions.
This book is designed to serve as a handbook for this next business evolution. The era of Business Agility presents us with a new era of enterprise value and productivity after the crash and disappointment of the prior wave of E-Business initiatives. Over the past several years, businesses have made great strides in improving customer service, productivity, and manufacturing processes. Businesses have optimized their relatively unchanging processes and value propositions and have gained considerable efficiencies. Information technology has played a large role in facilitating these increases in productivity. But the next competitive frontier will be how quickly these businesses can sense and respond to change. The next step is to be able to create new processes and new value propositions in a rapidly changing business environment and be able to institute these changes rapidly. These changes must also have a higher degree of flexibility engineered-in once implemented. In an era when entire industries are converging, enterprise agility, and the ability to create dynamic value propositions, will separate the winners from the losers in the battle for mindshare and marketshare.
The ability to leverage M-Business to pull information rapidly and accurately from the "edge" of the corporation in the areas of sales, marketing, and customer service will be critical for the agile enterprise. Likewise, the ability to leverage M-Business to push management decisions back out to the field, where those decisions can be acted upon, will be critical as well. M-Business represents an opportunity to increase business agility across the entire breadth of the corporationfrom its core to its extremitiesconnecting management with employees, customers, suppliers, and business partners.
Without this business agility, even companies that have highly optimized processes and excellent customer service today will find themselves struggling to compete over the next several years owing to information and transaction chokepoints that delay decision making and employee action. Not only will they experience a critical time delay in their enterprise operations and customer and supplier interactions, they will also experience information gaps where they are less informed of critical business events and metrics in their surrounding environment. They will be less aware of the business context in which they operate and will lack a competitive edge.
M-Business presents a new opportunity to enhance business agility. Figure 1-1 shows the broader view of M-Business that is the subject of this book. Rather than being at the intersection of E-Business (or the Internet) and Wireless Communications, which has been the traditional definition of the wireless Internet, it is a superset comprised of business process, electronic business, and wireless communications. It is as much about process as it is about technology. The combination of all of these areas creates powerful new synergies.
Throughout the course of this book, we'll take a look at the formula for business agility and present six principles and nine action items for achieving business agility within your organization. We'll look at the current state of affairs with regard to the wireless industry, the drivers and barriers to adoption, the wireless Internet value chain, and the applications that are gaining traction in the industry. We'll look at concepts such as the dynamic value proposition, how to leverage preference-driven commerce within your customer interactions, and how to apply alliance relationship management within your partner interactions.
We'll explore areas of opportunity within the enterprise for M-Business to improve business intelligence, customer relationship management, sales force automation, field force automation, and supply chain management.
We'll explore case studies from companies such as ADC Telecommunications, Aviall, Carlson Hospitality, eBay, FT Interactive Data, Office Depot, and Rental Service Corporation in order to see how these early adopters leveraged M-Business within their enterprise and achieved real business results.
We'll look at M-Business strategy and how to calculate return on investment. We'll look at M-Business architecture and implementation, and profile some of the key wireless software vendors, in order to execute on the strategy.
Finally, we'll look at future trends in M-Business and other emerging technologies such as the semantic Web, real-time computing, Web services, natural language processing, and business process management. All these emerging technologies are helping us adapt technology around ourselves and our business activitiesenabling us to increase our business agility.
Formula for Business Agility
As we noted at the beginning of this chapter, the following formula can help explain the extent and value of mobile business:
Mobile Business = Business Process + Electronic Business + Wireless Communications
Business constantly seeks ways to improve itself, whether it has the goal of increasing shareholder value, increasing customer satisfaction, increasing revenues, or reducing costs. Over the years, we have seen several trends develop. Some of the most recent trends have been business process re-engineering (BPR), enterprise resource planning (ERP), electronic business (E-Business), and the growth of wireless communications. If we view these trends by themselves, they have been evolutionary steps. What is fascinating is that we are now entering an era where emerging technology is allowing us to combine them in powerful new ways that signal what could well be a true business revolutionthat of Business Agility. M-Business is one of the first waves coming to shore that signal this impending change in the landscape of possibilities.
The following formula can help explain the requirements for business agility:
Business Agility = Process Agility + Technical Agility
M-Business is the fuel for achieving Business Agility because it carries with it both process agility and technical agility. M-Business is not simply E-Business unwired or untethered. Nor is it simply another channel for E-Business. It's a whole new opportunity to create new business processes and improve old ones, while at the same time leveraging the time and location sensitivity that wireless communications brings to an enterprise. Successful M-Business is not just about technological innovationit requires an equal part of process innovation.
