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The Value of Mobile Computing

Don Weary, Vice President, Logistics Systems, Inc.

The entrepreneur faces a bewildering number of challenges trying to bring new ideas, products, and services to the marketplace. A major challenge involves taking your vision from the world of opportunity to the reality of possibility. At some point you are going to have go toe-to-toe with the more established businesses.

Your unique ideas, faith, and overall drive to succeed are your main weapons against the “big boys,” but you will also need the tools to deliver on your vision day in and day out. This is where the recent convergence of several existing technologies may give you a leg-up on your old-school competition.

Technology: Help or a Hindrance?

The technological divide between entrepreneurs and established businesses has long been a major roadblock in the development of successfully deployed business models. Business systems and computers are readily available at ever decreasing prices. However, simply automating the same tasks in the same way as your competitors will not provide a significant advantage. A major obstacle to competing on a level playing field has been access to new technology and the application of that technology to gain a business advantage.

Along this line, the maturation of wireless networks and hand-held devices has created a new class of technology—mobile computing. While mobile applications have been primarily consumer-based to date, the transformational power of this technology lies in its ability to extend line of business (LOB) applications into the hands of your employees in the field.

Obviously mobile technology will have the most impact on businesses that are inherently distributed, but there is significant value for almost any business in almost any industry. The proper wireless solution for you will depend on your industry.

Businesses that require people in the field, such as in professional services, technicians, or healthcare, will enjoy tremendous productivity gains by not having their people tethered to a desk. Inventory tracking and receiving are great applications for manufacturing and warehousing. Any remote sales environment would benefit from the ability complete a transaction at a customer’s site, or virtually anywhere else. And any business that operates a fleet of any type can benefit from wireless tracking, routing, and access to their vehicles and drivers.

The Perfect Storm

Any entrepreneur should be skeptical of overhyped technology claims. What makes mobile computing timely and appealing is the confluence of several critical business success factors:

  • Affordable Hardware/Software Prices. The popularity of consumer-based mobile products(e.g., smart phones, wireless laptops, PDAs,) is driving down the cost of all mobile technologies.
  • Process Maturity. While enterprise mobile solutions are not as widely utilized as consumer-based mobile products, there are well-documented, high-profile and successful implementations of mobile technologies that provides a blueprint for gaining a competitive advantage.
  • Early Mover's Advantage. This has long been a code phrase for taking a big risk, but wireless technology is really no more risky than other, more mainstream technologies. For many reasons, ranging from the recent maturity of wireless technology to the natural tendency to resist change, a majority of businesses have not yet fully exploited the power of enterprise mobile solutions.

Could You Be the Next UPS?

As a developer of logistics technology, specializing in logistical mobile computing solutions, we have helped companies in numerous industries to deploy enterprise mobile solutions.

For example, The Supply Room Companies, Inc., a Virginia-based office supply and furniture dealer, recently implemented our RouteTrak product, a UPS-style proof of delivery system. One of The Supply Room's goals is to eliminate paper-based processes, transitioning customers to electronic transactions. The company estimated that, within three years of implementation, savings from RouteTrak would reach $60,000 to 70,000 per year.

The Supply Room had the vision to look past the status quo and embrace a suite of proven technologies that give them a clear-cut advantage in a very tough and unforgiving competitive market.

© 2006 Don Weary. All rights reserved.

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