Mobile e-business has the potential to deliver business-to-employee
interactions capable of creating significant competitive edge.
The real-life advantages of mobile access to business critical
applications require that all organisations, including technology
builders, have strategies in place for interacting with their
own employees. The business-to-employee (B2E) opportunity will
be the starting place for the real, extended application of mobile
Analysts have predicted that by 2003 all new mobile devices
will be data-enabled. Based on this type of forecast, we can
envision the beginnings of a mobile 'information highway', where
users can access data services whenever and wherever they want.
Today's e-business capabilities will be transformed and extended
to suit mobility - creating a platform for personalised and specific
mobile e-business applications.
The opportunity for mobile e-business falls into three categories:
business-to-employee (B2E), business-to-business (B2B) and business-to-consumer
(B2C). Of these, the B2E arena is most advanced with working
applications already on offer - e-mail and calendaring, for example.
And, existing line-of-business applications can also be extended
to mobile, with the mobile infrastructure increasingly established
for those customers who have already re-engineered their systems
towards the Internet.
Informing employees and giving them access to company line-of-business
systems, wherever they are, makes complete business sense. Employees
need to be updated on business-specific activities and have access
to task-critical information when they are in the office - so,
why not when they are in the field?
Mobile e-business is a natural progression of e-business -
delivering applications and services to employees on the move.
Importantly, mobile e-business is not only for companies selling
consumer leisure gadgets, but also for organisations seeking
to achieve added productivity, increased profitability, improved
competitiveness and optimal return on investment.
Until recently, e-mobilising a workforce has not been a viable
option due to the combined absence of infrastructure and mobile
devices specially developed to drive out-of-office B2E applications.
However, with device technology accelerating at pace - and with
the advent of high bandwidth networks - a new infrastructure
will soon be in place for truly mobile data and voice access.
The first enabler is WAP (Wireless Application Protocol) closely
followed by General Packet Radio Service (GPRS), which will bring
about 'always on' connectivity to mobile networks. These will
be followed by Universal Mobile Telephony System (UMTS), or third
generation (3G) services, and other broadband technologies that
promise to allow a billion people world-wide to interact with
e-businesses via inter-connected, intelligent mobile devices.
Logically, mobile e-business will have the biggest impact
on companies with a predominantly mobile workforce.
According to research commissioned by the AVT Corporation
and carried out by Wirthlin Worldwide in December 2000, which
surveyed Fortune 1000 executives, 84 per cent of companies expect
their workforces' need for mobile communications to grow dramatically.
It stated that users believed to have the greatest need for Internet-enabled
mobile devices are sales staff (71 per cent), senior management
(59 per cent) and technical service staff (46 per cent).
However, as employees become increasingly flexible in their
place and patterns of work, the desire for personal access will
be across ail types of business that seek to optimise employee
efficiency and performance. For example:
- Sales teams can view their clients' sales history - updated
from the office on their mobile devices - providing truly mobile
- Off-site research and development teams can feedback findings
and collaborate on results via mobile devices.
- Field repair teams can use the diagnostic tools from the
office system while visiting clients.
- Production line managers can access and advise faults in-the-line
Updating databases, accessing customer information and reviewing
schedules are just some of the examples available today. But
in the future, applications will be even more compelling. Imagine
the sales potential of live video footage of a product delivered
to the customer via the salesman's mobile device.
To suit mobility, applications and middleware will become
increasingly tailored to provide personalised services. And,
in future, there will be no limit to the applications available
to innovative organisations.
With so much potential for mobile B2E, where should businesses
and technology builders begin in order to take full advantage
of the options available? Being ahead of the competition involves
employing key technologies and capturing essential advice and
services. Sooner is better than later when it comes to considering
and adopting a comprehensive mobile e-business strategy.
The key to making the most of mobile e-business for B2E interactions
is connecting the infrastructure and mobile device to line-of-business
systems - intranet collaboration, client billing information,
client databases, production lines, e-mail, calendars and customer
relationship management applications. In short, providing personalised
and specific ways to take advantage of company information and
But wireless data is not 'Internet Lite'. To apply data to
mobile devices, organisations cannot simply stretch out their
online applications without tailoring the application to the
mobile device and without taking into account the users' needs.
Knowledge of how to introduce new practices into specific
system and business requirements is one of the first barriers
a business faces as it considers a B2E strategy - with system
security and privacy over a wireless infrastructure a close second.