It is important to note that we must also consider the importance of human agility. Throughout both the process agility and the technical agility components of our formula for business agility, the human element is paramount. While I have not included human agility in the formula, please consider it an essential component that permeates across everything we discuss.
Principles of Business Agility
The following principles describe the forces that are driving us toward the concept of Business Agility as the next business revolution:
Principle #1: The Digital Economy Demands Business Agility
Today's global economy and market conditions require that companies in all industries optimize their performance in all areas. The requirement for continuous improvement drives the need for business agility. A company that can sense and react to changes in its internal and external environment more quickly than another can seize new revenue opportunities and control costs more efficiently than its competitors. First to market may not always be attractive, but first to react, based upon sound judgement, is always a positive.
For an organization to increase its business agility, it needs more timely access to information upon which to base decisions and more timely mechanisms for executing those decisions. It needs to have more efficient linkages with employees, customers, suppliers, partners, stakeholders, and even competitors. Business agility needs to be holistic in scopeall touchpoints that have a bearing on the business need to be addressed.
Business agility means not only fast reaction times, but also fast reaction to change and the ability to rapidly implement change. Thus, we have the formula:
Business Agility = Speed x Flexibility
To provide some examples of business agility, we'll take a look at a company's relationship with its customers, suppliers, partners, and competitors (Table 1-1). Business agility within this framework can be illustrated as follows:
Using the Seven "S" model (Figure 1-2), we can look at business agility from the perspective of the fabric and overall structure of an organization. The Seven "S" model was developed by Thomas J. Peters, Robert H. Waterman, and Julien R. Phillips. It is a popular way to look at strategy as part of an organization.
In this context, business agility means having speed and flexibility ingrained into corporate culture and style. This is a top-down approach, with the concept of business agility as a super-ordinate goal that forms the mission of the company. As such, it is ingrained in the structure of the organization, in the corporate, business and functional strategies of the organization, in IT systems and business processes, in human resources systems and processes, and finally in the skill sets of the employees themselves.
When business agility is ingrained into every aspect of the corporation, there are no weak links. Each of the Seven "S"'s interoperate in harmony.
Of course, business agility is not just about speed. It's about doing purposeful work in alignment with corporate objectives. Doing this work in an agile new manner enables a quicker response in terms of speed and flexibility.
Principle #2: Business Agility Involves Shaping Technology Around Ourselves
Business agility relates to the speed and flexibility of an organization, but it can also be a term that is used to describe some of the broader trends going on within the technological world at the present time. Business agility is a desirable end-state for the enterprise, but it also helps to describe where technology is heading over the next several years.
Emerging technologies are allowing us to start to shape technology around ourselves. For a long time, we had to work in the other direction, i.e., shape ourselves around rigid IT applications and processes. Today, technology is gaining more human-like characteristics. There are wearable computers with head-mounted displays, voice interfaces such as those found in new vehicle telematics systems, intelligent agents for helping us sort through vast amounts of content and identify the most relevant items, and semantic Web applications that add meaning to Web content for computers to better understand. This new breed of enabling technology will allow us to communicate more naturally with computers. Computers will soon be able to "follow" us. They will be more readily accessible, know our location and our environmental context and activities, and will better "understand" our meaning and objectives. By adapting around us in this way, these emerging technologies are delivering higher levels of value in our daily lives, both personally and professionally. They are also becoming less invasive in terms of how and when we interact with them.
Principle #3: Business Agility Is Achieved Via M-Business
As a critical enabler for these emerging technologies, M-Business applications have unique characteristics that are required for business agility. Most particularly, they have the ability to deliver information at any time and any place, thus reducing the limitations of time and space, and some of the barriers that we encounter when using the wired Internet.
In fact, M-Business presents us with a unique technological era, where we can adapt and shape technology to ourselves as opposed to adapting ourselves around technology. As human beings our day-to-day work activities are more about process (i.e., task-oriented) than about technology. Thus, as technology starts to adapt to fit around us, it naturally is shaped more and more by process.
M-Business can be the strategic enabler of business agility across all of the enterprise functional areas from sales and marketing, finance, human resources, operations, business development, product development, and support and services to the IT department itself.
