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Mobile Enterprise Transition Goals

by Bhuvan Unhelkar

Mobile technologies contribute uniquely to the communications revolution by eliminating the need for physical land-based connectivity between people, processes, and entities. Adoption by business of this unique wireless connectivity results in significant impact on business enterprises. This includes changes to the organizational structures; internal and external business processes; and relationships with customers, employees, partners, and stakeholders, and is observed irrespective of the size and geographical location of the organization.

However, although the ability of businesses and customers to connect to each other independent of time and location by using mobile technologies drives a significant change in the business, its success depends heavily on a meticulously planned and executed methodological framework. A well-researched, tried-and-tested framework reduces the risk in changing the business and ensures mobile success. This chapter outlines such a methodological framework. Called the Mobile Enterprise Transition (MET) framework, it provides detailed guidance based on the questions of "why, what, how, and who," thereby facilitating the strategic adoption of mobility by business.

These generic questions translate to questions related to people, processes, and technologies involved in transitioning to a mobile business. The MET framework, validated by research, provides an orderly approach to mobile business transitions that acknowledges the aforementioned questions, studies them, and incorporates them into four major dimensions of the business in transition. This chapter outlines these four dimensions within the MET framework and how it ensures the successful adoption of mobility by business. The MET framework focuses the goals of the organization on strategic and formal adoption of mobility and, at the same time, ameliorates the risks associated with the transition. Thus, this abstract discusses the goals of MET, managing the expectations of the business, layers and structures of the organizations, the four dimensions, project management considerations, and the overall research framework that forms the basis of the MET framework.

Goals of Mobile Enterprise Transition (MET)

Significance of MET to Business
MET is a systematic framework helping organizations to strategically adopt mobile technologies in all aspects of their business. The goals of MET are, therefore, discussed within the context of the overall goals of the mobile business. A mobile business primarily wants to engage externally with the customers and business partners in a location-independent and time-independent manner to provide them with services and products. It also wants to exploit the location and time independence of mobility for all its internal business processes. As shown in Figure 1, these external and internal business factors such as customer, technology, competition, cost, inventory, management control, and organizational structure undergo radical change when they pressurize an organization to transition to a mobile organization.

Figure 1 Mobile Enterprise Transition fundamentals-basic.

Figure 1 further shows that a casual or ad hoc adoption of mobility by all these aforementioned factors will merely shift the organization to a mobile-equipped one. Complete and successful transformation of a paper-based, land-based, or mobile-equipped enterprise to a comprehensive mobile enterprise occurs only through MET. Thus, extending an earlier definition of mobile transformation given by Marmaridis and Unhelkar (2005), MET can be defined as "evolution of both internal and external business practices through the adoption of suitable mobile technologies and processes resulting in a mobile enterprise."

The mobile business is not just restricted to application of mobility to external and internal business on mobile devices. Strategic use of mobility in all aspects of business requires a "ground up" study and understanding of organizational structures; operational arrangements; customer relationships; and the sociology, physical environment, and ecosystem of the business. The use of mobile gadgets by merely repeating the existing electronic and physical business processes only makes the organization mobile equipped. This usage is not a strategic use of mobility. Such repetition of existing processes on mobile devices leads only to "automation" and "mobilization" and may provide some small-time benefit to the organization, but it does not result in full exploitation of the capabilities of mobile technologies by the business.

The strategic use of mobility must incorporate holistic thinking, a consideration of all internal as well as external factors of the business in the light of their potential for becoming mobile, study of the impact on the environment, and an examination of all the hidden corners of the business that can provide for, and benefit from, mobility. Furthermore, due consideration to the human elements such as usability and privacy of customers and employees are paramount to the success of MET.

Thus, one of the primary objectives of MET is to transcend technology and move by providing "value" to all business stakeholders, and exploit the concepts of the location and time independence of mobility. The concept of "value" is discussed in further detail in Chapter 8, where a mature mobile organization is made responsible for "value" metrics rather than profit.

A mobile enterprise also needs to understand the potential offered by mobility in the globalization of business. This is so because wireless networks, satellite communications, and associated gadgets and processes of mobility have a great potential for reaching out globally. Mobile customers and employees are able to "roam" freely around the world with their mobile gadgets without losing connectivity to the business. Thus, business globalization and the society are now considered in the context of a global-mobile society by the transitioning business. This global social aspect is discussed in further detail in the social dimension of mobile transitions in Chapter 6.

