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Mobile technologies ring in change

Mobile technologies ring in change

Wireless and mobile technologies top the priority lists of many CIOs. So how are organisations aligning the technology to business needs?

When it comes to getting closer to your customers, Ryan Klose says nothing beats mobile technology. As chief information officer for Australia at the global wine and spirits group, Pernod Ricard, Klose is getting applications for Blackberries and iPhones into the hands of sales representatives, major customers, winemakers and consumers. And it seems to be working.

“The premise of almost everything for us is to get as close to the action as possible,” Klose says. “Mobility suits this sort of approach.”

Pernod Ricard owns a range of alcoholic beverage brands including Jacobs Creek, Chivas Regal, Absolut Vodka and Jamesons Whiskey, which it supplies to restaurants, clubs, pubs and liquor retailers. Each of Pernod Ricard’s 200 sales reps is equipped with a Blackberry which provides access to corporate information and applications in addition to email.

Klose says the mobile channel is also the best way to provide products and promotions information to 400 of Pernod Ricard’s largest customers, and is developing a Blackberry-based strategy to reach out to them.

The company has also released two consumer iPhone applications for Absolut Vodka and the New Zealand winery, Stoneleigh.

Pernod Ricard is not alone in its mobile-centric thinking. Mobile and wireless technology is one of the most frequently talked about areas of the activity within Australia’s technology sector. A recent CIO Technologies Priority survey found that four out of 10 IT professionals are implementing mobile and wireless applications. In many cases, mobile technology improves field worker productivity. But businesses are finding the shift also generates human resources and occupational health and safety (OH&S) issues that need to be resolved.

For the logistics company CHEP, which issues, collects and conditions more than 300 million pallets and containers around the world, mobile technology is bringing efficiency to its service centres and equipment audit teams.

An iPhone is really just a Web browser, and is quite simple

CHEP’s director of business services, Murray Fane, says the company has issued about 100 PDA devices to its auditors, service centre workers and customers. It is part of a strategy to collect data at the point of transaction to improve efficiency and eliminate the manual paper shuffle.

Fane says the deployment of mobile devices adheres to the guiding principles of his company’s Six Sigma process management program to improve efficiency. “With mobile, we can achieve the result at exactly the moment the transaction takes place,” Fane says. “It has increased the throughput of trucks in our services centres, and also it gives us a lot more information.

“When we are looking at improving the throughput of a process, this gives us another weapon that we will use to cut out two or three steps. Almost all of the things we use mobile for have been the result of process analysis and seeing how we can improve things.”

Later this year, CHEP will deploy 100 mobile devices its truck drivers, using application software from Australian company, Retriever Communications, to relay orders and enable them to report immediately when they have completed a pickup.

CHEP first introduced mobile technology more than 10 years ago, but Fane says the devices were poorly received and the wireless networks were not reliable. Now, the pervasiveness of 3G networks means that internet connectivity has become close to ubiquitous.

The likely outcome, however, is a world in which he will have limited control over the choice of devices used to communicate with his company’s systems. It is a significant turnaround from just a few years ago when, Fane says, mobile technology was something CHEP had to actively push down to users.

“They are coming to us and saying they want to connect their iPhone into the system, and asking how can they do that,” Fane says. “They are pushing us to respond to their requirements. We deal with 18,000 customers around Australia and we go from the large corporations down to ‘mum and dad’ shops on the corner. We need to embrace as many of these devices as we can — so long as we can control the security aspects. An iPhone is really just a Web browser, and is quite simple as well, so we don’t end up needing to manage the customers’ smartphones.”

The wide variety of mobile technologies is opening numerous new possibilities for managers such as Fane. He is currently assessing Bump, an iPhone application that allows users to transfer information by bumping handsets together.

“I like that idea for us and our customers,” Fane says. “If you want to say that you’ve transferred pallets from you to me, using a hand bump means that you have basically agreed to the transaction at that point.”

All we are doing is using technology to our advantage...There is nothing that is really, really smart

Fane says the mobile devices have also delivered a benefit in terms of improved occupational health and safety; because transactions are reported at the moment they are lodged, workers no longer need to wander through the service centre yard in order to lodge them.

“In the past we had to make sure they kept to walkways,” Fane says. “Now we can service the truck drivers from directly within the truck. It is much better for customer safety.”

Next: Hastie drives efficiency through mobility

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Tags mobilityBlackberryiPhonewireless mobilitypdaenterprise mobilityPernod RicardRyan KloseCHEPHastie GroupRetriever CommunicationsTony Lovett

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