Business Agility: Strategies for Gaining Competitive Advantage through Mobile Business Solutions

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9780130668370: Business Agility: Strategies for Gaining Competitive Advantage through Mobile Business Solutions

m-Business technology enables you to achieve extraordinary organizational agility Ñ and deliver unprecedented value to customers wherever they are. In Business Agility, Internet Week columnist Nicholas D. Evans draws upon real case studies to illuminate today's best m-Business strategies and tactics, and offers a complete step-by-step blueprint for execution: planning, process models, architecture, implementation, and much more.

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About the Author:

Nicholas D. Evans is a Director within the Emerging Technology Practice of one of the world's leading professional services organizations. He focuses on the delivery of Wireless Internet consulting engagements such as wireless strategy, architecture, and implementation.

Mr. Evans is an industry-recognized E-Business consultant, speaker, and author. He has a regular M-Business column published in Internet Week reaching over 275,000 readers and has written for numerous other computer industry magazines. He is the author of several books on web technology, including titles from Microsoft Press and Powersoft Press. He is frequently quoted in the industry press and has been featured in thought leadership sections alongside Peppers & Rogers and the Patricia Seybold Group.

Mr. Evans was formerly the National Technical Director for E-Business at PricewaterhouseCoopers within their Global Software Solutions Center. In this role, he was responsible for selling and delivering engagements to major PwC clients nationally. Mr. Evans co-founded the National Internet Practice for Coopers & Lybrand in 1997.

Mr. Evans' clients have included 3M, AT&T, Abbott Labs, American Airlines, American Family Insurance, Best Buy, BP Amoco, Compaq, Conoco, First USA, Intel, Kodak, Major League Baseball, Schering Plough, SunTrust Bank, Texaco, Van Waters and Rogers, and many others.

Mr. Evans holds a B.Sc. (Hons) and M.Sc. from Southampton University in England. He is a frequent advisor to the venture capital community and serves on several advisory boards.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Introduction

Mobile Business = Business Process + Electronic Business + Wireless Communications

Mobile business, or M-Business, is already changing our lives. It is often thought of as the business opportunity that has been brought about by the convergence of electronic business with wireless technologies. We can now conduct business anytime and anyplace in order to meet the informational and transactional demands of end users, remove former process and technology bottlenecks, and hence increase customer satisfaction, revenues and productivity, and reduce costs.

But beyond this simple description, we are entering an entirely new era—the era of business agility, which is the next evolution of business itself. This is a superset, not a mere extension, of electronic business. It is here that mobile business will have its most profound effect. The changes will be widespread. They will affect our companies, our markets, our economy, our lifestyles, our politics, and our global perspectives and interactions.

This book is designed to serve as a handbook for this next business evolution. The era of Business Agility presents us with a new era of enterprise value and productivity after the crash and disappointment of the prior wave of E-Business initiatives. Over the past several years, businesses have made great strides in improving customer service, productivity, and manufacturing processes. Businesses have optimized their relatively unchanging processes and value propositions and have gained considerable efficiencies. Information technology has played a large role in facilitating these increases in productivity. But the next competitive frontier will be how quickly these businesses can sense and respond to change. The next step is to be able to create new processes and new value propositions in a rapidly changing business environment and be able to institute these changes rapidly. These changes must also have a higher degree of flexibility engineered-in once implemented. In an era when entire industries are converging, enterprise agility, and the ability to create dynamic value propositions, will separate the winners from the losers in the battle for mindshare and marketshare.

The ability to leverage M-Business to pull information rapidly and accurately from the "edge" of the corporation in the areas of sales, marketing, and customer service will be critical for the agile enterprise. Likewise, the ability to leverage M-Business to push management decisions back out to the field, where those decisions can be acted upon, will be critical as well. M-Business represents an opportunity to increase business agility across the entire breadth of the corporation—from its core to its extremities—connecting management with employees, customers, suppliers, and business partners.

Without this business agility, even companies that have highly optimized processes and excellent customer service today will find themselves struggling to compete over the next several years owing to information and transaction chokepoints that delay decision making and employee action. Not only will they experience a critical time delay in their enterprise operations and customer and supplier interactions, they will also experience information gaps where they are less informed of critical business events and metrics in their surrounding environment. They will be less aware of the business context in which they operate and will lack a competitive edge.

