There is a generation that run their lives on smartphones or iPads. Paper is never considered, people are online all the time; they share their work and personal time on applications such as Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn. As mobile technology has become more sophisticated and easier to use, a far wider range of applications can be run. The ability to connect to back-office applications via mobile phones has surprisingly been around for years. I worked on projects with SMS gateways back in 2001. What has happened over the last few years is a dramatic increase in the usability of mobile devices, radically shaken up by Steve Jobs at Apple. The Apple experience has led to other companies such as RIM/Blackberry and Google with its open source Andromeda, following suit and vastly improving consumer choice and costs of devices.
So where does this take us in 2011 and the future? There is now a new way of doing business providing the smartphone works adequately. On a negative note though, there are some reoccurring issues experienced on smartphone apps, such as the time it takes to download an application, bad user interfaces, reliability of signal, and cross platform compatibility. Supporting and maintaining multiple platforms can also be an issue – unless you develop in HTML5. Size and management of screens is also an important consideration, so software vendors need to consider platform, language and compatibility.
Outsourcing on the road though is a real bonus. Employees should be able to view, approve, and instigate business processes. This means no matter what time it is, wherever you are (including which country), it is business on the move.
Common issues that occur within organisations include; the cost of smartphones, should the company pay for them, control over devices to stop misuse and the management time this takes, switching charges cross border, and cost of air time. Clearly this has to be balanced against the improvement to business process, visibility and control.
If you want your business to move to “working on the road” it is important you carry out a feasibility study and really understand how it will improve your working practice. Look at the cost, in particular the deal that can be done with the airway provider versus cost of handset to airway. It is always important to remember that cost has to be accounted for somewhere in business, and in particular with outsourcing. People, process, technology – that means who, how and via which platform. A cost-benefit analysis and ROI is critical.
There is a new generation that live their lives on mobile technology, using smartphones, touchpads and mobile phones. Smart businesses will embrace this and encourage their organisation to think forward and smart and move towards a paperless organisation, but one that still has the critical controls and audit trail in place. One thing is for sure: the world is moving to business on the road.