The golden rule here is to always remember that M-Business is the combination of both process and technology. As such, it needs to mold itself to fit the business need for information and transactions at the point of business.
Principle #4: Every Business Will Become an M-Business
Businesses adopt technology and process innovations if they are deemed to add some measure of value to the enterprise. Over the years, businesses have adopted telephones, copiers, fax machines, mainframes, client-server technologies, Internet technologies, and many other devices and technologies in order to improve communications and manage information. The technology adoption lifecycle shows how technology is adopted at various stages of its evolution by innovators, early adopters, the early majority, the late majority, and laggards. These stages of technology adoption show which enterprises are most aggressive in their application of technology for business advantage and which are most conservative. Timeframes across the adoption lifecycle vary considerably based upon the technology in question. Figure 1-3 shows the technology adoption lifecycle.
It is fair to say that M-Business applications for the enterprise are currently in early adoption status. Supply of technology solutions currently far outweighs demand in the enterprise, mostly because the business benefits have not been articulated and the business value not well proven or understood.
Figure 1-4 shows the adoption rates of some of the technologies mentioned above. In comparison, the current adoption rate in the mobile device market has reached in excess of seventy percent in some countries within the space of just a few decades.
Despite the early adoption status of M-Business applications for the enterprise, it is clear that the device penetration and adoption of mobile communications has outstripped even the growth of the Internet itself. With this momentum helping to lay the infrastructure for M-Business, it is evident that the pervasiveness of M-Business software and applications will not be far behind.
Along with the technology adoption process comes the technology hype cycle as coined by Gartner, a research and advisory firm. This hype cycle explains the maturity of new technologies as they come to market. Initially, as a "technology trigger," they generate a lot of hype leading to the "peak of inflated expectations." As real-life implementations discover the weaknesses in addition to the strengths of the technology, the technology falls into the "trough of disillusionment." Finally, as enterprises learn to gain productive usage from the technology, it emerges from the trough and reaches the "slope of enlightenment" and then finally the "plateau of productivity." This technology hype cycle can equally be applied to E-Business or M-Business in general as well as to specific technologies.
The key takeaway is that new technologies will almost always be over-hyped and lead to a period of disillusionment before productive use is finally extracted. This is really a difference in the observed value of the technology when compared to the expected value at the specific point in time.
Having looked at the technology adoption lifecycle, the product adoption rates, and the technology hype cycle, we can now take a look at a macro-perspective of where business agility and the technology for helping us achieve this agility is heading. By looking at business agility from a process and technology perspective, Figure 1-6 shows the evolution since the mid-90's when Internet applications were first unleashed as a true business driver.
A four-phase model of this evolution is as follows:
This phase was characterized by static Web pages that allowed companies to present product information to customers, company information to investors, and so on. It started the process of focusing the IT department externally beyond corporate boundaries in addition to its typical internal focus. Admittedly, electronic data interchange (EDI) applications and other B2B processes had been in existence prior to the Internet, but the Internet was the first time IT had found a mass market of consumers and business partners for which to provide their services. Internet Web pages provided some technical agility for the enterprise, but little process agility.
The E-Business phase was characterized by dynamic business applications instead of static Web pages. These applications were leveraged in business-to-consumer, business-to-business, and business-to-employee scenarios. These dynamic applications made it possible for true transactions to be conducted online with data driven by corporate databases. E-Business applications provide greater technical agility for the enterprise and also started to add process agility as phone, fax, and paper-based processes were re-designed and often eliminated in order to take advantage of E-Business processes. The beginnings of collaborative commerce added to the level of process agility at this stage.
The M-Business phase leverages the time- and location- advantages of mobility in order to increase the process and technical agility of the enterprise. This is the current state of the evolution of business and we are just at the beginning. The M-Business era has garnered a lot of attention in the press, but it's important to note that E-Business technologies are also maturing and continuing to evolve alongside mobile technologies. One example is the semantic Web, which aims to add meaning to the Internet as it exists today in order to enable computers to better understand the meaning of our data and to make intelligent decisions based upon that meaning. Other examples include real-time computing, natural language processing, Web services, and business process managementall of which are discussed in more detail in our Future Trends chapter later on.
