The widespread adoption of smartphones led more companies to consider moving business processes to mobile devices. However, it wasn't until the advent of new sexier tablets that businesses actually believed employees would be willing to use mobile devices for business apps.
Now leading firms are using smartphones and tablets to reshape business models, increase collaboration, and improve customer relationships. The screen real estate and input mechanisms on a tablet in particular are a natural fit for the business environment.
Looking ahead, it will be interesting to see if Windows 8 can wrestle the lead from Apple and become the preferred tablet operating system of choice for business. But the jury on that won't be called for some time after the first Windows 8 tablets appear this fall.
In the meantime, here are the four key ways smartphones and tablets can help firms transform business processes:
Capturing efficiencies by mobilizing processes
Many business processes can benefit from real-time data access and capture such as retrieving and updating customer records; inventory and price checks and processing sales transactions. Data capture at the point of service minimizes data entry time, reduces errors and minimizes incorrect billing. By providing mobile application access, firms can shorten sales cycles, improve data quality and improve customer satisfaction. For example, Cedar's Foods was able to serve 10% more accounts per day and increased sales 5% by using mobile handhelds and route optimization software.
Improving customer care
Insurance firms can improve the customer experience by collecting mobile context info such as GPS location and combining it with contact center data to improve claims processing. For example, Groupama has deployed an application that allows customers to submit claims and get assistance at the accident site.
The app connects into a Genesys contact center to provide estimated call hold times to reach an agent and one touch access to the appropriate department without needing to know the number. The app sends all of the account information, including the user’s GPS location from their phone, to the agent. The user doesn’t need to wait on hold because the system calls the customer back when an agent is available or when the user wants to receive the phone call.
Creating new value by tapping into context
Mobility pushes beyond differentiation through cost reduction. Mobility provides context that includes presence and location. Sensors in the latest devices provide environmental conditions such as temperature and humidity as well as magnetometers and accelerometers for direction and orientation.
In the future, software such as Layar’s augmented reality browser will be used in enterprise scenarios to overlay digital data on top of the physical view of the object from a device’s camera. For example, a field technician could hover a device’s camera over a piece of equipment and the equipment’s most common issues could appear on the tablet or smartphones screen.
Delivering new agility by integrating mobile, cloud and analytics
IT infrastructure must change as relationships become more dynamic between employees, customers, partners and suppliers.
By linking mobilized business processes, advanced business analytics and cloud services, firms can:
1) Collect data at the point of work
2) Use mobile-aware analytics packages to grab context-aware data points such as location
3) Quickly scale server and storage capacity to analyze the customer data.
IT can then combine these tools to turn data into actionable intelligence. For example, IT can help a delivery person at a customer’s site run a report that shows all of customer’s last deliveries and calculate how long it will be before the client needs another delivery as well as help the logistics manager understand how long the delivery person was within a customer’s building versus driving between sites.
By giving business units access to better customer intelligence, IT directly impacts the firm’s decision-making ability and growth.
The possibilities for new connected devices and new services based on integrating the data from those devices and data from the cloud are endless. These are just several of the changes that will occur over the next few years.