M-Business presents a new opportunity to enhance business agility. Figure 1-1 shows the broader view of M-Business that is the subject of this book. Rather than being at the intersection of E-Business (or the Internet) and Wireless Communications, which has been the traditional definition of the wireless Internet, it is a superset comprised of business process, electronic business, and wireless communications. It is as much about process as it is about technology. The combination of all of these areas creates powerful new synergies.

Throughout the course of this book, we'll take a look at the formula for business agility and present six principles and nine action items for achieving business agility within your organization. We'll look at the current state of affairs with regard to the wireless industry, the drivers and barriers to adoption, the wireless Internet value chain, and the applications that are gaining traction in the industry. We'll look at concepts such as the dynamic value proposition, how to leverage preference-driven commerce within your customer interactions, and how to apply alliance relationship management within your partner interactions.

We'll explore areas of opportunity within the enterprise for M-Business to improve business intelligence, customer relationship management, sales force automation, field force automation, and supply chain management.

We'll explore case studies from companies such as ADC Telecommunications, Aviall, Carlson Hospitality, eBay, FT Interactive Data, Office Depot, and Rental Service Corporation in order to see how these early adopters leveraged M-Business within their enterprise and achieved real business results.

We'll look at M-Business strategy and how to calculate return on investment. We'll look at M-Business architecture and implementation, and profile some of the key wireless software vendors, in order to execute on the strategy.

Finally, we'll look at future trends in M-Business and other emerging technologies such as the semantic Web, real-time computing, Web services, natural language processing, and business process management. All these emerging technologies are helping us adapt technology around ourselves and our business activities—enabling us to increase our business agility.

Formula for Business Agility

As we noted at the beginning of this chapter, the following formula can help explain the extent and value of mobile business:

Mobile Business = Business Process + Electronic Business + Wireless Communications

Business constantly seeks ways to improve itself, whether it has the goal of increasing shareholder value, increasing customer satisfaction, increasing revenues, or reducing costs. Over the years, we have seen several trends develop. Some of the most recent trends have been business process re-engineering (BPR), enterprise resource planning (ERP), electronic business (E-Business), and the growth of wireless communications. If we view these trends by themselves, they have been evolutionary steps. What is fascinating is that we are now entering an era where emerging technology is allowing us to combine them in powerful new ways that signal what could well be a true business revolution—that of Business Agility. M-Business is one of the first waves coming to shore that signal this impending change in the landscape of possibilities.

The following formula can help explain the requirements for business agility:

Business Agility = Process Agility + Technical Agility

M-Business is the fuel for achieving Business Agility because it carries with it both process agility and technical agility. M-Business is not simply E-Business unwired or untethered. Nor is it simply another channel for E-Business. It's a whole new opportunity to create new business processes and improve old ones, while at the same time leveraging the time and location sensitivity that wireless communications brings to an enterprise. Successful M-Business is not just about technological innovation—it requires an equal part of process innovation.

It is important to note that we must also consider the importance of human agility. Throughout both the process agility and the technical agility components of our formula for business agility, the human element is paramount. While I have not included human agility in the formula, please consider it an essential component that permeates across everything we discuss.

Principles of Business Agility

The following principles describe the forces that are driving us toward the concept of Business Agility as the next business revolution:

Principle #1: The Digital Economy Demands Business Agility

Today's global economy and market conditions require that companies in all industries optimize their performance in all areas. The requirement for continuous improvement drives the need for business agility. A company that can sense and react to changes in its internal and external environment more quickly than another can seize new revenue opportunities and control costs more efficiently than its competitors. First to market may not always be attractive, but first to react, based upon sound judgement, is always a positive.

For an organization to increase its business agility, it needs more timely access to information upon which to base decisions and more timely mechanisms for executing those decisions. It needs to have more efficient linkages with employees, customers, suppliers, partners, stakeholders, and even competitors. Business agility needs to be holistic in scope—all touchpoints that have a bearing on the business need to be addressed.

Business agility means not only fast reaction times, but also fast reaction to change and the ability to rapidly implement change. Thus, we have the formula:

Business Agility = Speed x Flexibility

To provide some examples of business agility, we'll take a look at a company's relationship with its customers, suppliers, partners, and competitors (Table 1-1). Business agility within this framework can be illustrated as follows:

Using the Seven "S" model (Figure 1-2), we can look at business agility from the perspective of the fabric and overall structure of an organization. The Seven "S" model was developed by Thomas J. Peters, Robert H. Waterman, and Julien R. Phillips. It is a popular way to look at strategy as part of an organization.

