Author: Maura Ambrosino

Is an Off-the-Shelf Mobile Data Solution Right for you?

Replacing “clipboard technology” with mobile technology enables organizations to do more with less. Less resources. Less staff. Less time.

Enterprise mobility is inevitable and unavoidable, and by the way; it’s good for business. Any organization employing a mobile workforce—and lacking a mobile data strategy—is falling behind the curve. So what are the business risks of not going mobile? Well, for starters:

  • Reduced employee and customer satisfaction
  • Loss of productivity
  • Fragmented mobile projects emerging in various departments
  • Inability to adapt to future technology requirements
  • Greater implementation costs down the road

But making the move to mobile can be overwhelming and fraught with perceived dangers. Enter the age-old proverbial question “should we build it or buy it?”

Oftentimes organizations consider building the solution, rather than purchasing a Commercial Off-The-Shelf (COTS) product, in order to alleviate common concerns such as:

  • COTS vendors will not understand my process
  • I will have no control over the future of a COTS product
  • COTS vendors will not be flexible enough to adopt to my processes
  • Off-the-shelf software may not be compatible with other systems or desired devices
  • COTS vendors may not keep up with changing technology

These concerns are valid and will be addressed shortly, but first let’s look at some issues of building a solution from scratch.

  • Your solution will be version 1, versus a COTS product that’s been used and tested in many different organizations with many different scenarios tested.
  • Your development resources will need a wide variety of skills to build a solution from scratch such as:
    • Security
    • Integration
    • Business logic
    • Synchronization
    • Workflow management
  • Employee turnover may result in delays and inability to maintain software properly.
  • Your organization and/or IT department is not a software company. Taking on a project like this inhibits the ability to focus internal resources on core competencies and goals.

Additionally, it’s somewhat universally accepted that in a build vs. buy cost analysis, off-the-shelf solutions often work out cheaper. They’re usually much quicker to implement, and maintenance and feature upgrades often come standard.

Considering all these factors, it often becomes a logical choice for organizations to (re)consider an off the shelf (COTS) product rather than a DIY solution. Through this process, many organizations make the decision to buy a COTS platform, one that provides the tools for allowing the customer (or vendor professional services) to build the perfect solution for them. These tools come with built-in functionality like security, integration, workflow, etc., and allow organizations to focus on building applications that are user friendly, easy to navigate, and meet the needs of users.

Mi-Corporation’s Mobile Impact Platform (Mi-Platform) is one such platform that enables organizations to create a solution that has a wide variety of key features and functionality baked in but is also flexible to adapt to the needs of different types of users and operational requirements.

Prior to working with a COTS platform vendor, be sure to determine:

  • Will you be provided with the tools and training to build your solution or does the vendor build it for you? Or can it be a combination of the two?
  • Can the platform provider provide references and share objective metrics/customer satisfaction scores demonstrating their responsiveness and effectiveness in furthering clients’ mission-critical processes?
  • Can the platform provider demonstrate flexible product iterations that support cross-platform and cross-device requirements, multiple integration points and a variety of data types (voice recognition, photos, barcodes, RFID, handwriting recognition etc.)?
  • Will the vendor share their product roadmap for future software evolution?
  • How much weight does customer input have when adding new features to the product?

Enterprise mobility is an investment in time, money, and other resources—but it’s also an important investment in your organization’s future. Be sure to weigh your options carefully and choose a partner that will support your mission-critical processes today and can grow with you as your business evolves.

Enterprise Mobility Exchange – Post Event Report

Enterprise Mobility Exchange just hosted its East Coast edition of the 2017 Transformation Exchange which took place in Braselton, Georgia. I’ve just downloaded the post-event report which is available on their website . Among the findings:

Enterprise mobility is rapidly evolving causing the industry to face more diverse challenges than ever before. Think IoT. According to a survey completed by the event attendees 54 % will be investing in IoT software over the coming months and 48% will be investing in IoT hardware.

Security is of course a major topic for concern. How can security be maximized without inhibiting functionality, collaboration and innovation? 73% of event attendees will be investing in application security.

Of most interest to me, at this particular point in time, was the apparent debate over the methodology for developing and deploying mobile apps. Not up for debate – business users want their mobile apps and they want them now!

The traditional approach to mobile app development is not working any longer. The process of design, development, integration, QA, deployment, user testing, change management and finally user adoption could take months and easily run over budget. And that’s only for one application!  Mobile app development must scale to the needs of the enterprise.

