This topic may seem obvious, but as is often the case when discussing business mobility, it’s not always the obvious thing that is most important, or valuable.
Business mobility is quickly moving out of the era when mobile solutions solved specialized operational problems. How can you simplify data entry for health care providers who are always on the move visiting patients? How do you streamline rental car returns, or census data collection, or insurance claims?
The fact is that today, mobility is becoming more deeply ingrained in business operations. A recent press release from Gartner (“Gartner Says Cloud, Mobility and Open Source Will Drive Application Development Market to Exceed $9 Billion in 2012,” Gartner Newsroom, August 22, 2012) said this, among other things: “Gartner also predicts that mobile AD [application development] projects targeting smartphones and tablets will outnumber native PC projects by a ratio of 4:1 by 2015.”
That’s a lot of application development, and a great deal of it will increasingly mobilize mainstream business operations. So anyone can see the importance of integrating these applications with back-end enterprise software and data systems. Business mobility is all about quickly finding accurate, context specific information. It is about collaboration, and streamlining workflows, and enabling workers to spend less time looking for things and more time doing things. To do this well, mobile apps need to be connected to the information core that drives the business – real time financial information that is streaming in from many different sources, business activity dashboards that depend on real time activity reporting, mobile knowledge sharing and collaboration.
These are the obvious things. What is less obvious is how far mobile app integration can go, and where it can lead. For instance, I recently heard tell of a bar on the boardwalk in a major ocean front resort that has a mobile app available for download to its patrons. The app clearly states that its purpose is to alert consumers to special deals on drinks, and it will track your location when you enable location tracking. And that’s exactly what it does. It tracks your location, and when it determines you are near by, for instance at a competitor’s establishment, it will initiate a half-price drink offer. The bar owners know from experience that when they lure a customer in using this strategy, the customer typically brings at least three friends.
Now suppose the bar owners maintained a database of customers and their drinking preferences. Now they could mine that data and offer up something that would be even more enticing to the customer. Take that a step further. Suppose the bar owners had an extremely sophisticated server based analytics system that could analyze customer locations and activity at noon, use this analysis to project likely business activity for that evening, and then report that out to mobile devices of suppliers who are preparing their orders, and also send alerts to staff about who needed to come for work that night.
Of course this is just a simple example, but it underscores how deeper knowledge of customers, much of it provided by customers themselves through mobile applications, can directly impact business operations. To leverage this knowledge, mobile business apps, including those in the hands of consumers, vendors and suppliers, and employees, will need to have secure and reliable integration to essential business systems.