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Enterprise mobility: More than one application, more than one device

The challenge of mobilizing employees increases as more departments hop on the self-service bandwagon, and more printed information becomes Web-based. How can IT managers offer their teams better access to mobile data?

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There are some users of mobile technology that only require access to a single application while mobile. But as more printed information becomes Web-based, and internal departments from human resources to catering provide self service access over an intranet, the challenge of mobilizing each employee and all the services they need, increases. Faced with the complexity of this challenge, how should an IT Manager approach the problem?

Certain types of employees need mobile access to enterprise resources to deal with competitive pressures and deal with the volumes of data from product complexity or regulatory issues. An oft-quoted example is the automation of the sales forces in the pharmaceutical industry.

With good reason. There are masses of data that need to be accessed on the drug products, as well as the usual problem of numerous customer contacts, so data management and capacity while mobile is important. There are large numbers in pharmaceutical sales forces, and their mobile data must be kept in sync, so it's a large mobile device and resource management exercise. Drug patents expire, so it's time critical for sales returns to be made early, and so the technology must be able to be developed and deployed rapidly. Last, but not least, the industry is relatively well off, so providing that returns can be seen, investments will be made.

However compelling the idea is in theory, it's still necessary to see some real examples.

Eli Lilly has recently completed a pilot solution for its cancer specialist sales team in Italy. According to a user survey, it has been a success, with the responses indicating a marked increase in the quality and quantity of data updated through the processes. The solution was based around PDAs using Siebel ePharma as the primary application, but the underlying mobility platform was the Mobile Pharma solution from iAnywhere, the mobility subsidiary of Sybase.

The iAnywhere solution includes a number of products and technologies that aid the deployment of mobile applications, from mobile database through mobile applications such as email and Personal Information Management (PIM), to mobile asset tracking and management. However, the key to this solution is the breadth of content and services that can be readily mobilised, and the speed at which a solution can be set-up, deployed, and further extended after initial deployment.

In part, this is because iAnywhere focus only on overall user mobility and not on single specific applications, or limiting support to one or two device types. Whilst mobile pharmaceutical sales people might move to PDAs in large numbers, there will be personal preferences regarding device types, and some will stick with laptops. Even drug companies won't wish to justify unnecessary spending on a particular breed of new device just or satisfy new mobility requirements.

The applications issue, is perhaps more important. Often it's the small, apparently insignificant applications that block progress to mobility. From a small Independent Software Vendor (ISV), or developed in-house, they are often overlooked, and yet critical for real user productivity and satisfaction. Commission calculators, corporate directives, expenses and holiday booking are all part of the day to day work activities that remain necessary for effective mobility.

Eli Lilly have measured the improvement in effectiveness of their sales force from the hard business perspective of improved productivity and cost reduction due to more timely and accurate information. The use of Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software helps them spend more time improving their relationship with their customers, the physicians.

But the harder to quantify benefits from the surrounding minor applications and data are important too. It's becoming possible to ensure that all employees have access to critical business documents while mobile. Those to make their lives easier like statements of benefits from personnel or menus from the staff canteen, to documents their employer is obliged to present to them and which they are obliged to read. For example, legal notices about data protection. If necessary the opening of such documents on each mobile client can be logged to demonstrate an organization has taken its duty seriously.

The flexibility and completeness of the iAnywhere solution has made this possible. Its solution aims to tackle the total enterprise mobility needs. From the perspective of the mobile employee, as well as those managing their mobile IT needs. There's no reason to assume pharmaceutical sales people have much different requirements from many other mobile employees, so the iAnywhere product set is applicable in many industries. And to think I once thought iAnywhere was just about mobile databases? If you did too, then perhaps it's time to take another look.

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