Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The power of mashups in the mobile landscape

Have you ever had an experience when it seemed that a thousand things that you were not aware of and which all happened behind the scenes, a thousand connections all interrelated to each other, a thousand events all conspired together to work against you and to hit you with deadly force, and laser guided accuracy turning your life upside down, inside out and throwing you into turmoil. I remember a recent such experience and I could not help but marvel as unpleasant and distasteful as it was, at the power of what had actually taken place and the interconnectivity and interrelatedness  of it all.

Such an analogy is useful in the business context when looking at mashups in the mobile landscape.
In essence, a mashup is integrating data from different sources into a single step or multiple steps within a business process. The power of mashup is its ability to provide real context to the business process and to make the process as effective as possible by providing key, relevant data to the right person at the right time. It’s as if a thousand things have come from different places, different connections and been presented to the user in a life changing, value adding experience.

The proliferation of mobile devices including smart phones and tablets create an even more opportunistic environment for the use of enterprise mashups. It’s really all about understanding, defining and automating the business process. In the past, the lack of mobile technology meant that many business processes were filled with inter-process gaps. These gaps were caused by the requirement for the user to be at his/her pc or workstation before they could become an integral part of the process. Even when the user was at his/her workstation, it still did not guarantee the reduction in these inter-process gaps.

The advent of laptops, 3G and remote access with specific emphasis on workflow and business process management began to reduce these inter-process gaps but the majority of business users still interacted with the process from their desktop PC.

No longer is this the case. Mobile users can now become part of any business process and can interact directly with that process. The inter-process gaps are reduced and in some cases eliminated as users have instant access to information and data required for their involvement in the process.

You will remember the great buzz word of the early nineties; business process reengineering. It was all about not paving the old cow paths but rather finding new and innovative ways to do business. It was about getting rid of processes that were inefficient and did not add value to the business and rather creating new innovative business processes.

Even with the reengineering of the process, technology or the lack thereof was often an inhibitor to a truly reengineered, productive and efficient process. Now, technology becomes a catalyst for the automation and reengineering of these processes and the consequent operational improvements.
Take the following business process as an example of how mashups can truly add value to an organisation and help in the reengineering of business processes.

A sales agent before visiting customer wants to see the following
  1. Latest purchase from customer, details of products and value
  2. Location of customer in relation to his position. This would mean integration into the location based services on the phone.
  3. Products on special that might be of interest to that specific customer
  4. Current spending patterns of customer, financial results etc
Before mashups, the agent would have to ensure he was at his PC and would then go through a series of searches in different data repositories until he found the information he was looking for. This process is time consuming and once all the information has been found, the user is expected to aggregate the information manually in such a way that the most efficiency can be gleaned from the received data. Often because the searches are conducted manually, the correct data sources are not selected and the wrong data is returned wasting much time and resources.

With a mashup solution, the agent simply logs onto his mobile application in the morning and gets the following returned:
Enterprise Mobile Mashup
Magic one stack illustration
  1. The distance between the customer and the sales agent is computed using the geo location services and the directions to the customer are provided. The customer is known by integrating into the agent’s calendar and contacts and pulling down as much information as possible on the customer.
  2. An automated search is performed into the products database and all specials etc. are returned.
  3.  An automated search is performed into the customer master file and data is transformed and served up to the agent in a format indicating when last the customer purchased from the company, what they purchased and what the expected future buying patterns will be.
  4. An automated search into other company and public web sites and data sources is completed and the relevant customer information returned including information on financial position of the customer.
  5. All the data returned is provided to the sales agent in a meaningful way which enables him to very quickly see the types of things he needs to do have an effective sales call.
  6.  After visiting with the customer, the sales agent can update the various data sources simply by filling in a few fields on the application. The backend systems are updated accordingly.

So next time, when it seems the world has gathered together to combine against you, when the forces of nature have their powerful gaze upon you, remember that the experience as painful as it is will cause you to wonder and marvel at the connectivity of it all and the power of the personal mashup. Maybe next time you take out your mobile phone and work with an enterprise app, you will remember the power of the enterprise mashup, the connections and complexities behind the scenes and the resultant wonder of it all.

Daniel Hall - VP Sales and Marketing, Magic South-AfricaDaniel Hall - VP Sales and Marketing, Magic South-Africa – responsible for all sales and marketing functions including proliferation of Magic solutions into SA and Sub-Sahara, has a CIS Professional Qualification in Management and Administration, and Governance and Administration.