In this context, business agility means having speed and flexibility ingrained into corporate culture and style. This is a top-down approach, with the concept of business agility as a super-ordinate goal that forms the mission of the company. As such, it is ingrained in the structure of the organization, in the corporate, business and functional strategies of the organization, in IT systems and business processes, in human resources systems and processes, and finally in the skill sets of the employees themselves.

When business agility is ingrained into every aspect of the corporation, there are no weak links. Each of the Seven "S"'s interoperate in harmony.

Of course, business agility is not just about speed. It's about doing purposeful work in alignment with corporate objectives. Doing this work in an agile new manner enables a quicker response in terms of speed and flexibility.

Principle #2: Business Agility Involves Shaping Technology Around Ourselves

Business agility relates to the speed and flexibility of an organization, but it can also be a term that is used to describe some of the broader trends going on within the technological world at the present time. Business agility is a desirable end-state for the enterprise, but it also helps to describe where technology is heading over the next several years.

Emerging technologies are allowing us to start to shape technology around ourselves. For a long time, we had to work in the other direction, i.e., shape ourselves around rigid IT applications and processes. Today, technology is gaining more human-like characteristics. There are wearable computers with head-mounted displays, voice interfaces such as those found in new vehicle telematics systems, intelligent agents for helping us sort through vast amounts of content and identify the most relevant items, and semantic Web applications that add meaning to Web content for computers to better understand. This new breed of enabling technology will allow us to communicate more naturally with computers. Computers will soon be able to "follow" us. They will be more readily accessible, know our location and our environmental context and activities, and will better "understand" our meaning and objectives. By adapting around us in this way, these emerging technologies are delivering higher levels of value in our daily lives, both personally and professionally. They are also becoming less invasive in terms of how and when we interact with them.

Principle #3: Business Agility Is Achieved Via M-Business

As a critical enabler for these emerging technologies, M-Business applications have unique characteristics that are required for business agility. Most particularly, they have the ability to deliver information at any time and any place, thus reducing the limitations of time and space, and some of the barriers that we encounter when using the wired Internet.

In fact, M-Business presents us with a unique technological era, where we can adapt and shape technology to ourselves as opposed to adapting ourselves around technology. As human beings our day-to-day work activities are more about process (i.e., task-oriented) than about technology. Thus, as technology starts to adapt to fit around us, it naturally is shaped more and more by process.

M-Business can be the strategic enabler of business agility across all of the enterprise functional areas from sales and marketing, finance, human resources, operations, business development, product development, and support and services to the IT department itself.

The golden rule here is to always remember that M-Business is the combination of both process and technology. As such, it needs to mold itself to fit the business need for information and transactions at the point of business.

Principle #4: Every Business Will Become an M-Business

Businesses adopt technology and process innovations if they are deemed to add some measure of value to the enterprise. Over the years, businesses have adopted telephones, copiers, fax machines, mainframes, client-server technologies, Internet technologies, and many other devices and technologies in order to improve communications and manage information. The technology adoption lifecycle shows how technology is adopted at various stages of its evolution by innovators, early adopters, the early majority, the late majority, and laggards. These stages of technology adoption show which enterprises are most aggressive in their application of technology for business advantage and which are most conservative. Timeframes across the adoption lifecycle vary considerably based upon the technology in question. Figure 1-3 shows the technology adoption lifecycle.

It is fair to say that M-Business applications for the enterprise are currently in early adoption status. Supply of technology solutions currently far outweighs demand in the enterprise, mostly because the business benefits have not been articulated and the business value not well proven or understood.

Figure 1-4 shows the adoption rates of some of the technologies mentioned above. In comparison, the current adoption rate in the mobile device market has reached in excess of seventy percent in some countries within the space of just a few decades.

Despite the early adoption status of M-Business applications for the enterprise, it is clear that the device penetration and adoption of mobile communications has outstripped even the growth of the Internet itself. With this momentum helping to lay the infrastructure for M-Business, it is evident that the pervasiveness of M-Business software and applications will n...

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