The M-Business Evolution
Drivers and Barriers to Adoption
Drivers for Adoption
The drivers for adoption of mobile business within the enterprise and with consumers are numerous (Figure 2-4). They include the following: the increasing mobility of today's workforce; the convergence of telecommunications and software industries; the increasing need for information and transactions anytime and anywhere; the new breed of wireless handsets coming on the market; the revenue opportunities created via location-based services and M-Commerce; the productivity improvements to be gained via wireless extensions to enterprise applications and processes; the improvements in bandwidth brought about by the migration from 2G to 2.5G and 3G networks; and the adoption of wireless standards such as WAP and Bluetooth, together with the cultural and regulatory drivers in various countries. If we distill these drivers into their primary forces, we see the forces of industry convergence, improvements in wireless technology and standards, together with cultural and regulatory effects as driving global adoption of mobile business.
Figure 2-4 Drivers for Adoption of Mobile Data.
Barriers to Adoption
Despite the strong forces that are driving adoption of mobile business, it also faces considerable barriers. There are two main types of barriers to adoption: business barriers and technology barriers. The primary driver for adoption of any new technology needs to be the business case. But even with a business case developed, if the technical obstacles are too high, deployment will be troublesome, if not impossible.
As technical obstacles diminish, they can actually help the business case by expanding the realm of possibilities. For example, accurate location determination techniques can create opportunities for location-based advertising.
Business management needs to be aware of both the drivers and the barriers to adoption of mobile business so that informed decisions can be made. Acting too early or too late can have significant consequences. An entry into mobile business that is premature or incorrectly targeted can distract scarce resources within the enterprise without achieving significant results. An entry that is too late can be even more dire and lead to lost revenues, lost productivity, lost competitive advantage, and even lost customers.
The major business challenge for mobile business is simply the business case. On a macro scale such as the creation of an entirely new business, the following standard questions may apply: Can a business make money by using this model? What is the nature of the product or service being offered? Who are the customers and how will they benefit from this product or service? What is the point of pain that is being removed? What is the size of the market and the differentiation from the competition? What is the pricing strategy and how will the service be delivered? What channels will be used to promote the product or service? What should the branding strategy be? Are end users ready for this service? These are all fairly classic questions for any business. They apply equally to the M-Business arena because the market still has to be created and moved from early adopter status to the mainstream. Often, in addition to a compelling value proposition around M-Business, one still needs to educate and influence consumer and enterprise behavior in order to drive adoption. The new way of doing business needs to be compelling enough and simple enough in order to change user behavior.
On a smaller scale, such as a new business initiative within an enterprise, the following questions may apply: Will end-users accept the technology and process change? Will it provide enhanced customer service or improved employee productivity? How will this be measured? How will end users transition from prior processes into this new process? What is the return on investment? What is the learning curve for end-users? What training is required? What support services are required? What service level agreements need to be in place? How critical is this new application to the business?
The case studies in the industry examples chapter of this book will serve to illustrate how some of the enterprise early adopters have answered these questions and have achieved true business benefit and return on investment.
The technical barriers to adoption of wireless technologies are numerous. They include diverse standards for applications and networks, spotty coverage, low bandwidth, perceived lack of security, diversity of devices, slow response times, primitive user interfaces, and numerous other factors.
In a December 2000 survey of 101 IT and business managers, Internet Week found the following distribution of wireless Internet concerns (see Table 2-2).
|Table 2-2 Wireless Internet IT Concerns. Source: Internet Week.|
|2||Lack of Reliable Standards||69%|
|3||Lack of Web or Enterprise Integration Products||61%|
|5||High Costs of Technology||49%|
|6||Quality of Technology||44%|
The concerns are similar to those of the wired Internet about four years ago. Typical concerns back then included the primitive graphical user interface of the Web browser versus the richer user interface of client/server applications, the lack of security, and the low bandwidth. Enterprises were not convinced that the Internet technologies were robust enough for their critical applications. In fact, I remember many meetings with enterprise clients as a consultant where the stakeholders questioned the need for applications such as extranets and quite rightfully asked about the return on investment. Since ROI calculations had not been extensively developed in those early days, we tended to talk about the soft benefits of enhanced customer satisfaction and improved communications.
Moving back to the present day, as the industry continues to evolve, innovative technology companies and wireless carriers are providing solutions to these technology obstacles—thus helping to drive adoption. What is clear is that the enterprise cannot afford to wait. Mobile business strategies should be crafted today in order to target quick wins and to drive the process change within the enterprise toward mobile business.
Even with a lack of reliable standards, inadequate bandwidth, incomplete coverage, and a wealth of devices and software on the market, it is possible to design and implement highly effective applications within the enterprise that provide a good return on investment. Applications can be implemented that support multiple devices, multiple carrier networks, and can handle incomplete coverage by offering online and offline capabilities. Typically, during offline usage where the carrier network cannot be accessed, the applications use the onboard database of the device and store data for later synchronization when the wireless network becomes available or when a standard dial-up connection or cradle connection is available.
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