3 Considerations When Selecting a Packaged Software Application

Posted by Ashleigh Cipolla On August - 27 - 2014

 

While mobile computing devices get most of the press these days, it is the mobile applications that are at the heart of every mobile computing solution.  It is the application that defines the business logic, user interface and information exchange.  When selecting a mobile application there are a number of considerations that you should take into account.

1)      Every application provider takes their unique approach to solve the business issues at hand.  Therefore, the first thing you should do is identify all of your business requirements and stack rank them against one another.  No application will have every feature that you want but using the 80/20 rule if you can get the top 80% of your requirements you will likely achieve the required ROI.

2)      Evaluate the application offering against your present and future technology requirements.  Many companies have established technology requirements on at least some segments of their business.  This is done simply to reduce the overall technology support cost.  When evaluating software applications, make sure that the application supports your technology standards

3)      User training and support is a perpetual cost and does not end until the application is decommission or replaced.  For mobile applications this time period is often between 5 and 10 years.  When selecting new applications it is important to take this user interface into account.  Complex or confusing user interfaces and workflows will increase your training and support costs for the life of project.

While there are many other considerations to take into account, getting these three right will significantly reduce your chances for making a bad choice.  For additional information on software selection please feel free to reach out to DecisionPoint Systems.

Off-the-shelf or custom?

Posted by Ashleigh Cipolla On August - 19 - 2014


With the 100’s of thousands of mobile applications available for download one would think that finding a mobile business application is a simple search away.  However, the reality is that the majority of these applications for download are consumer and or entertainment in origin.  The mobile business application market is still a niche, vertically oriented marketplace and as such, the number of applications available for any particular industry varies greatly.  For example, if you are a plumber looking for a field service application you will have many off-the-shelf applications to choose from.  However, if you are in the sign installation business your options are more limited.

Custom developed mobile applications fill to voids.  First, they provide solutions for those industries that have few current options available to them.  Second, they provide solutions for those companies that have options but do not want to conform to the business rules, user interface or support platforms that the available application provide.  Whether you select off-the-shelf or custom, the good news is that every company can leverage the business advantages provided by mobile computing solutions.  For more information on how mobile computing can help your business please give us a call.

The true cost of consumer devices

Posted by Ashleigh Cipolla On August - 12 - 2014

device2At first glance consumer smart phones are significantly cheaper than traditional ruggedized enterprise mobile computers with similar specifications.  There are a couple reasons for this difference including ruggedizing a mobile computer requires more engineering and material thus demands a higher cost.  Additionally, the sheer manufacturing volume of smart phones enable manufactures to leverage the economies of scale and thus lower the cost.  However, the most significant reason for the end user price difference is that wireless carriers subsidize the device cost in order to attract customers to sign multiple year contracts for their voice and data services.  This works to the benefit of enterprises that require wireless data and can utilize smart phones for their mobile needs.  However, there are additional cost considerations that need to be considered such as device replacement cost and peripheral costs.  Smart phones are not built to withstand excessive drops or weather.  As such, if you are operating in a harsh environment you should expect a higher device failure rate that than of an enterprise class device.  In addition to device replace cost, you need to consider user down time and customer service levels into the equation as device failure equates to lost productivity.  The second consideration is the cost associated with any required peripherals that are required to support the smart phone.  Peripherals such as barcode scanners, cases, specialized cables and battery charging equipment can significantly increase the overall cost of a consumer smart phone deployment.  The facts are that consumer smart phones have significantly expanded the user base for mobile computing applications and are suitable devices in many cases.  However, the prudent buyer evaluates the total cost of ownership before making a selection.

 

With so many choices where do you start?

Posted by Ashleigh Cipolla On July - 30 - 2014

 

There are more mobile computers and smart phones to choose from than ever.  With multiple operating systems (Android, IOS, Windows Mobile, etc.), differing display sizes, a virtually unlimited number of form factors and peripherals (rugged, camera’s, scanners, radio options and so on) how do you choose the right device?  The key is to defining and prioritizing your requirements.  We recommend the following:

1)      Select your application(s) first – Application selection should be your first priority as the application is what has the greatest impact on your business and interfaces with your other enterprise systems.  Additionally, due to the large number of devices available the chances are high that you will be able to choose between several devices that support your application.

2)      Identify specific environmental needs – The environment can play a significant factor in device selection.  Are your mobile workers outdoors, in extremely cold or dirty environments? Do they work in oil fields or require special certifications such as intrinsically safe devices?  If the answer to any of these questions is yes, you will likely need to evaluate ruggedized mobile computers rather than smart phones.

3)      Identify specific technology needs – Often mobile devices are required to connect to other equipment such as meters or provide specialized data input technologies such as barcode reading or RFID.  If your application requires such items, you will need to select devices that have integrated these capabilities or support them through peripheral devices.

4)      Users – last but certainly not least are user considerations.  Device size, weight, carrying and storage considers should also be considered as well as battery life and recharging capabilites.  Bring your own device (BYOD) is also another consideration for those applications where smart phones are a suitable choice.  BYOD can reduce your overall capital expenditure, however, there are trade-offs related to security and control.

