The dawn of the mobile enterprise
Mobile access to enterprise applications is now part and
parcel of life in the corporate fast lane. Shivani Shinde reports
has different connotations for different segments in a corporate set up. For
a CEO/CIO mobility means accessing corporate data on his mobile phone or notebook.
For a sales person-on-the-field mobility means the ability to file reports on
the move. Enterprise-wide applications (EWA) can be accessed by mobile phones,
PDAs and smartphones.
Mobile access to EWA is becoming popular because of two reasonsmobile
handsets are costing less and connectivity has become cheaper and easier to
access. Service providers are ready to work with enterprises in porting applications
to handsetsbe it the Hutch Nokia offering for corporate e-mail on mobile
phones or Reliances R World initiative for advertising.
Along with service providers, vendors are ready with their application offerings.
However, to-date with regard to mobile applications, organisations prefer to
develop their own software to run applications rather than use a packaged version.
Java is a popular platform when it comes to applications on handhelds, though
players like Reliance (service providers) and LG and Samsung use Brew.
Mobile applications is still at a nascent stage. Deployment
and use of mobile devices for accessing EWA is highest when it comes to sales
Earlier mobile applications worked one way, next two-way
communication came along wherein reporting and alerts were both invoked. SMS
remains the preferred mode of communication. Now organisations are looking at
encompassing increasingly complex systems by integrating with ERP and other
The verticals that took the first step in the usage of mobile applications are
the traditional adopters namely BFSI, pharmaceuticals and FMCG. Among the pharma
companies the first application that went mobile has been sales force automation,
in BFSI, the customer relationship initiatives went mobile and among FMCGs it
was a combination of sales force automation and supply chain management.
- Secure Internet browsing
- Corporate e-mail
- Messaging with broadcast
- Voice mail and voice conferences
- Personal information solutionscalendar,
organiser, chat, contact lists and so on
- Video conferencing
- Soft phones (phones with Wi-Fi that reduce calling
costs for travellers)
- View/edit documents of Microsoft Office, PDF,
ZIP, and e-book readers
- Enterprise information solutions (customer data,
corporate information alerts, financial snapshot, sales snapshot, budget
and projections snapshot)
- Location-based services (GPS/maps)
- Field force automation (product & pricing
data, inventory & stock data, order management, view/update work
orders, update corporate data)
Source: Pricewaterhouse Coopers
Chakrapani G K
Chakrapani G K, Country General Manager, Nokia Enterprise
Solutions (India) says, The early adopters of handheld devices for accessing
enterprise-wide applications in India have definitely been distribution companies
that are looking at sales force and field force automation. Basically any organisation
with a long supply chain is looking at the use of handhelds. This is because
it makes life much easier for the person at one end-point to transmit information
However, the first visible mobility application was corporates
accessing their e-mail from corporate servers on their handsetsa Blackberry
or a smartphone. The first applications on the handsets were also of similar
nature such as calendar and appointment manager.
Ajay Vaishnavi, VP and Head, Business Operations, CellNext
Solutions is of the opinion that the services industry has been in the forefront
when it comes to adoption of mobile applications. These devices and applications
have traditionally been seen as aiding organisations to function better. Most
solutions are bought as products and then used internally. This is also one
of the reasons for the slow growth in its market.
Naveen Chopra, Chief Marketing Officer, Hutchison Essar explains,
Enterprises around the world including those in India are aware of the
benefits of enterprise mobility. They understand the value of anytime, anywhere
access to corporate data from any location and its competitive advantage.
He gives the instance of how Indian corporates are accessing e-mail on mobile
He also notes that with remote intranet access, mobile VPN access, remote data
gathering and collation on central servers, access of applications like CRM,
ERP and SFA is also picking up.
Chopra points out that with connectivity options proliferating, acceptance of
mobile applications has risen. With issues such as lack of enterprise backends,
standardisation of devices, speed of connectivity, transfer rates and security
getting resolved, there is growth in adoption of mobile apps.
The key to adoption of mobile apps is the readiness of enterprise back-end
systems. It started about five to six years back with simple SMS-based applications
talking to enterprise-wide applications and their use to disseminate information.
Since then, the use of SMS as a medium for enterprise mobile applications has
been adopted for data gathering, tracking, remote monitoring, business communication
to customers and business partners, says Chopra.
Anil Pande, Head, Product Development, Applications and Solutions Group, Reliance
Communications, Reliance Infocomm explains, Services like e-mail on the
move or a browser experience along with directory services are horizontal in
nature. In terms of vertical applications, it is the sales force automation
that showcased the power of automation. He is quick to add that transactional
applications and customer queries on handsets are some of the applications which
the BFSI segment has been using.
Hardware pricing has become economical but along with that one device
gives access to voice and data at economical rates, which has led to mass adoption
of the services, adds Chopra.
|Mohan Verma, Associate Director,
PwC shares his perspective on adoption of mobile applications in the Indian
Some of the major business drivers for enterprise mobility
are reduction in operational costs, faster turnaround time, and no more
missed revenue opportunities. With these applications reducing the number
of devices per employee (easier management) is possible.