MET and Business Expectations
The goals of MET need to be inline with the goals of the business. Business aims to achieve substantial value for itself, its customer, and its business partners out of its strategic mobile transition. Therefore, these MET goals primarily, and understandably, provide advantages of mobile technologies to business. However, they vary depending on the demographics and mobile maturity of the transitioning organization. In fact, the value from MET to business encompasses a large number of varying factors. A research survey on MET, listed in Appendix A, asked participants to offer descriptive comments on the value, as perceived by them, being provided by mobility to business. These mobile technology values to business can be summarized as follows:

  • Streamlining of business processes: MET aims to streamline and organize business processes through engineering and reengineering of those processes. The new and reengineered processes make use of the location and time independence offered by mobility. Both internal and external business processes are studied, modeled, and incorporated with mobility during MET-based transformations, which result in streamlined and optimized business processes. Business Process Modeling Notation (BPMN) and Unified Modeling Language (UML) activity diagrams are being used to achieve this process optimization.
  • Dynamic customization of products and services: MET equips the business to dynamically modify and update its offerings to the customer. This depends on the context of the customers, which is dictated by their location, density, urgency, etc. The context of the mobile user is discussed in detail in Chapters 3 and 5.
  • Organizational structure: MET brings about changes to the organizational and team structures to ensure they are lean and effective, and not rigid and hierarchical. Flexibility in team structures is positively enhanced by mobile usage.
  • Cost reduction: Through MET, a business aims to reduce its cost of operation, marketing, services, and support. Business decision makers are convinced of MET only after they look at their return on investment (ROI) (Younessi 2008).
  • Profit enhancement: Results from better customer service, increased number of customers, and improved and optimized external and internal business processes.
  • Competition: MET enables the organization to remain competitive by capitalizing on mobile technology before its competing businesses do so.
  • Personalization of customer service: Customers are increasingly demanding services that are tailored to their needs. These needs are highly personalized, not only for the customer but also in the context in which the customer is looking for that service. MET provides an opportunity for the business to tailor its offerings to a particular customer at a particular location. Furthermore, such personalization significantly improves the overall experience the customer has with the business.
  • Value-adding to customer services: Through MET, employees are able to spend more time with customers at the customer's premises or sites. Employees can also use their mobile devices connected to their enterprise servers to access mobile enterprise applications (e.g., sales), know their internal inventories, and thereby respond immediately to the demands of the customer.
  • Timely service to customers: MET ensures that the organization not only provides services but also does so in a timely fashion. Thus, MET enhances the ability of the organization to provide prompt service to its customers, which, in turn, opens up opportunities for newer kinds of services.
  • Accessibility: MET improves the ability of the organization to reach out to the customer and also makes it easy for the customer to access the organization's services. Thus, with MET, both the customer and the business are "available" to each other as and when they want. For example, an airline passenger can access flight times while being driven to the airport in a taxi without actually ringing the airline, and a preset parameter can ensure that the relevant information is obtained by the passenger through an SMS on his or her mobile device. Similarly, the accessibility of sports scores, medical information, etc. is increasing with ease. Rapid growth and availability of hot spots is enabling connectivity around airports, hotels, restaurants, schools, and universities.
  • Reaching wider and dispersed audience: This goal is significant in MET as it enables the organization to "tap" into audiences (and potential customers) that it would not have access to otherwise. Furthermore, this extension through mobility is at a global level because, through the "roaming" features of modern-day mobile gadgets and networks, a customer need not be in the vicinity of the business to transact business with it. City, country, or regions do not matter, especially when the business wants to access and provide service to the "registered" customer.
  • Image creation: Formal use of mobility in all dimensions of business helps to create and promote the image of the organization as a progressive one. This image can potentially lead to improved business.
  • Environment and sustainability: This goal of MET enables an organization to launch green initiatives through the use of mobility. Mobility has the opportunity to provide environmentally responsible business strategies, as discussed by Unhelkar and Dickens (2008). Environmental issues with green mobile are further discussed in detail in Chapter 9.
  • Operational efficiency: Increased internal business process efficiency can be achieved by applying mobile technologies to those business processes. For example, mobility can assist in human relations (HR), inventory management, time management, and supply-chain management systems by improving information flow within and between these systems. Decisions are taken quickly and accurately by making the necessary information available between people through systems.
  • Ability to capture data at the source: With mobility, there is considerable reduction in duplication and errors in sourcing of data for organizational systems. Portable mobile and wireless devices enable critical data to be captured at the time and place of its creation, which, in turn, helps reduce mistakes in capturing data and improves data information quality. For example, an RFID-enabled inventory management system will directly provide stock levels to the system and will not have any translation.
  • Flexibility in the workplace: Mobility provides great opportunities for teleworking. Work need not be limited by office space and office hours in the mobile age, and therefore the concept of work itself is evolving with mobility. Mobile technologies enable people with families to balance their work and personal life, as also people who are physically challenged from sickness or past injuries, to find a new avenue for offering their skills and services in the workforce. However, great care needs to be taken to ensure the privacy of mobile employees. The personal quality of life of workers should not suffer as a result of mobile intrusion. A carefully implemented "working away from workspace" plan can help alleviate the challenge of loss of privacy in the workplace, improve employee morale, and also potentially reduce staff turnover.
  • Increased employee productivity: MET enables employees and workers in the organization to access various services such as e-mails, personal and corporate calendar, and other groupware enterprise applications while they are on the move, in meetings, participating in conferences, or traveling. Mobility offers the opportunity to productively use otherwise non-utilized time periods by providing employees and managers with direct access to decision support systems.
  • Improved management understanding and control: MET enables management at all levels of the business to be involved in the decision-making process. Therefore, there is high potential for integrated decision making by the various stakeholders in the business, leading to a much improved management understanding, structure, operation, and control of the business than before MET.
  • Facilitating collaboration among various businesses: Web-enabled portals and corresponding mobile gadgets open the doors not only to "business-to-customer" interaction but also between multiple businesses. Collaboration is the fourth layer of the triangle, as discussed in Chapter 1. Enabling this collaboration through mobility among businesses is a major goal of MET.
  • Generating content for services: MET aims to help the business generate timely and relevant content by facilitating user input in the content-generating process. MET ensures sourcing of content, which is a major activity for the mobile business. Transitioning of business is able to generate content through various sources, including user input, regular Web-services-based updates, subscriptions from other service providers, and so on.
  • Virtual team formation and facilitating team collaboration with no hindrance to team formation: Mobility opens up enormous opportunities for the creation of virtual teams based on the niche skills of various employees, consultants, and managers. As physical location is not a limitation, these various business players can get together to serve the needs of a particular customer. Further, such virtual teams can also lead to a reduction in staff numbers as it enables the business to tap into the skills of consulting professionals outside the business for shorter and specific durations. The purpose of such reengineering of processes is not focused on staff reduction; however, it does lead to a much leaner team structure (http://www.theleanway.com).
  • Outsourcing/smart sourcing: Globalization has opened the doors to optimizing the utilization of resources. Thus, through online, real-time communication facilities, businesses are able to utilize physically dispersed resources. This giving out of work to areas where there is an abundance of workers is called outsourcing. Outsourcing has evolved beyond mere transfer of work for cheap labor. MET creates an environment for collaboration among businesses with data, knowledge, and experience to offer in addition to labor. This collaboration is called smart sourcing, as discussed by Hazra (2006).
  • Improved disaster recovery: The ability of the business to resume its operations as quickly and efficiently as possible after a disaster occurs is enhanced by MET, mainly because the business is not tied down to a single location in terms of carrying out operations.