This can be considered as the theoretical end-state beyond M-Business, where companies are on an equal footing in terms of their leverage of technology and are forced to compete solely on intellect and corporate strategy. The "i" can be considered as standing for intellect, ideas, and innovation. Many companies at this state may have totally outsourced all their physical production and exist solely as a brand owner. This end-state can be considered as a virtual game of chess. The corporation is entirely virtual and, yes, business decisions can be executed at the speed of thought.
In summary, every business will become an M-Business. This simply takes time. The ability to pull information and transactions from "edge" employees in areas of sales, marketing, and customer service and to push decisions out from management to these employees to act upon is too compelling to ignore.
What needs to happen is that the technology needs to move through the technology adoption lifecycle and into the mainstream enterprise adoption. The various technology triggers that enable M-Business need to mature through the hype and disillusionment phases that we all know too well and move into the phase of true productivity, where enterprise value can be extracted. Additionally, the enterprise will require solid execution in addition to this new technology in order to be successful and to achieve its' business agility goals.
Principle #5: M-Business Will Drive Both Business and Technical Transformation
As soon as technology enabled business to capture increased revenues or reduce costs, it started to have a loop-back effect. Not only could the business side of the enterprise create a new process to better serve customers or to increase productivityand request and hence drive a technical transformationbut the IT side of the enterprise could also create a new process via a new technology and thus drive a business transformation from the other direction.
Technology has been benefiting business for hundreds of years, but only recently has it been able to make such profound changes possible in such short timeframes. A new mechanical process for manufacturing twenty years ago would create competitive advantage, but would take a long time to implement and had high asset intensity in terms of the capital expenditure involved. Today's software innovations can transform a business process within weeks or even days and have an immediate impact on the business. One of the drawbacks, however, is that these innovations can be more easily copied by competitors.
As we start to explore this new environment where information and transactions are now time and location awarewhere users are mobile and devices are portable, the M-Business era can drive both business change and technology change. In this fashion, it is self-propelling, feeding its own transformation.
Principle #6: Industry Convergence Creates New Threats and Opportunities
Within the space of a few short years, industry convergence has moved from an interesting theoretical end state on a whiteboard discussion of electronic business into a real-life day-to-day phenomena.
It is affecting almost every industry imaginable. Not only are the computing, communications, and media and entertainment industries converging, but we are also seeing the travel and transportation industries becoming information providers, banks becoming retailers, railroad companies becoming phone companies, real estate and hospitality companies becoming communications providers, energy companies becoming business-to-business marketplaces for bandwidth, and many other examples.
This industry convergence means that not only will your enterprise experience competition from new entrants to your traditional industry, but that your industry will find itself transformed into a next generation industry with new business models and new rules. Competing effectively in this new industry will require strong business agility in order to re-position for new markets, new customers, new products and services, new competitors, and new regulations.
Your position in the value chain may be affected as well. Without taking action you may find your products and services pushed further from the end customer as new players create new business models with new value chains. Conversely, convergence may create new opportunities to become a key player in a new value chain. For example, as wireless carriers start to provide data services to the enterprise and provide M-Commerce services for consumers, opportunities are created for companies to play the role of transaction enablers with financial services, security services, preference services, location-based services, and advertising services to name just a few.
Action Items for Business Agility
The following action items are steps that your enterprise can take in order to move toward business agility. These are the high-level steps that will be elaborated upon throughout the course of this book. The goal is to drive a change in process, technology, and culture. Such a change will best prepare and enable the enterprise to rapidly sense and react to changes in its environment. To do so, an enterprise must attempt to move information and transactions closer to the point of business where they are required, and to remove existing technology and process bottlenecks in the delivery of this information and transactions. This requires new process, new technology, and new attitudes.
Step #1: Make M-Business Part of Your Business Strategy
Firstly, M-Business needs to be part of the overall business strategy. Ensure that your functional, business, and corporate strategies all take M-Business into consideration. At the functional strategy level, M-Business can be applied to improve your operating methods. At the business strategy level, it can help you fight your competition in your current industry. Finally, at the corporate strategy level, it can help you re-think the entire suite of business opportunities available and potentially enable you to enter entirely new industries.
A simple example is a country club that enables its premises with a wireless LAN technology such as Bluetooth. In this way, it is providing new, differentiating services to its members and could be considered as entering the data services industry by allowing members to check e-mail and their corporate intranet via their PDAs while at the country club.
