Monday Dec 09, 2013

Get Your Data Out of the Dark Ages

Author: Kevin Moulton

While I was in Chicago a couple of weeks ago to speak at the Oracle Innovation Forum at Soldier’s Field, I spoke to a woman who works for a company that uses Oracle EBS. For some reason, the EBS administrators at her company will not give her direct access to the application. Rather, they give her a monthly extract of EBS data in a spreadsheet. She complained to me about how difficult it is for her to glean anything useful out of the data with this limited access.

I don’t doubt it. I’m disappointed to hear that the data is supplied to her in this way, but I am not surprised. I hear this story too often, where the consumers of the data are not allowed direct access to what they need.

When I hear a story like this, it makes me think of the dark ages, when books were rare and had to be copied by hand. The information in these books was considered dangerous. Knowledge was the right of the privileged. Few knew how to read, and what would they read if they could?

Around 1450, when Gutenberg built his printing press, information became readily available. The world began to learn how to read, because there was something worth reading. By the end of the century, there were printing presses in all of the major cities of Europe. Ideas were shared. New markets were created. The world came out of the dark and into the Renaissance. The printing press was the ultimate disruptive technology.

I think of mobility in the same way. While nearly everyone is carrying a smartphone, and tablet sales are expected to outpace laptop sales by 2016, I still see many organizations where applications and data are locked down in the data center. Access is granted to the privileged few, often in a suboptimal format, and only when the user is in the office on a PC.

Too many organizations create restrictive usage policies’ in the name of security or simply ease of administration, in an attempt to prevent mobile access to email and data, and to prevent the use of third party cloud-based tools. The problem is, your employees are just trying to get their jobs done, and many view these policies as hampering their ability to do it. They are carrying around a mobile device or two, and it is simply too easy for them to forward their corporate email to Gmail or Yahoo, and store the data in Dropbox, Box, or Google Drive so they can access it when they are out of the office. They see IT as an obstacle to be overcome. Rather than preventing employees from using technology, wouldn’t it be better to work with them, and make the applications and data they need available to them anytime and anywhere? Wouldn’t making applications and data more available lead to positive returns for your organization?

Certainly, the Aberdeen Group believes so. Just take a look at their report Mobile BI: Delivering Actionable Intelligence, where they found that organizations that deployed mobile BI solutions exceeded the sales growth of 80% of all other respondents. They go on to say, “widely disseminating knowledge throughout the organization has become a hallmark of top performing organizations.” In a similar report, Mobile BI: Actionable Intelligence for the Agile Enterprise, Aberdeen points out that “BI usage among organizations with mobile BI has doubled compared to those companies that have not mobilized their BI. By extending the reach and usage of their existing BI infrastructure to mobile devices, organizations respond more rapidly to market changes and customer needs. This accelerates time-to-information for critical business decisions, while improving customer satisfaction and retention.” Clearly, getting your data out of the data center and onto the mobile devices of your customer-facing staff will lead to huge benefits.

Isn’t it time to come out of the dark ages? Unleash your mobile workforce. Make your data and applications available to employees carrying smartphones and tablets anytime and anywhere. You will be amazed at the increase in productivity, efficiency, and sales. Are you ready for your company to experience its own renaissance?

To learn more register for Oracle’s Mobile Strategy Update about how Oracle can help you simplify enterprise mobility.

About the Writer:

Kevin Moulton has been in the IT industry for more than 25 years, and with Oracle for 7 years. Kevin is responsible for facilitating technology discussions on social and mobile technologies. He is also a Distinguished Toastmaster. Follow Kevin on Twitter at twitter.com/kevin_moulton, where he sometimes tweets about technology, but might also tweet about running, beer, food, baseball, football, good books, or whatever else grabs his attention. Kevin will be a regular contributor to this blog so stay tuned for more posts from him.

Wednesday Jul 10, 2013

Going Mobile

Author: Kevin Moulton

Sure, a lot of people have smartphones, but that's OK. Smartphones have browsers. Maybe your website will look a little small, but you figure that people can find what they need, and no one really buys anything on their smartphone or a tablet anyway. They just look. They'll go to a real computer to make a purchase.

Is this correct? No!

Consumers want to be able to do everything from their smartphones and tablets. When they come to your website, if they can't see what they want within a few seconds, they're gone. If your site is just your website shrunk down to on a mobile screen, they won't waste any time there. Someone else will capture their attention, and their business.

The question is not whether have you have to embrace mobile. It's how best to do it.

Mobile web site

You don't need to create a whole new website for mobile devices. You simply need a way to detect what device your customer is using, then display the appropriate elements and render the page in a way that will look good on that device.

And what about logging in? Are you just providing general information pertinent to any user, or do you want the information to be personalized for a particular user based on their previous purchases or other information? Perhaps you want to encourage your customers to login for security reasons, or to help you to personalize their experience. However, while you might see an advantage to this, the consumer might find it cumbersome, or they may be worried about their privacy, so this might be another reason that they go elsewhere. Besides, we all have more logins and passwords than we can remember. 

A better way to go would be to allow your customers to login to your site using an ID that they know and use regularly, such as their Facebook, Twitter, or Google+ account. This is easier for your customer, and it may even allow you to collect additional information about what your customers like to help you to show them something they will buy.

Is a mobile website enough, or do you need an app?

There are many considerations that go into this decision? If you want to take advantage of native capabilities of the smartphone or tablet, such as GPS, notifications, the camera, or contacts, or you want your customers to be able to store data locally and access it when they are offline, perhaps you need an app. Once you've decided to go with an app, there are many other decisions to be made, such as writing code for a particular mobile operating system, or going with a hybrid model so that you can write your app once, then deploy to any mobile environment.

One of the considerations is who you have on staff, and what their current skills are. If you want to write apps for a specific mobile OS, you may have to hire people with that skill. If you go with a hybrid approach using a development framework, such as ADF Mobile, you can take advantage of Java skills that you likely already have in-house.

Over the coming months, we will delve into each of these topics and many more in greater detail. It's time to go mobile. Oracle can help.

About the Writer:

Kevin Moulton has been in the IT industry for more than 25 years, and with Oracle for 7 years. Kevin is responsible for facilitating technology discussions on social and mobile technologies. He is also a Distinguished Toastmaster. Follow Kevin on Twitter at twitter.com/kevin_moulton, where he sometimes tweets about technology, but might also tweet about running, beer, food, baseball, football, good books, or whatever else grabs his attention. Kevin will be a regular contributor to this blog so stay tuned for more posts from him.

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