Top 10 Strategic Technology Trends for 2015

Since 2007, Gartner has been predicting the top strategic tech trends for the coming year; not an easy task considering the unpredictable nature of the IT market.

In this year’s report, Gartner Identifies the Top 10 Strategic Technology Trends for 2015, the analysts describe their focus this way:

“Factors that denote significant impact include a high potential for disruption to the business, end users or IT, the need for a major investment, or the risk of being late to adopt. These technologies impact the organization’s long-term plans, programs and initiatives.”

Here is a breakdown of Gartner’s list: (more…)

Why IoT and M2M Technology is Gaining Such Ground

While M2M technology has been around for some time now (in technology years that is) it is now moving beyond the notice of early adopters and innovators to early majority. More and more people are becoming familiar with the concept at a consumer level (Smart Homes, iBeacon technology, etc) and the business sector is beginning to find ways to leverage the technology as a profit center. The reason for this?

“I believe the recent buzz is a result of the convergence of factors: Field service companies have the knowledge management capabilities to turn data points into insight, many organizations are making or thinking about the transition from a reactive, break-fix service model to a proactive or preventative model, and the volume of machines a assets that are connected has reached a number with can drive value.”

Aly Pinder – Senior Research Analyst, Aberdeen Group



DATArrive-internet-of-thingsAs with most advances in technology, initial buzz can hover around the novelty of of the technology itself, with a vague understanding of how it might impact our lives. There can be an excitement over what could be, but an unrealized connection to the daily impact.

For some time, this has been the progression of the Internet of Things (IoT) or Machine to Machine (M2M) technology. The introduction of automated process and greater access to information has long been the building blocks of industrial advancement, and now, the latest progression of technology is finding a valuable position in many industries.

Recently, Field Technologies Magazine provided an industry report dedicated to the IoT and the specific benefits within field services. The follow list is taken from the recent report “The Vast Benefits M2M and IoT Can Provide” which help to clarify just what exactly the IoT and M2M devices can do for us:

  1. Improve Efficiency and Productivity – rather than sending a driver out to vending machine locations to fill them on a set schedule, you only send someone when inventory gets low. Instead of having a utility worker spending full days reading meters, you can receive that data remotely. M2M allows companies to evolve from reactive work to proactive work.
  2. Provide Better Customer Service – As an organization shifts from being reactive to proactive in the service of their customers, an obvious boon to customer service is felt. Rather than customers alerting service providers of issues, service providers are enabled to identify issues, notify customers, estimate arrivals and have a better grasp on completion times.
  3. Grow Revenue – a reduction in waste is a quick way to maximize profits. The migration towards M2M automation provides new ways for companies to extend the value of their current workforce while providing added value to their service offering and potentially grow their customer base
  4. Business Insight to Make Process and Product Improvements – the data gathered from M2M-enabled process can provide valuable insight into what is working or failing when it comes to products and processes. The ability to analyze real operational process with hard data becomes a valuable resource for companies

Read the entire industry report here.

Overview: Three Ways Mobile Apps Are Better With Contextual Sensor Data

Over at the Forrester blog, Rowan Curran has a short video posted that lists 3 ways in which sensor data can enhance mobile applications. This is a good introduction into how integration with existing data brings added value to the application experience.


The Challenges Ahead for Mobile Application Development

Analysts from Gartner Inc. and IDC have recently weighed in on the challenges that lie directly in front of mobile app developers and the necessity for these teams to think differently from traditional practices. David Ramel at summarizes these points in a recent article and highlights several obstacles development teams must wrestle with:

  1. Approaches taken within developing for desktop software do not translate in mobile app development – device diversity, network connectivity and other mobile-specific considerations dement that mobile development teams use “functional, performance load and UX testing as well as agile development practices.”
  2. Mobile disruption – the central problem in mobile application development is addressing the variety of platforms and devices that employees can bring into the enterprise. This flood of devices has created a “disruption” of sorts that demands developers are able to distribute to multiple combinations of devices, OS and form factors.
  3. UX matters – Ramel sites that most user complaints about mobile apps have to do with user experience caused by poor UI design, workflow responsiveness. In the world of mobile, function definitely matters, but with a limited amount of screen size, form matters a whole lot more

The advice for development teams: “embrace the Web ecosystem of skills and set up Web developer teams along with existing Java and Microsoft ecosystem developer teams because tools, frameworks and middleware aimed at enterprises are increasingly integrating HTML5 support.”


Read the full article here.


The Second Wave of Mobility

second-wave_310_224Field Technologies Magazine recently released their Field Mobility Annual Report for 2014 which highlights the numerous trends and expectations for the forthcoming year based off of responses from over 700 consumers. Among the many insights was the recognition that we are in second (or maybe third?) wave of mobility.

Meaning this: initially, companies invest in mobility to move away from manual or paper-driven processes by mobilizing their operations. For many industries, this was the surge 5-7 years ago and remains a critical step for companies who have yet to do so. But for many companies, the second wave of mobilization lies within the area of automating existing processes through “awareness technology.” Depending upon the industry, this could mean:

  • using GPS technology to “arrive” at a location rather than manually selecting a menu option
  • leveraging historical data to suggest inventory, staffing needs, or estimated hours to complete work
  • accessing crowdsourced data to estimate traffic patters, wait times or weather conditions
  • engaging with bluetooth technology for location awareness and know data points that trigger workflow actions

The bottom line is that mobility will inevitably continue to evolve but the real winners will be companies and products that think proactively and progressively to leverage technology for their advantage.