Another example is a credit and transaction services company that provides private-label credit cards to the retail, petroleum/convenience stores, utility, and transportation industries. By making M-Business part of their business strategy, they have an opportunity to provide financial services to the wireless carriers who need to bill for data services and content services provided by their partners over their wireless network. Since the carriers often do not wish to become financial institutions, the credit and transaction services company has the opportunity to provide these services for the wireless carrier on behalf of their content providers. Additionally, their extensive loyalty and database marketing information from their existing customer base can be leveraged for greater customer personalization when conducting wireless transactionssomething the wireless carriers may not have.
Step #2: Make the IT Department a Strategic Partner
To achieve business agility within your enterprise, one of the vital first steps is to make the Information Technology department a strategic partner of the overall business.
Over the past five years, the IT department has rapidly evolved from being a cost center and support function, to a business enabler, and finally to a legitimate business entity unto itself.
As a cost center and support function, IT responded to requests from the business to provide custom reports and to build customized applications in order to capture and process data. Even as recently as the mid-90's, this was still the mindset and function of corporate IT. Client-server applications provided just this function and with their leverage of Windows graphical user interfaces they began to make IT applications usable for end users and not just IT staffers.
As a business enabler, IT implemented ERP systems in the mid-90's and built custom Web applications in the late 90's. These Web applications started to reach out from within the enterprise to customers and business partners via the Internet and with extranets. IT also simplified information management within the enterprise via corporate intranets. Thus, the wave of the Internet was the catalyst that extended the reach of IT out to customers, suppliers, and business partners. This was happening to some extent in the client-server days, but the deployment and maintenance of applications to external constituencies was laborious in terms of both time and cost.
Finally, with the wave of E-Business, we saw IT become a business unto itself. Internet-related IPOs outpaced non-Internet IPOs in the United States for a period of five consecutive quarters between the first quarter of 1999 and the first quarter of 2000, as shown in Figure 1-7. While the bubble has since burst, the main takeaway here is that information technology can become a business unto itself and a significant contributor to enterprise value.
As we move into the next era of M-Business, IT will become an even more critical business partner owing to the convergence of the computing and communications industries and their ability to create competitive advantage for the enterprise. IT has already made significant progress toward being a strategic partner. In fact, in an online poll conducted by Internet Week, 86% of respondents stated that they believed both IT and business management should be involved in IT decisionsconfirming the strategic nature of those decisions.
Step #3: Pursue a Holistic M-Business Strategy
It is important to pursue a holistic M-Business strategy that takes every aspect of information delivery and transactions into account. The wireless and wireline portions of application delivery need to be seamless and coordinated. If you are not familiar with the term "wireline," it simply means "wired." It's a term that is often used in the telecommunications industry to differentiate between the wireless phone service and the wired phone service sides of the business.
The wireless aspects need to extend the relationship with the customer, giving the customer more options for access and information, but need to be framed as an additional entry point into the enterprise relationship. Information and transactions need to follow the end user no matter how he or she is accessing the systemwhether over wireline connections such as kiosk, phone, fax or PC, or over wireless connections such as PDA, 2-way pager, or WAP phone.
On a technical level, this means that a holistic approach needs to be taken in order to create business applications that follow the user across these devices and have a consistency in terms of security and session management. Ideally, a single access and authentication technique such as a username and password enables the end user to access your systems via any device. His or her transaction should also be able to be started on one device, paused, and then continued on another device as needed. This is termed session managementthe users' session or context moves with the user.
In addition to the holistic view of access to information and transactions via any device and any communications method, the view of the user constituencies should also be holistic. Often, information and transactions need to be made available not only to customers, but to employees, partners, and suppliers. Various levels of security can be used to restrict the views of the data based upon user role, but the data and applications need to be consistent.
Step #4: Exploit and Defend Your Position in the New M-Business Value Chain
It is important to understand the new value chains that are being created and those that can be created. By understanding the current M-Business value chains that are being formulated and the realm of possibilities for future value chain configurations, you can best plan your next move. Ask what role your company might be able to play in these new value chains. How easy would it be to enter and defend this position? Who are the other entrants? Do they have the core competency and the brand recognition to accomplish the task? How can your companies' core competencies be leveraged in these new areas? What are the needs of your customers? How do they view these new value chains and how do they extract value from the products or services delivered? What alliances do you have that can be leveraged to create an entirely new value proposition for your customers?