Other benefits include improving customer service
along with increasing accessibility and productivity of employees. Improving
work/life balance among employees is also possible through the use of
On the technological side several factors are driving
the growth of mobile solutions. The constant decline in hardware pricing
has been a major factor. Increasing capabilities of handheld devices (processing
power and storage) have also been instrumental in driving adoption.
Compared to the rest of the world, data access charges
are among the lowest in India. High data access speeds and convergence
are facilitating communication between various devices. Today an improved
roaming experience is available. The emergence of multi-purpose devices
have also made it possible to use one device for both voice and data access
at an affordable pricing, increasing convenience.
However, there are some concerns. Security threats like
device theft and data interception can endanger the integrity of corporate
networks. Anti-virus protection, user authentication and data encryption
technologies should also be implemented.
Quality of service issues can also be of concern. Effective
mobile usage for enterprise applications demands a minimum level of network
performance and coverage. Only recently high-speed wireless connectivity
(EDGE and CDMA2000 1x) has been made available for Indian networks. But
teledensity (11.2) still remains an area of concern for India on the question
of network coverage.
Pande believes that organisations are experiencing the need
for automation, especially among the employees at the lower level so as to reduce
the turnaround time and achieve effective management and that has boosted adoption.
In 2004 people were not aware of
the concept of mobile applications, while 2005 was the year that saw investments
in pilot projects across verticals, and 2006 will see some of these pilots
moving into the mainstream
Chakrapani explains, Initially, a handheld was essentially
a data device for thin clients. But today, the trend is moving to a more converged
device. Voice cannot be ignored because it is the predominant use (about 70
percent) that handhelds are put to. But then, data in the form of instant messaging,
SMS and browsing is equally important. So convergence is the key. As of now,
the most common applications in use and demand are sales and field force automation,
e-mail, instant messaging and calendar sync.
Most organisations find SMS to be the best option as service providers have
covered almost all parts of India with GSM and CDMA and it is faster. However
the framework of mobility depends on the type of applications and data to be
transferred back and forth. The platforms used are SMS, WAP, EDGE with GPRS
Among Indian enterprises, SMS rules as almost even the simplest handset supports
this technology. Everybody who owns a handset knows how to message, which rules
out extensive training. Moreover, only the field force needs to send daily reports
which can be done using handhelds to send SMS.
SMS has its limitations. Pande agrees but adds, The person using SMS is
not expected to send big replies. Everybody accepts that to ensure feature-rich
information and inclusion of more data in a report, technologies like GPRS,
CDMA and 3G are needed.
Vaishnavi feels that EDGE and WAP would allow faster connectivity and enrichment
of applications. He believes that SMS is most effective for alerts, events and
Standardising on devices
SMS is considered the best option
as service providers have covered almost all parts of India with GSM and
CDMA and it is faster. However the choice depends on application types
and data to be transferred back and forth. Typical platforms used are
SMS, WAP, EDGE with GPRS and CDMA
The handsets in vogue are basic mobile phones followed by PDAs and then smartphones,
because of the cost involved. A good PDA costs Rs 15,000 whereas a smartphone
comes at Rs 23,000 upwards.
Chopra remarks, One of the key decisions that enterprises have to make
is to standardise devices based upon the requirements of the individual using
the application. If the primary requirement is that of information dissemination/information
gathering then SMS-based applications will do for which any low-end mobile phone
For data synchronisation, a larger screen and easier input necessitates the
use of specialised devices with GPRS/EDGE support. For accessing corporate e-mail,
devices that support attachments such as the Nokia Communicator series, Pocket
PC devices, and Sony Ericsson P900 series are preferred.
There are other options too. For instance, Reliance Infocomm provides a complete
package to its customers. Its R World facility gives vendors a platform to conduct
marketing initiatives, take out advertisements and so on. The companys
team of developers helps in customising applications and also provides handsets
(phones and PDAs) to the organisations. The PDAs that we provide cost
anything from Rs 3,000 to Rs 4,000 whereas in the market the price for PDAs
starts from Rs 6,000 to Rs 7,000, says Pande.
- Availability of variety of devices at attractive
- Readiness of enterprise back-end systems to
talk to mobile applications
- Security concerns taken care of with facilities
such as remote management of device, anti-virus software and so on
- Need to reduce turnaround time
Need and trends
Organisations going in for mobile applications should conduct a reality check
on the systems that they have. They need to ensure that the applications can
talk to their back-end applications. There should be a clear roadmap on the
standardisation of hardware.
Wireless e-mail and access to the Internet and intranets are the first horizontal
applications which have been adopted across an enterprise. Chopra is of the
view that enterprises are now in the process of adding applications and moving
towards an advanced mobile strategy of fully integrating the mobile workforce
with various back-end systems.