5. Technology Pilot
Since June 2000 - and still on-going - IBM has conducted a
pilot giving a selection of its employees throughout Europe mobile
access to company information including directories, e-mail and
calendars. The pilot system is based on IBM Lotus/Domino Notes,
which is available via PCs to all IBM employees, as well as millions
of other users world-wide. Within the pilot, Domino/Notes services
are delivered to mobile handsets and PDAs via Domino Everyplace
Suite. Security of transactions is ensured via a unique password
and ID for users and the inherent secure features of IBM's own
The initial user group was selected from different parts of
the organisation so that a variety of user profiles could be
incorporated - sales, marketing, technical, consulting and general
management. Mobile users from 15 different countries across EMEA
have participated. As a result IBM can ultimately assess the
programme across a broad spectrum of functionalities and requirements.
Training for pilot members was carried out via distribution of
a downloadable script tile delivered to participants over IBM's
Lotus Notes system. As the software programmes running on the
mobile device were standard Lotus applications and IBM's 'Blue
Pages' corporate directory - which are in everyday use by participants
- all users were able to be operational in a short period of
time. Feedback from pilot participants indicates that ease of
set-up is essential to the successful adoption of mobile B2E
Evaluation of the pilot is still underway and a number of
evaluation techniques are being implemented. These include response
testing via the transmission of a centrally-generated Lotus Note
e-mail message. This technique enables comparisons to be made
in terms of response from 'fixed' and mobile Lotus Notes users.
In addition, a summary questionnaire will be installed on the
mobile device for completion at the end of the pilot.
Preliminary qualitative feedback indicates minimal objections
on the part of the pilot participants. Users have cited a number
of positive attributes that include: "checking for critical
information on my way to meetings,"; "easy access and
total connectivity,"; and, "better responsiveness to
urgent matters," as important benefits.
Other interim feedback from the project showed that more than
85 per cent of participants accessed the WAP business services
regularly. In addition, more than 85 per cent of users also report
that they were happy with the service and were comfortable using
the technology and applications for their business needs. Participants
continuously rated the overall service from 'Very Good' to 'Excellent'
and connected to the WAP services for their mobile e-business
requirements on average twice a day. Regarding future developments,
feedback indicates that users anticipate even greater levels
of office-type functionality at the mobile device level.
The IBM pilot is part of a dedicated mobile e-business strategy
in Europe that will involve more than 4000 mobile e-business
service professionals and includes IBM's 'Quickstart' engagement
packages. Mobile Quickstart engagements are designed to get businesses
mobile fast, and are currently used in a variety of industries
including travel, retail and financial services.
The pilot has cemented IBM's future plans to expand the capability
across the company to its entire mobile workforce, providing
them with mobile e-business functionality. In the United States,
IBM has also begun rolling out Research in Motion Inc's successful
BlackBerry device to 6,500 of its 15,000 field service engineers.
In one of the largest mobile enterprise applications, IBM's ITS
department - who make up the mobile workforce that travel to
customer sites to help repair or upgrade systems - will now have
'always on' access to multiple applications.
Across all industries, mobile e-business will provide employees
with direct mobile access to the information that they need to
work efficiently and productively. Ultimately, these employees
will interact with other e-businesses globally - further enhancing
business performance. While mobile e-business may seem like an
application of the future, its benefits can be harnessed now.
For example, TELUS - the second largest telecommunications
company in Canada - has adopted a mobile B2E system using IBM
software and hardware to provide secure, managed access and to
allow dispatchers to monitor jobs for up-to-the-minute status.
The system is designed to provide more flexibility for rescheduling
jobs, while improving cycle time for their internal workflow.
As a result, TELUS has achieved an average 26 per cent increase
in repair volume, and an average 24 per cent increase in appointments
met within the allowable, two-hour timeframe. With increasing
emphasis on customer satisfaction TELUS has seen increased productivity.
So, forward thinking organisations are already realising the
benefits of mobile B2E. And, not surprisingly, IBM plans to accelerate
its mobile B2E offerings to enterprises. As with the Internet,
mobile e-business has the ability to create new commercial platforms
and improved methods of working. Companies must act now to ensure
their strategies embrace its full potential. If not, they may
miss a unique opportunity for real competitive advantage.