Understanding your position in the new value chain means studying not only your traditional competitors and your customer needs, but also looking at industry convergence and determining how these converging industries are changing and expanding their value proposition to your customers. If they succeed, are they likely to own the customer more than you will? Are they exploiting the time and location sensitivity of mobile business in order to reach out to your customers when they are on your premises?
An example is in the travel industry. A business traveler sees a business trip as a single event that needs to be planned from beginning to end. But during this trip many service providers are involved: travel agencies, airline companies, rental car companies, hotels, employers (from the time and expense perspective), credit card companies, and so forth. The company that "owns" the customer may end up being the company that provides the most useful service during the entire lifetime of the trip from planning, through to the trip itself, and finally to the time and expense reporting after the trip. By leveraging mobile business technologies such as a WAP phone or PDA, the resourceful full-service provider can communicate with your customer when he or she is in your airport, your hotel, or your rental car. This relegates you to a role where the full-service provider and "owner" of your customer can potentially advise the customer to travel out of your travel network and take a portion of his or her trip with your competitor.
Another example is in the retail industry. A comparison shopping service delivered over mobile devices can tell a customer in your store where a better price is down the road at a competitor's store. Today, companies such as BarPoint provide comparison shopping services for books, movies, music, computers, and electronics accessible to users of PDAs and WAP-enabled cell phones. Users simply enter UPC numbers from the barcodes on the products they are interested in and a list of stores carrying that product is returned and displayed on the device. It will not be long before these types of services add location-based functionality to make the service even more useful for consumers so that they are pointed to the "better deal" down the street.
The examples above should serve to illustrate that it is vital to both exploit your position in the new value chain, but also to seek ways to defend your position in the existing value chain as well.
Step #5: Design Business Processes to Take Advantage of M-Business
In meeting the business need for information and transactions closer to the point of business, there are two major considerations around business process. Firstly, can an existing business process be improved and streamlined through the use of mobile business technologies? Secondly, do mobile business technologies present entirely new opportunities for new business processes in addition to the existing processes?
As an example, take the case of the field service worker employed by a telephone company. Even if this person uses a laptop with a wireless modem in his or her truck in order to pull up work orders, can this existing process be improved via mobile business technologies? If the worker is going into the customer premise and making notes that are later transferred to the laptop in the truck, the answer is most likely yes. By taking a PDA or other device to the actual point of business, in this case the customer premise, the worker can avoid the double entry involved in making hand-written notes and then transferring them to the laptop. This process improves the existing process by moving the information and transaction functionality closer to the actual point of business.
Additionally, new business opportunities for this mobile worker may include the ability to cross-sell additional services to the customer by accessing product and pricing information over the PDA.
Step #6: Design Technical Architectures to Take Advantage of M-Business
In order to take advantage of the new business opportunities presented by mobile business and to meet the business need for information and transactions closer to the point of business, it is also very important to re-think and re-design IT technical architectures. In addition to a holistic M-Business strategy, a holistic IT strategy is also required. Just as CEOs mandated a Web presence for the company a few years ago during the Internet and E-Business era, CEOs will soon be mandating a mobile presence. Even conservative companies will recognize the opportunities for business agility inherent in mobile business technology and will plan to support this new channel for information and transaction flow.
To support these business drivers, the CIO and the IT organization will need to plan to further open up the enterprise to mobile devices and mobile users. This is a daunting task given the nascent state of the mobile industry at the present time. However, it is important for IT to realize that these requirements will be upon them sooner than expected and that a strategy and action plan needs to be created for the transition of IT architecture and applications to the mobile world.
If it has not done so already, IT needs to immediately start planning its mobile business strategy and start to research all aspects of how it will extend its relevant applications to the wireless arena. The IT strategy should encompass a detailed look at the following assets, services (including vendors), and skills: wireless devices, user interfaces and browsers, wireless standards, protocols and best practices, wireless security (including access control, user authentication, and encryption), wireless development environments, wireless application middleware, wireless extensions to packaged application, wireless carriers and service providers, service level agreements, maintenance and support of wireless applications, and plans for outsourcing versus insourcing of applications and services.
Step #7: Design for Rapid Change in Process and Technology
When implementing M-Business initiatives, be sure to design for rapid change. From an end user perspective, this means allowing the end user to constantly provide input for improvements and suggestions for new functionality. The applications should be allowed to evolve over time and take on new forms. From the IT perspective, a modular, component-based architecture should be employed with loose coupling between components. The architecture should allow for components to be plugged into the business logic layer and new modules to be plugged into the user interface layer. A portal concept for the user interface layer will help to allow multiple applications to be accessed from the same launch area on the user's cell phone or PDA.