Mi-Corporation is in complete agreement with the business users, we too want them to get their apps, and get them now. Why should they, or anyone in an organization, have to wait to become more efficient, or better utilize their valuable time, or gain access to captured data for analysis or reporting? (A mere sampling of the benefits associated with a mobile data capture solution).   Over the coming weeks we will be sharing some exciting news regarding this topic – stay tuned to learn about our new solution for empowering citizen developers, business users and the mobile workforce alike!

Finding Operational Excellence Through ‘Digital Transformation’

Everyone’s buzzing about ‘digital transformation’—and they’re right to be on their toes. Our customers talk about this all the time, particularly during meetings to discuss what Mi-Corporation’s tools and software can do for them.  Not everyone describes digital transformation in exactly the same way, although you’ll note some common themes.

According to Altimeter Group digital transformation is the “realignment of, or new investment in, technology and business models to more effectively engage digital customers at every touchpoint in the customer experience lifecycle.” 

 Microsoft defines digital transformation as “reimagining how you bring together people, data, and processes to create value for your customers and maintain a competitive advantage in a digital-first world.”

Microsoft defines four parts to digital transformation—customer engagement, employee empowerment, operational optimization and product transformation. A study conducted by MIT Center for Digital Business and Capgemini Consulting also talks about transforming customer experience, and operational processes, as well as transforming business models and digital capabilities.

The Capgemini study says that typically, transformed customer experiences are the most visible—and typically the most exciting—aspects of transformation, but that firms are also realizing very strong benefits from transforming internal processes. In Mi-Corporation’s experience transforming operational processes, specifically mobile data collection processes, can provide benefits ranging from improved employee productivity and increased cost savings to faster intelligent data access and improved customer service. Below are just a few examples of what some of our innovative customers are doing.

  • The Mississippi State Department of Health digitized their restaurant inspection processes which helped to reduce costs by closing physical offices and enabled workers to work from home and in the field using mobile devices. Additionally, data captured by the states restaurant inspectors is made available to the public immediately. This is something the state’s constituents appreciate as they make their restaurant reservations.
  • Transport for London (TfL) uses mobile data collection for a variety of purposes, including inspections, fault reporting and incident management. The fault reporting data collection app alone has saved TfL over 20,000 man hours per year. Improvements in the fault reporting procedures has also resulted in an overall reduction of incidents since the app has been deployed. These saved hours allow TfL employees to act as mobile customer service ambassadors, coming to the rescue of lost or confused passengers and delivering a more hands-on service experience.
  • North Carolina Department of Agriculture uses digital forms for pesticide inspections. Since implementing a mobile data capture solution they have seen remarkable improvements in data accuracy, data consistency and data capture time. Overall form-processing time has decreased from 4 weeks to 1-2 days, invoice cycles are improved and both customer and employee satisfaction has increased.

How does your organization define digital transformation? If your digital future is tied heavily to data collection efficiencies, we can help! Contact us anytime for a quick call to learn more.

Digital Transformation: Making Restaurant Violations Data Available to the Public

I’ve been working at Mi-Corporation for 5 years and have heard many stories about how our mobile data capture solutions (our Mobile Impact Platform) have helped organizations make a difference in their customers’ and constituents’ lives.  For example, I’ve heard about the USDA using our solutions to help ensure the public is safe from consuming contaminated beef and I’ve heard how the US DOT uses our platform to aide their employees when investigating motor vehicle crashes (and keeping our roads safe). I’ve heard how Transport for London uses our solution to help ensure their riders enjoy safe, clean travel.  I have no firsthand experience, nor have I seen, the real-life benefits that a customer or constituent can receive when using our Mobile Impact Platform.

Imagine my surprise earlier this month when I received an email containing a Public Health Report from the Mississippi State Department of Health (MSDH). The email, in addition to containing advice for pregnant women and vaccination information, also contained a “Regulatory Report” with the results of Food Facility Inspections. With a quick scroll down the page, I was able to see a list of restaurants that had “critical violations” and therefore received a grade of “C.”

 

I was able to click on the restaurant and actually see the data that an MSDH inspector had captured using Mi-Corporation’s mobile data solution.

 

I’m very impressed by MSDH’s commitment to keeping their constituents healthy and informed, and am excited that we play a part in their commendable efforts. I don’t know about you, but if I lived in a state that had the results of food facility inspections so transparent and readily available to the public, my choice of eating destinations would be greatly influenced!

“Kids?! Do you want to eat at the restaurant with or without rodents in the kitchen?”