MET and Internal Organizational Factors
An organization undergoing MET has an important effect on the organizational structure. As alluded to in the top layer of Figure 2, mobility changes it to a "mobile" one. This change results in the flattening of existing hierarchical reporting mechanisms. The mobile organizational structure also provides the customer with easy and direct access to the organization as he or she need not go through a step-by-step bureaucratic process to reach the right person. Through reengineering and new engineering of mobile business processes, customers are able to directly access the relevant employees who can provide them with the service they want.

Figure 2 Mobile Enterprise Transition fundamentals-detailed.

The internal organizational factors, such as internal team structures, reporting hierarchies, number of resources, and their job descriptions are also affected by MET. These internal factors undergoing MET further include the operational processes of the organization, as discussed in Chapter 1, under the business usage triangle (Figure 1.3). The employees and management of a business are usually keen to see mobile-enabled changes to the internal business processes that will improve the quality of their work.

Examples of these internal business processes include time sheets, inventory, payroll, and invoicing. Each of these processes can be performed more efficiently and effectively with the help of mobile gadgets than using the land-based Internet or simple manual processes. Internal accounting practices of the organization are also influenced by changes resulting from adoption of mobility by the business and its effect on the internal business processes. For example, it is easier to meet timelines for sending invoices to customers and closing sales proposals quickly with the help of mobile technologies. Mobility brings about changes to the workflows within the organization, the service standards of the organization, and also its internal work culture. For example, the manner in which time is recorded for the work performed can be made more efficient by providing wireless smartcards to the employees. The expected level of service from an organization, in terms of answering a query or tracking a package, has improved with the introduction of mobility. These changes across all internal business processes are substantial and need to be managed with formal change management.

Formal change management in MET ensures that changes are introduced systematically and in a controlled manner. Most importantly, the socio-cultural aspects of changes to the organizational structures due to mobile adoption are anticipated and handled with sensitivity toward the employees. For example, change management has to anticipate changes to the reporting structure of a salesperson who may have been reporting to the sales manager for a few years; mobility enables the bypassing of the need for that formal hierarchy as it allows the salesperson direct access to the information that the manager may have. There is a need for formal change management processes to carefully plan the change and take the employees, such as the salesperson and the sales manager, together into confidence. Change management also deals with formal handling of changes in service standards, wherein employees may have to provide instantaneous service to customers as against a relatively slow service response prior to mobility.

MET and External Organizational Factors
Figure 2 also shows factors external to the organization that are affected by MET and need to be considered and managed formally. These external factors form part of the overall demographics of the organization, including the size, type, and the industry cluster to which the organization belongs. Demands from the customer, activities of the competitor, and changes to the way the industry operates all influence an organization from outside its boundaries. MET assesses the impact of mobile technologies on the services that can be provided to customers and the value that can be added to the existing services to customers and business partners, and gives the timelines for its actual enactment.


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Mobile Enterprise Transition and Management
From Mobile Enterprise Transition and Management by Bhuvan Unhelkar. Auerbach Publications, 2009.

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