With a thorough examination of your all your requests and proper prioritization you will be able to select a mobile device that meets all or your mobile needs.

Is wearable mobile’s future?

Posted by Ashleigh Cipolla On July - 22 - 2014

Google followed up the release of Google glass with the recent release of an android based smart watch.  Samsung released a similar smart watch on the same day.  While miniaturization is the typical technology trend and often leads to new product categories, smaller is not always better.  Take for instance smart phones.  As the technology improved over the last 10 years, phones shrunk in size.  However, in the last 12 months we have seen this trend reverse as users began to use these devices for a wider number of applications and as such demanded larger displays.  The new smart watches will likely follow a similar product path.  As they gain adoption users will identify new usage models and applications that will be limited by the small display and user interface, thus requiring larger devices or supporting products.  And this is where mobile will likely transition from a single device (smart phone) to a network of personal devices that work seamlessly together in order to meet users ever increasing demands.

Why is mobile computing exploding?

Posted by Ashleigh Cipolla On July - 16 - 2014

 

There is no arguing that mobile computing is exploding.  There are new applications and devices released every day, but why?  Many reasons can be put forward but they all can be categorized into one of two camps: technology advancements or human connection.  Technology advancements are easy to see, small form factors, brilliant displays and ergonomic packaging.  However, in my opinion the single technology that made the mobile explosion possible is the development of wide are wireless connectivity.  It is the ability to have a conversation via voice or text and connect to the internet from anywhere without wires that led to the development of the smart phone and countless applications.  Without this connectivity mobile devices would still be those specialized devices of the 1980’s and 1990’s being used in warehouse and retail stores to track inventory. Human connection is the other reason for mobiles mass appeal.  It allows us to connect, share and learn in real time.  The most downloaded and used applications contain one or more methods for connecting with others, whether it be family, friends, per groups or complete strangers. Technology will continue to change and evolve but our need to connect is eternal.  While no one knows what tomorrow will bring you can be assured that mobile is here to stay.

Evaluating the True Cost of Consumer Devices

Posted by Ashleigh Cipolla On July - 2 - 2014

 

Smart phones and tablet computers are extending the reach of mobile computing solutions in the enterprise.  There are many reasons for this including CPU performance, new operating systems choices, size and availability.  However, the most obvious reason is device cost as compared to traditional ruggedized mobile computing options.  While the initial acquisition cost of a consumer device is often 1/3 to ½ the price of a ruggedized device, this is only one piece of the true cost over the solution’s life.  When evaluating device cost there are a number of factors that should be considered including:

Additional protective peripherals:  Consumer devices are not designed to take a fall.  As such, many enterprises purchase cases, holsters and other peripherals to protect the device from the elements and abuse.

Device life cycle: Consumer devices typically experience a 12 to 18 months life cycle before they are replaced by a newer device.  While this business model works well for individuals pursuing the latest and greatest technology, it can present challenges to an enterprise.  These challenges are manifested by the requirement to support multiple device types over the duration of a project.  This translates to increased user training, additional complexity associated with supporting and managing larger equipment spare pools, additional burden on the help desk and the requirement to manage multiple technologies as new features are released with each new device.

Operating system upgrades and support: Like consumer devices, consumer operating systems are continually evolving and new versions being released.  Some device manufactures mandate that all devices upgrade to the latest OS while others discontinue support for previous versions.  This can create havoc on a population of devices used for enterprise applications as changes to the OS often require modifications to the applications that run on the devices.  As such, with each new OS release, the application software must be tested and modified to ensure that the new OS does not render the application inoperable.  This requires that additional software testing and development resources be deployed prior to each OS upgrade.

Repair verses replacement: While some consumer device manufactures offer extended warranty programs they usually do not include damage to the display (which accounts for the greatest number of failures).  As such, most users of consumer devices simply replace damaged devices.  For this reason, it is important to understand all of the environmental and usage conditions in your operation so that you can take into account the cost of replacement devices.

In the final analysis:  The good news is that after reviewing the preceding factors, consumer devices are a good fit for many enterprise solutions and that in those cases were they are not, you have many choices available from traditional ruggedized device manufactures.

The Last Mile

Posted by Ashleigh Cipolla On June - 24 - 2014

The “last mile” is a phrase used in a many industries to describe the final segment between a company and its customers.  In the public utility sector it is the segment of cable or pipe that connects each individual customer to the main trunk.  In the transportation sector it describes the final distance between the last distribution center and the customers’ delivery point.  The “last mile” is arguably the single most important segment of any distribution system for two reasons.  First, it represents the only direct link between a company and its customers and second, without the “last mile” all preceding infrastructure, systems and processes have lessor value.

 

Mobile computing applications are the “last mile” of today’s enterprise systems by connecting mobile workers (customers) at anytime and anywhere.  Mobile computers connect the parcel delivery driver to the enterprise system in his/her truck or at the customer destination, they connect repair technicians in the field and retail managers on the selling floor.  Mobile computers (smart phones) even connect consumers to their favorite brands.

