Mobilizing the process

TORONTO – While wireless technology may have amply proven its worth with voice and e-mail communication platforms, organizations could do more to improve their business processes wirelessly, said a Rogers Wireless executive.

Wireless technology started out as a “vertical business device” having been used initially by insurance companies and banks, before moving to mainstream mobile messaging. But the next stage is mobile processes, said Mansell Nelson, vice-president of business product development with Rogers Wireless.

“Now it’s really time to start thinking about changing processes and the way we work,” he said during a keynote at the 2008 Wireless & Mobile Expo and Conference in Toronto.

There are drivers that are pushing this change. For one, networks are improving as broadband becomes ever faster and ubiquitous. Devices, too, like laptops have proliferated. (Nelson cited an In-Stat study predicting that dual-mode cellular/WiFi devices will account for 20 per cent of the total device market by 2009.)

Application trends are also playing a role. The application community has access to better tools on which it’s easier to develop, said Nelson. But it’s also less complex for organizations to mobilize processes nowadays given the ease with which applications are enabled on devices. Furthermore, application service provider and software-as-a-service models significantly reduce the required back-end integration.

But technology enablers aside, making the shift to mobility is on the agenda of many businesses, said Nelson, who listed increased competition in the marketplace, growing customer expectations, and employees who want to go mobile as primary reasons.

Areas like field operations, dispatch, fleet management, and sales and marketing point of sale are where wireless technology could reap value for the business. If the approach is well-planned, said Nelson, “it’s a strategic investment for companies to make in this space.”

But while there are clear benefits to mobilizing processes – increased revenue, cost savings, productivity gains and customer and employee satisfaction – Nelson noted certain up front considerations in any wireless initiative. First, identify the business problem before finding an appropriate application with which to resolve it. And, ensure there is a secure, reliable, and cost-effective network that offers the coverage needed to support whatever the process may be.

“Unfortunately, the device is always the exciting shiny part of [the initiative], but it’s the application, the network and, finally, the device at the tail end,” said Nelson, explaining that it’s the device that ultimately “marries” the three components.

Vendor support and experience is vital in a wireless initiative as well, said Nelson, suggesting companies work with “a partner who takes a contributive approach in consulting companies’ unique needs.”

But reaping the benefits of mobile processes is no longer solely an executive perk, said Nelson. The technology should be enabled wherever it can render value across the organization, such as within functional business groups where pain problems can be identified that are conducive to wireless technology.

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