The greatest barrier to enterprise mobile solutions remains the challenge in identifying the business value. Process-oriented functional areas such as field service technicians and supply chain management have become early targets for mobile technologies. In many instances, mobile and wireless computing can increase efficiencies in the work process, and provide measurable improvements for both remote workers and the bottom line.
The mobile implementation at Chuck Latham Associates is one such example of mobile technologies assisting workers in a highly process-oriented function where personnel have to complete tasks quickly while effectively capturing critical customer information.
Once Chuck Latham Associates understood the business value from deploying handhelds to its field reps, it then had to struggle with technology choices. Very often companies grapple with the choice to integrate wireless connectivity into their remote solutions. Chuck Latham Associates correctly made its decision to forgo wireless based on the real-time requirements of the business. In its case, the value of the mobile solution was the efficient and effective capture of information, rather than the instantaneous transfer of that information.
Chuck Latham Associates also appeared hesitant to use wireless network connectivity due to current wireless network limitations and the unique challenges of designing a mobile solution around less than ubiquitous coverage. In reality, wireless networking will never be perfect. But current next-generation wide area networks in the United States on both the GSM/GPRS and CDMA 1xRTT standards provide solid coverage and data throughput in the 20Kbps to 60Kbps range. Additionally, mobile middleware solutions (such as those provided by Chuck Latham’s chosen vendor, Extended Systems) can provide session maintenance that lets applications work in disconnected mode when wireless connectivity becomes unavailable.
And while Chuck Latham identified no clear business need to wirelessly transfer information from the store to the clients, the scheduling challenges of its remote salespeople could potentially be addressed by a real-time wireless application. The lesson is that companies should be evaluating the need for wireless based on the real-time requirements, but should also not shy away from wireless computing challenges that currently have viable solutions.