 

DecisionPoint is in the business of connecting remote people with enterprise information so that they can make better and faster decisions.  We deliver the “last mile” of the information highway and thus we increase the value of the preceding enterprise systems and infrastructure.

Big Data, Cloud Computing and Mobile Computing

Posted by Ashleigh Cipolla On June - 17 - 2014

Technology is constantly changing.  Some technologies ride a rollercoaster of favor and fade as they seek to find their place (RFID), while others replace earlier versions (imagers for lasers), and then there are those that create a permanent place in our world (the internet).  Three current technologies that appear to be creating a permanent mark on the IT landscape are “Big Data”, “Cloud Computing” and “Mobile Computing”.

 

Big Data as defined by SAS Institute Inc.

“Big data is a popular term used to describe the exponential growth and availability of data, both structured and unstructured. And big data may be as important to business – and society – as the Internet has become. Why? More data may lead to more accurate analyses

 

Cloud Computing as defined by whatis.com

“Cloud computing is a general term for anything that involves delivering hosted services over the Internet. The name cloud computing was inspired by the cloud symbol that’s often used to represent the Internet in flowcharts and diagrams.

A cloud service has three distinct characteristics that differentiate it from traditional hosting. It is sold on demand, typically by the minute or the hour; it is elastic — a user can have as much or as little of a service as they want at any given time; and the service is fully managed by the provider (the consumer needs nothing but a personal computer and Internet access). Significant innovations in virtualization and distributed computing, as well as improved access to high-speed Internet and a weak economy, have accelerated interest in cloud computing.”

Mobile Computing as defined by Wikipedia.org

Mobile Computing is “taking a computer and all necessary files and software out into the field”.  Mobile computing is any type of computing which uses Internet or intranet and respective communications links, such as WAN, LAN or WLAN.

There are at least three different classes of mobile computing items:

The existence of these classes is expected to be long lasting, and complementary in personal usage, none replacing the other ones.

 

So why all the fuss?

These are three of the biggest technology revolutions occurring and they have significant interdependency.  Big Data requires large amounts of available storage, accessibility and processing power.  Cloud computing provides unlimited storage, accessibility and processing power.  Big data by definition requires the collection and consumption of valuable real-time information.  Mobile computing is designed specifically for the collection and consumption of valuable real-time information.  The promise of Big Data is using more information to make better decisions.  The promise of mobile computing is getting better decisions to the right people.  The decision making capabilities of big Data are enhanced with real-time information.  Mobile computing delivers real-time information. Cloud computing requires user access portals.  Mobile computers are ideal user access portals.

The world is changing, our industry is changing.  We are the critical link between the enterprise and users, the “last mile” if you will.  The future is here and DecisionPoint is leading the way.

Why You Should Automate Field Service

Posted by khoppe@decisionpt.com On September - 12 - 2013

Guest Written by Sunny Ahmed – Business Development Manager

APEXWare™ Field Service (FS) enables you to capture lost revenue, provide proof of service delivery, reduce inventory shrinkage, and reduce back office administration. A field deployment of wireless handheld devices with integrated bar code scanners enables your business to run completely paperless. APEXWare™ FS is also offered as a Software as a Service (SaaS) model, thus eliminating the need for costly IT infrastructure (on-site server, IT resources).

APEXWare™ Field Service (FS) is a function-rich application that provides the needed tools to effectively manage mobile field technicians while at the same time allowing them to efficiently perform their jobs in order to better service your customers. Customer work orders are dispatched throughout the day, mobile field technicians complete and invoice work orders and transmit them back to the central office as they are completed. Key features and functions include:

WHY YOU SHOULD AUTOMATE FIELD SERVICE:

  •       Mobile Field Service – Achieve Double Digit ROI
  •       Biggest Benefit Could Be Inventory Management
  •       Mitigate Risk – Software Fit & Solid Deployment Plan

BEST-IN-CLASS FIELD SERVICE OPERATIONS ACHIEVE THE FOLLOWING SUCCESS METRICS WHEN AUTOMATING FIELD SERVICE:

  •       ~8% More Work Orders/Day Than Average Performers
  •       12.5% Higher Service Level Agreement (SLA) Compliance
  •       2.5% More Profitable
  •       88% of Best In Class Use Some Type of Mobile Technology

KEY BENEFITS OF AUTOMATING FIELD SERVICE:

  • Improve the quality of service
  • Increase field workforce productivity
  • Bar code scanning and signature capture increase accuracy and efficiency
  • Reduce inventory shrinkage by managing inventor y levels in real-time
  • Reduce the service to payment cycle by 60-90 days
  • Web-based portal eliminates the need for a back-end system
  • Eliminate time-consuming and error-prone manual data entry
  • Improve the control of technician processes in the field
  • Detailed historical work order data helps identify new revenue opportunities
  • Eliminate requirement for annual inventory counts by tracking in real-time
  • SaaS model reduces start-up costs

For more information on this topic, contact Sunny Ahmed at sahmed@decisionpt.com today!