The second coming of the real-time enterprise, powered by tablets

February 15, 2012

Many moons ago our firm had created a number of white papers for hardware companies around the concept of the real-time enterprise. Many of the devices we used as examples, which we believed at the time could meet this vision, were lumped into a category called UMPC (ultra mobile personal computer).

OQO, for example, was one of the early companies leading this charge of devices. This term is long gone, of course. But in the age of smart phones and tablets we may now see this vision of the real time enterprise re-emerge. 

It is important to keep in mind that the reason enterprises and other business were interested in the UMPC concept for their most mobile workers was due to these small, portable devices' ability to run full versions of Windows. This capacity made it possible for existing proprietary Windows software that these organizations created for their mobile workers to run without being ported.

With the rise of mobile apps, and the web having evolved significantly since then, it has become much easier for organizations to create light-weight hooks that manifest themselves in the form of apps or web apps. These hooks present any and all relevant data to a business's critical mobile work force.  

The vision we painted for the real time enterprise was based around decision making.  The premise was that if key decision makers had access to critical information that was updated in real time, it would have profound impacts on efficiency.

For example if the CFO had real time access to sales figures as they are reported in real time by the mobile sales force, he would have the most accurate financial data at any given second.

Real-time information and "glanceable data"

In a recent conversation we had with Oliver Bussmann, CIO of SAP he gave us this quote:  “Mobile apps and real-time information will drive new behaviors for decision making.”

Getting analytical data and corporate information in what he calls “glanceable data” translates into fast decision making. This is exactly the vision we painted with the real-time enterprise. We are seeing this vision take shape and tablets are leading the way.   

This "glanceable" data idea may be perhaps the most disruptive use case for tablets in the real time enterprise. The ability to look at what is basically a "dashboard" for your business that includes financial, marketing, customer, service data, and more could be the sweet spot for the tablet form-factor.

The tablet represents the UMPC concept in a way those devices and something like a laptop never could. Think about how you use a laptop: It is always sitting and at arm's length.

With a tablet you can move around, stand up, walk around, and genuinely be mobile and still be computing. This is why it's clear to me that the tablet represents a mobile computer in the purest definition of the word, and is therefore the best product for the job in the real-time enterprise.  

The consumerizaton of RTE?

There is another point that is interesting beyond just "glanceable data" in the real-time enterprise.

Quite often I can see a use case where after glancing at data one may need to drill down to specific information as an executive analyzes what they're seeing.

Again, the notebook or PC would be fine for that use case but because tablets contain significant processing power, they provide the added benefit of being able to go deeper and crunch more data (assuming the software allows).

Touch computing, however, is the real differentiator between tablets and traditional PCs. This new UI and software paradigm opens doors to the real-time enterprise in terms of convenience, speed, ease of use, and more. It validates both the form-factor and touch computing itself as an ideal match for the RTE.    

Believe it or not this value proposition does not stop with enterprises or even small business. In fact, our initial vision at Creative Strategies included consumers.

Consumers will similarly want access to information in real-time related to their own personal or social lives, or perhaps even as it relates to managing a family.

"Glanceable data" related to family calendars, to-do lists, financial information, and more, all become important bits of data for consumers as well. This, in essence for consumers, becomes "the real time life."

Of course the use cases for consumers and enterprises will be different when it comes to what information is essential for specific decisions, but I remain convinced the tablet form factor is the best suited device in terms of form-factor, processing power, and touch computing.   

Embracing the real time-enterprise vision and integrating tablets as a key part of that strategy could become an incredible differentiator for many businesses. And as an added benefit, they will even look cool in the process.  


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