The Combination of Cloud & Mobile and its Grip on B2B Automation – Part 2
We’ve established that the synergy between Cloud and mobile is both powerful and undeniable (as outlined in Part 1). We are not alone in this assertion. Earlier this month at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, technology behemoths Samsung and Oracle announced a partnership to help companies make use of their existing systems in the cloud. The goal is to enable enterprises to take full advantage of mobile and cloud to create better mobile user enterprise software, mobile cloud and device features, and move toward the next generation of cloud/mobile apps and services. That said, my bet is that startups get there faster.
But for those who don’t see the significance of this combination, who feel traditional B2B software will now just be hosted in the cloud and accessible on your smart phone, let’s probe deeper…
Since computers became common workplace tools, software companies have sought to identify ways to automate business processes, driving out costs and increasing speed and efficiency. This has worked very well when the main users have desks and spend a portion of their day at a computer. We’ve now had at least two generations of enterprise resource planning (ERP), customer relationship management (CRM), human resource management (HRM), and a healthy list of other classic business software applications.
But for employees that are not tethered to their desks, the promise of software automation has stopped somewhat short so far. For example, there have been numerous attempts to drive better collaboration and project tracking in the construction industry, but for the large part, they have seen feeble adoption. Using a computer is just not convenient during the day, and so it falls on the project manager (PM) to write up all the day’s events/activities after work when back at a desk. This means the PM has less time at the site, and issues are not surfaced until that night or the next morning.
So what has changed? Well, pretty much everyone now has a very powerful computer in their pocket, with a direct connection to flexible cloud-based applications via wireless connectivity. And, they don’t require any training as they use them extremely frequently in their personal lives. So asking construction workers to snap a quick photo of an issue and punch out a 140 character message is no different than what they do on the weekend, yet it can dramatically improve communication, collaboration, and productivity on a job site.
This is just one example. The potential overall impact is immeasurable. Sales people in the field can place orders directly into ERP systems, eliminating pen and paper and re-entry errors. They can also look up order history and run analytics on trends with specific accounts – all from the seat of their car. Think how much more prepared and effective they can be when they then visit their next account of the day.
Human resources (HR) is another industry that will continue to be impacted by the marriage of Cloud and mobile. Using cloud analytics, HR can drive greater employee engagement by leveraging a modern mobile user interface. Historically, HR “engagement” software adoption has been very low and the return on investment has been weak. Now, with all employees having a smart phone and a growing science around what truly motivates people, the combination of Cloud and mobile has the potential to finally make these offerings take hold. Even pesky tasks like populating timesheets are easier and less annoying for employees that are on the go during the day; this can be done on mobile devices in real time and received and processed via cloud by the employer.
The list goes on. Physicians can access and update medical records from anywhere in the hospital. Banking is being transformed by the intersection of mobile and Cloud by offering customers the ability to bank from anywhere at all. Customer service has evolved past the call center to online video chat and other cloud-based platforms. Field service personnel can access detailed documentation and diagrams, as well as replacement part inventory and order forms all from their client’s maintenance room.
Some argue that these offerings have been possible for a while. Yes, they were possible. But they were not widely adopted because the infrastructure was too clunky and inconsistent and the mobile interface was hard to use and took away from their productivity instead of adding to it. The combination of Cloud and mobile-first development has changed the game.
If software is eating the world, then Cloud and mobile are the new fork and knife. I am excited to see what innovative software entrepreneurs will dream up with these two revolutionary tools at their disposal. This is a space we are keeping a close eye on at Ascent and we look forward to witnessing the innovation to come.