According to a private survey of B2B companies by SAP, social media and cloud computing rank as important tech trends to watch, but the most important is (drum roll): mobile.
What? But there’s no massive paradigm shift, or the chance to spawn hundreds of new startups!
No, it seems that we are just simply on the verge of gaining real value in the B2B space from massive use of mobile data, democratized by the iPhone and formalized by BYOD policies. But don’t expect to see these apps showing up on an app store anytime. They are strictly private, because the key to their success is tapping into the corporate data center, which raises interesting security issues.
Philippe Banh from Pernod Ricard, a beverage company, was on hand at the EBG roundtable event I attended, and talked about the benefits, both intended, and unintended, from outfitting their sales force with iPhones. The Pernod app is quite simple in this initial incarnation: it shows a map of the rep’s territory with all the customers geo-located. Clicking on a customer brings up contact data, location data which can launch a GPS application, and all the current promotions which apply to that customer. As Philippe put it “there are no more excuses for not knowing about promotions”. The result is a jump in volumes ordered.
David Marchesseau from SAP took us through the top applications businesses are looking to “mobilize”, and like the Pernod case, CRM is top of the list. Others include customer service, Business Intelligence, or warehouse and transport management. Pretty mundane stuff, but if you can get to just the data that you need, instantly, on the go, then you get efficiencies and better decisions. That requires placing ergonomics of the application at the forefront. That’s also something you can build a business case around, with measurable ROI. In fact when SAP looked at the companies furthest ahead in the mobilizing their data, they saw an average of 20% more revenue and margins increased fourfold.
But when I asked about security, it all seemed like an afterthought. Remi Rocca from EDF, an energy company, said that their app had a login and password to get to the secure client data. When you think about how many smartphones are lost and stolen on any given day, that doesn’t seem like quite enough. And, with BYOD policies increasingly being introduced into the workplace, this will surely become a bigger problem in future unless measures are in place to protect the data even if the device goes amiss.
What about you and your business? Would mobilizing your data, your real business data – not the company catalogue, give you an advantage? How concerned are you about securing that access? Is password-poor security a deal-breaker?