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The future of mobility in enterprise: Q&A

The future of mobility in enterprise: Q&A

Three CIOs discuss how mobile devices are changing their businesses

During the CIO Summit 2010 in Melbourne, a panel session was held to discuss how mobility technology can aid the enterprise.

Hosted by CIO Executive Council general manager, Caroline Bucknell, the panel consisted of Dematic Asia Pacific CIO, Allan Davies, Australian Air Express CIO, Munro Farmer, and Transpacific ANZ Group IT manager, Keith Dallinger. Here is the full discussion.

Caroline Bucknell (CB): Morgan and Stanley recently released statistics that within four years more people will get on the internet via mobile phones than PCs. I found it interesting that the tech priorities survey for 2010 said over 300 Australian organisations have implemented mobile wireless. What does this mean for the role of the CIO?

Allan Davies (AD): There is no doubt that technology changes constantly. With the advancement in technology and software this is driving IT outside the enterprise four walls. We are trying to push outside the four walls of our enterprise as well. We have the enterprise and technology we have to bring in to attract Gen Ys. As a CIO you have to embrace these technologies and be prepared to support not only our existing employees, but new ones coming through.

Munro Farmer (MF): It’s also an opportunity for people to interact in different ways. Consumer technologies facilities faster interactions than you have had before. You gather a lot more information and statistics, things you can do things about in a timely fashion.

Keith Dallinger (KD): There is an expectation now that businesses will allow mobility because of the depth of penetration into the consumer market. It does give you the chance to look at business propositions and there are a lot more services you can provide.

CB: PMC has got a team of developers to develop code for general mobile access. That leads me to say is this the age of the enterprise architect?

AD: It’s not one size fits all. There are a lot of SMEs in Australia and there is no way we’re going to have a team of 40 network architects. We put this back onto our system guys. You have to look at the solution based on the size of the organisation.

CB: So you’re saying in smaller organisations in Australia, they will always be retrofitting?

AD: Absolutely.

MF: It’s always a combination. You’re replacing some environments and upgrading others so you’ll always have a mixed environment to architect around.

CB: Within the Executive Council, we’ve had a discussion that people want mobile all of the time. Is the key to this linking it back to the business needs, it’s important not to lose sight of that?

AD: It's a challenge as a CIO when you’re dealing with a board of baby boomers to express social media outside of the business for what they see as intangibles. How is the use of Facebook or Twitter going to improve our relationship with our customers? It’s very difficult for them to grasp that concept but I believe there is a need for it.

All CIOs know that feeling of dragging a horse to water and try to make the old nag drink. The board and the executive team need to look at the organisation from a personal level. One of the arguments I put through is that if you think that I have protected our network and stopped people from using social media, walk around the building and have a look at how many iPhones are sitting on people’s desks. It’s unrealistic to think IT can stop this social media.

CB: Social media is part of it but how many of you guys have a mobile workforce and what have been the benefits of doing it?

AD: When you have a mobile workforce it’s easy to sell the mobile solutions. If you tell a CFO you can improve his cash flow by getting field data into the ERP system in a manner of minutes, that sells it. It’s been a service to our customers but it cuts labour within the organisation and means faster turnaround of invoices. If someone can come along and offer a solution that makes our lives easier than we will embrace it.

KD: You do go through challenges. When we started rolling out cameras in trucks, the driver starts to put their hand up and the unions get involved. We pointed out to them that they could better report back their progress and improve their safety.

MF: We couldn’t run our business without a mobile workforce. We have 2000 drivers out there and it’s critical that they can scan what they’re doing. Before the scanners, they had tracts of paper to carry around.

CB: You guys are finding in your business that it’s an easy sell but the cultural change is proving a challenge?

MF: Once they’re used to it they can’t do without it. But when the system goes down, that’s another story.

AD: How many couriers turn up today with a piece of paper for you to sign? We now expect them to have a terminal as it saves time.

CB: Munro, I believe you lodged a track and trace solution. If you could run through the business drivers and the outcomes, that would be fabulous.

MF: It’s a new track and track environment where we provide tracking events back to our customers. Consumers expecting parcels can see where things are at. We had another solution that was several years old so we put investment into the tracking environment. The driver was allowing customers to see for themselves without coming to us.

CB: What device is that on?

MF: It’s a web page at the moment but it can be displayed on any mobile device. The next stage we would look at are iPhone or iPad apps. What it’s allowed us to get a strong core of reliable events and we can build other tools around notification.

CB: And is it also the opportunity to push some responsibility back onto the customer so you don’t have as many failed deliveries?

MF: To a degree. It’s more about providing them everything they are looking for. Today people are looking for as much information as they can get about their arrival. It prevents people from having to go to a call centre and be on hold for 10 minutes. This improves customer satisfaction and efficiency.

CB: We hear more and more about bring your own technology to work. Alan, I know you’ve had some interesting experiences with that?

AD: During the global financial crisis, we should have been called film directors because all I heard was `cut.’ With the budgets reduced I needed to keep my IT team motivated and on a project that would give them a challenge. I told them that I wanted to allow workers to bring their own PC and plug it into the network.

They weren’t very keen so I told them to build a solution. That coincided with our new cultural study. I put the question out to our users with region `do you see a benefit of BYO PC within the organisation’. The results in Australia were that about 34 per cent saw a benefit, the rest thought we were trying to screw them by making them buy a PC.

CB: We’ve discussed this previously about the support aspect of it. How do you make that message get through?

AD: You don’t but we have to support the devices. While there is an IT department they would much rather say `how can we do that.’ If people want to bring technology in, we can accommodate it.

CB: Any other thoughts on this, is it a path you are going down?

MF: We’re looking at what our next operation environment becomes. We’d like to have our environment deployed to any device but it’s a technical challenge at the moment. If you support too many devices, than the cost of support goes up.

KD: Even though the technology is catching, we are trying to see if we can separate the business applications from the business system. That is the path to go down.

CB: I’m going to open the door to the iPad conversation. Everyone is talking about how it will be applied to the business. Is this hype or do you see real value?

KD: We’ve applied iPads in our distribution centres where we’ve used it for inventory management. They definitely have a place, I think it’s only a starting point for the platform.

MF: We’ve rolled it out in a very limited way to our BDMs. You can demonstrate web content a bit more interactively. We’ve got iPhones out there as well.

CB: Do you see mobile devices such as iPads replacing laptops in your enterprise and if so, when?

MF: It needs to evolve a little bit further first. It doesn’t cover all the bases. I went to New Zealand with my iPad and had to run a presentation. That was more painful than I had hoped for.

AM: Within our organisation, we find iPads don’t survive being dropped 15 metres on the ground. We’ve had a few HP laptops come back unrecognisable but they still work. iPad’s are OK for road warriors and sales people but not in a ruggedised environment.

CB: To close off, if you are looking at mobility both externally and internally what things should you have top of mind as a CIO?

AM: Ease of deployment and support. You have to do your homework up front in a targeted area where it can demonstrate ROI.

KD: You have to make sure it’s platform agnostic so it’s not locked in to one platform.

MF: Make sure it is secure as well and think about where you’re storing information and who has access to it.

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Tags Australian Air ExpressCIO Summit Melbourne 2010Transpacific ANZKeith DallingermobilityCIO Summit 2010DematicMunro Farmerallan davies

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