The Field Mobility Annual Report can be accessed here.

Three Field Service Trends That Continue to Deliver Success


In a recent article at Field Technologies Online, Scott Dutton summarized the three trends in field services that are allowing companies to  cut service costs, improve productivity, and boost customer satisfaction.

Mobile Devices – the continued saturation of mobile devices into our everyday lives has made this resource a swiss army knife of sorts for field service companies. According to a recent survey by Field Technologies, about half the mobile workforce currently uses smartphones as the primary means of communication from the field. The other half is divided unequally: roughly 40 percent still use laptops, and approximately 11 percent prefer tablets. Interestingly, more than a quarter of both laptop users and smartphone proponents are considering a switch to tablets because of the portability, popularity, and screen size tablet provide.

Field-Service Workforce Automation – As the partnership between mobile devices and web-based workforce automation apps continue to become more integrated, companies have an even more powerful resource in the hands of their mobile employees. Web-accessible apps for work-order assignment, customer relationship, billing, and inventory management all provide field-service professionals with the real-time data necessary for informed, on-the-spot decision-making. Longer-term benefits include accurate forecasting and reporting for more productive allocation of personnel and material resources.

Location-Based Services – As customer experience is such a huge factor in field service success, having a toolset that is able to provide the right information at the right moment becomes critical. Having the right expert with the right equipment in the right place at the right time improves field-service performance and productivity, which results in sharp increases in customer satisfaction and noticeable improvements to the bottom line.

Best. Deployment. Ever

By way of follow up to the previous post highlighting several factors that can contribute to headache deployments, here is the list of reasons for success. This list represents the reasons customers are happy and become our biggest evangelists.

  1. Looking to improve process, not just technology – anytime a client’s driving motivation is to enhance or create actual process, we know it is a good sign. Technology is as only as good as the process it supports, and when you support the desired process with great technology, it is a win.
  2. Willing to invest time on the front end of a project – peeling back the various layers of business rules and mobile process can takes a bit of investment and commitment. But without this critical step, even the best mobile technology will struggle at some point.
  3. A single point of contact who “owns” the project – having a primary relationship with one person within the company is critical. Not only does this cut down on miscommunications and confusion, it bolsters the mobile technology’s place within the company as this person becomes the resident expert and champions the new approach.
  4. Having a genuine pain point – yes, in this case pain is good. The recognition that the existing environment is a detriment to the company, only provides more motivation to ensure that the new approach is the right fit and executed well.

Worst. Deployment. Ever.

While we all love to tout our best mobile deployments and write up case studies on our success stories, I was recently challenged to describe what a bad deployment looked like. While each mobile deployment has its challenges, I discovered there are some scenarios that lend themselves to just becoming massive headaches. In our experience, here are a number of factors that can lead to the worst deployment ever:

  1. NON-MANDATED – there is no driving motivation to implement this mobility project. It quickly becomes clear that this is a “want to” vs. “have to” scenario. There is no cost justification, demand for legal compliance, a requirement to meet specific service level agreements or company mandated policy. This is simply a case of “it would be nice if we could _______.”
  2. ROI IS NOT CLEARLY DEFINED – going into the project there was no clear definition of success. Nothing that clarifies “we need to improve productivity by X”, cut operational cost by ___”, or streamline workforce by X.” Without this there can never really be a tangible sense customer satisfaction.
  3. NO DEADLINES – Especially when there is no mandate for the solution a lack of deadline leads to drawn out implementation, delays in pre-production training and a general hesitancy to eventually go live.
  4. OPERATIONS PEOPLE ARE NOT INVOLVED – when the influencers and decision makers are not directly involved in the operations side of the business, there is such a huge disconnect in expectations, a clear understanding of needs and a “boots on the ground” approach. This inevitably leads to all manner of delays and chasing rabbit trails for items that in the end, really really do not provide value to the project.
  5. UNWILLINGNESS TO INVEST TIME ON THE FRONT END OF THE PROJECT – because a successful mobile deployment relies so heavily on operational workflows, it demands a fair amount of investment on the front end of a project to evaluate process, define the proper business rules and work through the current vs. expected process. An unwillingness to roll up the sleeves and wade through this work ultimately leads to greater frustration and headaches as technology is rolled out to the larger team.
  6. NOT CONSULTING THE END USER – working with operational team members is critical but not consulting the actual end user is even worse. Assuming or even dictating how a mobile process should work with out input from the actual mobile worker is the “ivory tower” approach to mobility that typically leads to a fumbled implementation and poor user adoption.

But it’s not always bad. Next up – best deployment stories.

What Transportation and Logistics Managers are Saying

Intermec has recently commissioned a new study surveying logistics managers at organizations of over 500 employees within the UK, France, USA, Germany, Australia and New Zealand. Apart from the usual findings a few are worth noting:

  • $282,000 – the amount companies expect to save in the next 12 months from GPS technology
  • 92%  – the amount of transportation and logistics managers struggle to meet same-day delivery requirements
  • 60% – the percentage of respondents who believe mobile communications offer the most promising return on investment to their organization