Enterprise Mobility: What do Utility & Energy Organizations Need?
Author: Shamayun Miah, Vice President and Partner of IBM Global Business Services
The world of enterprise mobility is fast evolving and the best way to spread knowledge and share best practice is to talk about it. ClickSoftware and IBM recently invited UK Utility and Energy companies to a half day workshop to do just that.
The audience saw a number of presentations including a case study delivered by Thames Water, who presented optimized scheduling and mobility within their organization. In addition, the audience learned “How to Build and Execute a Mobile Strategy” which blended practical advice with expert tips. This session combined analyst data from the likes of Forrester and Gartner with customer examples from a wide range of businesses like Coca Cola and Visa.
After a sneak preview of the next generation of Mobile Workforce Management Apps provided by ClickSoftware’s Product Line Director, Hadas Lahav, the event broke into an open discussion. Here, the audience actively participated not only by answering questions but by talking to each other and this led to a full scale conversation amongst the crowd. These are the most notable topics that were discussed:
- Buying vs. Building Apps. As companies want to ensure they use the best options available, it is important to understand the pros and cons of each strategy. One concern with building apps is the demand for upgrading, maintaining, and supporting them as the market quickly evolves. In this sense, many took the view that buying was the best approach, but there were also some who felt that building apps allowed for a level of customization which was unparalleled. Building apps would mean that Utilities companies would not need to change or adapt existing processes to fit an out of the box solution.
Some departments can be flexible enough to adapt their processes to accommodate out of the box apps, while others face the limitations inflicted by existing technology or rigid process. There were different viewpoints with regards to buying vs. building but everyone agreed that reaping the rewards of optimized apps can give utility companies an edge over competition when technology directly impacts service delivery.
- New Technology and New Devices. With the mobile world spinning faster each day, some companies are concerned about how to keep new projects up to date and cutting edge after 12 months. The audience found the example of the Panasonic Toughbook which has been around for 10 years and maintains relevancy in the marketplace.
Increasingly we see a new trend emerging where enterprise technology follows the consumer – for example, the latest digital assistants like Apple Siri and Google Now are available for personal use, and for a comparable enterprise solution, companies can now find artificially intelligent, context aware personal assistants for the business user. This technology can anticipate requirements and reduce manual clicks for the field technician.
- The Feasibility of BYOD. A Bring Your Own Device policy can be an excellent way to increase productivity for a company. However, such a strategy raises concerns such as the protection of personal data in case the device; or data itself is compromised. The discussion evolved to consider wider planning around a BYOD policy which could accommodate how both personal and company wide data can be protected.
There was also the view point that such a program was only useful for executives in Utilities companies and field technicians could not adequately adopt the policy due to the nature of the tasks they perform each day. To dilute such a problem, one suggestion was that personal devices be used in conjunction with a company device through the same network.
- Change Management. This will always be an important topic as new solutions must continually be “sold” to users so that they understand and value the benefits. One customer gave personal insight when they publically published their crew metrics after their mobile workforce management roll out. This created a positive change in the behavior of the crews because they did not want to find themselves at the bottom of the leader board.
- MobileAPI – SOA addresses the needs of corporate information system integration and the management of system of records, however apps and APIs are needed to meet today’s challenge to interconnect corporate information systems where we are seeing a rapid growth in mobile devices and multiple operating systems. There were sideline discussion covering the roles APIs and SOA play inside the enterprise and how the growing mobile and apps economy is at the heart of a transformation from SOA-based architectures to APIs. The design thinking is REST because REST is an architectural style, it allows for a lot of flexibly and agility to enterprise. Because of that flexibility, agility and freedom of structure, there is also a big appetite for design best practices. The consensus in the group was that it was imperative to get the architecture right first time and then all future app development becomes feasible. We are heading towards a future where companies will have up to 40 internal apps, the discussion considered how to create a sustainable and flexible architecture to meet business needs today and in the future.
As mobile technology evolves each day, organizations are compelled to consider how they will develop and execute a strategy as appropriate to their business. This workshop enabled executives in Utilities companies to discuss the nuances of such a strategy in an informative and helpful environment. The workshop was a great way to connect with colleagues and share experiences.
Interested in learning more? Download the business paper: Mobility Innovations for the Next Generation Utility