Converging Mobility with Enterprise Content Management (ECM)
In a recent report, IDC predicts 87% of connected devices by 2017 will be tablets and smartphones. In the same report, it is predicted that the purchase and use of PCs will drop from 28.7% to 13% by 2017.
What does this trend data really mean? Well, for starters, it might mean that more people will be playing Angry Birds than ever before. From a business point-of-view, tablets and smartphones are both disruptive and viewed like a Swiss Army Knife: a single device that can do many things. However, with these mobile devices, there is both the opportunity for rewards and the potential for risks. It makes no difference if the mobile device is provided by your employer or is a BYOD situation. On the whole, the same rules apply; however, there are some nuances about BYOD that invite additional risks to be mitigated.
Let’s examine a real-world scenario of a company that services residential home owners in the United States from branch offices with hundreds of sales reps and thousands of service engineers. For confidentiality reasons, we will call the business: Company ABC. The desire of Company ABC is to implement paperless processing for order entry, execution and service delivery because their customer interaction requires many of their employees to be un-tethered from a company branch office most of the day. Based upon their analysis, converging mobility with ECM can bring about substantial benefits starting with the sales rep quoting and securing orders from a tablet and electronic form software. The outcomes and benefits from this change are as follows:
- Sales Order-to-Cash Recognition – electronic sales order execution with integration to ERP and CRM systems will compress this end-to-end process significantly.
- Visibility into the Process – this solution provides real-time dashboard visibility into process status and the opportunity for proactive problem resolution unlike paper and manual processes.
- Sales Rep Productivity – sales order execution requires six forms; this solution will eliminate writing redundant customer header information six times; furthermore, the electronic form will allow for digital drawings and photographs used for guidance in quoting and installation.
- Sales Order Execution Productivity – substantial time savings of repetitive data entry by branch office sales admins, fewer data entry errors and an automated, streamlined workflow.
- Customer Satisfaction – sales orders can be executed in a single visit; the paperwork is no longer prone to being lost from manual handling and pseudo workflow of fax and email.
- Employee Satisfaction – lost paperwork will no longer create unnecessary tension and frustration amongst sales reps, sales admins and service engineers.
The end result of this solution being implemented carries with it substantial quantifiable and qualitative business benefits. In making this change, there are inherent risks and challenges that need to be addressed in order for the project to be considered successful at fulfilling its objectives:
- Defining the Processes and its Impact – this cannot be overstated; in order to justify the business change like the one previously described, there are three things that need to be defined and measured:
- What is the current process and issues – what is this costing the company? A diagram of the current process and sub-processes are documented. What are the exceptions? Where is the data coming from and how is it validated? Who and/or how is the data entered? How much time does each step take? What are the costs? Etc.
- What is the desired to-be process and the estimated quantitative and qualitative business benefits? Some of this is abundantly apparent. Assigning a dollar amount on customer and/or employee satisfaction is subjective; however, if it is a perceived problem that needs to be fixed, then a cost to the company needs to be assigned (e.g. lost sales, employee turnover, etc.).
- If change is not implemented, what will it cost the company? Maintaining status quo comes with a cost and needs to be quantified. What impact will this have on the strategic growth plans either for organic growth through profits and/or acquisitions?
- Legal Matters – it is critical that the forms, the process, the digital signatures, etc. are just as legally binding like the paper forms and agreements. Therefore, it is necessary to ensure these matters are addressed with legal counsel, bankers and/or investors who help finance the business.
- Change Management – not everyone will see eye-to-eye on embracing this type of change. For example, what is the plan to deal with the sales rep who tries to still write paper sales orders and have the branch sales admin do the order entry? At its grass roots level, those who will be most affected by the change should be involved throughout the process so that they are invested in the change. Using a “Carrot and Stick” approach to change behavior should be used as an augmentation of supporting change, not the primary means to enforce change.
- Solution Flexibility – people have their preferences for tablet and smartphone platforms (e.g. iOS, Android, Windows, etc.) and these devices are constantly evolving. Therefore, a solution that is device independent should play a large role in solution provider selection process. Eventually, the tablets will require a technology refresh, and being limited by what the software supports creates changes and can add additional costs in operation upkeep.
- Internet Connectivity – internet connectivity could cause challenges if not addressed properly. Therefore, a solution like the one described here needs to still be operational for the person in the field without internet connectivity and can finish the process later through a sync process.
- Security and Use Permissions – the data collected in a resting state and the transmitted data needs to be secure. If the device falls into the wrong hands, process and procedures need to be defined and tested to ensure the device can be disabled to protect both data and access to corporate systems. Furthermore, a decision needs to be made over what use permissions are allowed on the mobile device beyond its primary business use.
Complex projects like this one that involve a remote workforce, distributed operations, mobility and ECM software that will integrate forms, data and documents between multiple systems have the potential to go sideways and fall short of expectations and results. To avoid this from happening, selecting the right ECM technology partner and systems integrator is imperative. Through its highly trained and experienced ECM personnel, ImageSource will consult, develop and execute a well thought-out project plan that incorporates a phased-approach while mitigating risks. ImageSource’s time-tested ECMECOSYSTEM™ Methodology and ILINX software also play a key role in the successful convergence of Mobility and Enterprise Content Management.
VP of Sales, Strategic & Emerging Markets