Rapid prototyping and pilots with small groups of end users will help to validate new applications and evolve them based upon feedback from the initial group. This will also help to minimize risk by testing with a subset of the end user population prior to full deployment. The prototypes can be used to test both the slice of business functionality and also the end-to-end functionality from a technical perspective.
To enable rapid change in process and technology, it is also important to ensure that the applications you deploy are well documented. Ensure that the end users have well documented instructions on how to configure their devices, launch their applications, use the applications, and ask for help where needed. The IT department should also ensure good documentation of code and of the overall technical architecture. This is something that is often overlooked within the IT department owing to time constraints, but in order to build applications that can be changed rapidly it is important to have an understanding of the current state.
Step #8: Focus on User Acceptance and Training
One of the most important aspects of a successful mobile business strategy and rollout is user acceptance. The applications and initiatives may have good potential for return on investment, and be well planned architecturally, but without end user acceptance and adoption these initiatives can achieve far less than was originally intended.
End users need to have an input into the requirements gathering process and the functionality that the applications are enabling. Whether they are employees, customers, suppliers, or partners, they are the end customer and need to have applications that are of benefit to them in their daily activities. If the end users are external to the enterprise, the goal is to make it easier for them to do business with you than with your competitorsor to enable them to do even more business with you in a given period of time. If the end users are employees, the goal is to make them more productive.
End users may need help in training on how to use their business applications. User interface design and navigation through the applications is especially important. The small form factors of today's mobile devices mean that information and navigation needs to be crisp and concise. Studies have shown that the number of users accessing applications on WAP devices drops by 50% on every screen. Clearly, key applications and processes need to be enabled with as few navigation steps as possible. Ordering of the menu items and lists needs to also be carefully considered.
User training needs to also focus on the devices themselves. They are currently hard to configure and manage. They need constant re-charging due to short battery life, and configuration of wireless connectivity is often hard even for experienced IT practitioners.
What made Internet and E-Business applications so easy to use was their simplicity over the prior generation of client/server applications which had to be installed and configured on each desktop. IT needs to ensure that the ease of use of E-Business applications is translated into an equivalent ease of use for M-Business applications. Without this ease of use and without proper end user acceptance and training, M-Business applications will fall short of their tremendous potential.
Step #9: Measure the Results of M-Business Initiatives
Finally, once M-Business initiatives have been put into place, it is important to track and measure the results of these initiatives and to feed the results back into your overall strategy. M-Business initiatives need to be measured both in terms of the hard benefits and soft benefits. When we speak of hard benefits, we're referring to revenue generation, cost reduction, and increases in productivity and reductions in cycle times. By soft benefits, we mean improved employee moral, increased customer satisfaction, expanded range of options for future business and technology directions, and so forth.
When measuring the results of your M-Business initiatives, it is important to capture metrics at both the business and technical level. The business metrics can be used as described above in order to help shape future strategy and application initiatives. The technical metrics can be used for input back into the IT organization in order to better understand usage patterns and device and application provisioning and support behavior and actual service levels in terms of scalability, performance, availability, and reliability.
Business Agility Lessons
FormulaeMobile Business = Business Process + Electronic Business + Wireless Communications
Business Agility = Process Agility + Technical Agility
Business Agility = Speed x Flexibility
Principles of Business Agility
- Principle #1: The digital economy demands business agility
- Principle #2: Business agility involves shaping technology around ourselves
- Principle #3: Business agility is achieved via M-Business
- Principle #4: Every business will become an M-Business
- Principle #5: M-Business will drive both business and technical transformation
- Principle #6: Industry convergence creates new threats and opportunities
Action Items for Business Agility
- Step #1: Make M-Business part of your business strategy
- Step #2: Make the IT department a strategic partner
- Step #3: Pursue a holistic M-Business strategy
- Step #4: Exploit and defend your position in the new M-Business value chain
- Step #5: Design business processes to take advantage of M-Business
- Step #6: Design technical architectures to take advantage of M-Business
- Step #7: Design for rapid change in process and technology
- Step #8: Focus on user acceptance and training
- Step #9: Measure the results of M-Business initiatives
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