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The impact of mobile technology on business is profound. In a society in which we are too often expected to be available wherever we are, at all times – because our innovations make it possible –  employees are increasingly expected to handle critical tasks and decision making in real time, no matter where they are. Philosophical questions aside, supporting a multitasking mobile workforce while providing secure access to communication tools, business applications, and transactions – regardless of location or mobile device – is a large, complex, and potentially expensive proposition.

In many organizations, field sales and service employees were the first to embrace mobile devices, largely out of necessity – they need a way to get more done while on the road. Now, however, it’s a rare corporate employee who leaves the office without iPhone or BlackBerry in hand. In this new mobile world, IT must enable employees with an overall corporate mobility strategy. Mobile-savvy users are pushing the limits as well, expecting if not demanding 24-7 connection to the latest and greatest apps, always-on service, and the same networks and information they can access from their cubicles. Meanwhile, rapid proliferation of mobile technology brings an ever-expanding inventory of smart devices to support – BlackBerries, iPhones, Androids, Windows Mobile phones, and tablets, and more.

In such an environment, it’s all too easy for an organization to roll out the latest mobile gadget or technology, only to regret it later. To ensure ongoing return on any mobility investment, a company needs two things: (1) a comprehensive strategy to support mobile access to key business processes and analytics, and (2) a mobile infrastructure that is both flexible and cost effective over time (see Figure 1). Each organization must systematically determine its requirements and priorities for mobile investment; doing that means identifying the business processes, analytic applications, and platform that can best support its mobile users and further any competitive advantage. In other words, a sound strategy for mobility takes the organization from business processes through to business analytics.

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Supporting Mobile Business Processes

Business process execution excellence can serve as a basis for competitive differentiation – for example, a company might set itself apart based on speed of order processing. Adding mobile access to critical business processes could be that organization’s most valuable investment. For others, mobilizing administrative tasks, such as time and expense reporting, could save employees time better spent on more valuable work.

In a direct-sales-driven organization, the field sales team drives revenue. Sales force automation makes scoping, opportunity, and order processing easy and when mobility is added to the mix, sales reps can be even more productive. Orders can be input on a plane or while watching a ball game. Mobility makes it faster and more convenient to complete order entry, check inventory levels, and prep for the next customer visit. For example, sales reps can check order status, look up past order history, and verify street addresses just prior to a sales call. Mobile business applications speed customer relationship management (CRM) processes, increase productivity, and can help improve customer service.

The Advantages of Mobile Business Analytics

Business analytics can drive competitive differentiation as well. Sales reps might use CRM applications to manage customer interactions, record meeting notes, and update opportunities. A sales rep can use mobile analytics to quickly run the numbers to see how close a customer order is to meeting a new threshold for discounts or enhanced service packages.

Mobile analytic applications can also streamline traditional processes, such as quarter end sales close. Management often requests CRM statistics at the end of each quarter – inspiring a mad scramble, in which reps struggle to upload quarterly results while trying to schedule that one last meeting to make the quota. With mobile analytics, in contrast, sales managers instead review dashboards and reports on an ongoing basis, viewing real-time CRM updates just minutes after a sales call is completed. Because mobile applications standardize reporting and data, everyone will be working from the same, real-time information, eliminating version control issues and headaches. A manager’s immediate feedback can help the sales team assess performance and make last-minute adjustments to meet goals.

Managing it All

Managing the growing complexity of the mobile ecosystem is a significant IT challenge. New devices and platforms continue to proliferate, with ever-greater processing power and memory capacity, along with demands for increasingly sophisticated support services. Layer on the complexity of managing multiple operating systems and developing custom applications, and IT can be quickly overwhelmed. Without a cohesive plan, companies can end up with a patchwork of solutions (and the associated support and maintenance costs) whose difficulties can easily outweigh the benefits of mobility.

Instead, companies need a comprehensive plan for mobility that supports not only key processes that drive the business, but also the business intelligence and analytics that enable future decision making. The plan should also streamline development of custom mobile applications – such as those required to handle expense management and CRM – across multiple devices and back-end systems.

Standardizing on a mobile enterprise application platform is great way to simplify a mobile strategy. One such option, Sybase® Unwired Platform, makes it easy to simply and quickly develop mobile applications that give employees secure access to diverse business data on a broad range of mobile devices. The platform helps future-proof any mobility investment via a flexible, open infrastructure that allows companies to respond strategically as device types and data sources evolve. Built on proven, industry-leading technology, Sybase Unwired Platform enables companies to:

  • Accelerate mobile application development
  • Support diverse mobile device types
  • Extend back-end data to mobile devices
  • Enforce enterprise-class security and mobility management

In addition to managing application development, companies should choose an enterprise-class mobile device management and security solution – such as SAP® Afaria – that lets IT centrally manage, secure, and deploy mobile data, applications, and devices via a single administrative console. And finally, when looking to incorporate mobility into your analytics footprint, products such as SAP BusinessObjectsTM Mobile or SAP BusinessObjects Explorer application for the iPad® can offer ready-to-use solutions to extend your mobility strategy.

Conclusion

Companies need to empower employees with secure access to the data, analytics, and processes they need most — regardless of location or device. As the demand for mobile applications and analytics grows, and requirements become more complex, the need for a consistent but highly adaptable mobile strategy only intensifies.

SAP Services can help organizations develop a mobility strategy that focuses on the high-value business processes and analytics that drive competitive differentiation. SAP works with a vibrant ecosystem of partners to offer a wide range of mobile applications and underlying infrastructure, with unmatched integration to SAP systems. The result: secure access to business processes and analytics – anytime, anywhere, and on any device.

For more information on SAP Services, please visit www.sap.com/services

What piece of your mobile strategy is most challenging for your organization?

Article written by Tom Kurtz, Global Practice Director, SAP HANA Services, SAP and Jeff Chua, Global Head, Mobility Services, SAP.

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