Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Leveraging Mobility to Enhance Efficiency

Sreenivasan PD analyses the shortfall in expected production, even after installing high-grade technology

A fortune 100 company in the US has been expanding and ramping up its production capacities aggressively in the last few years to cater to its global demands. To complement these expansion efforts, the company invested strategically and heavily to implement high-tech manufacturing assembly lines in its facilities. However the organization was not able to realize the increase in efficiency on the production floors to the expected levels, thereby resulting in marginal increase in the productivity. Thus the organization was not able to achieve the expected productivity, the bottom line targeted by the top management through such huge investments.

Detailing the challenge

Investigation by top management revealed that though the high-tech manufacturing assembly lines were in place and functioning functioning to their fullest potential, controlling them was a challenge. And to control them, the floor supervisors had to be equipped with the real-time assembly line data to monitor them, decide and act accordingly.

In the existing scenario, the assembly line data was wired to the server rooms and the floor supervisor had to wait for the data to reach him, before acting decisively, thereby reducing the process efficiency. The other practical difficulty was that of the floor supervisor’s physical movement to the server room for accessing the assembly line controlling software. This discovery further narrowed down the challenge and the key objective in front of the organization was to mobile enable real-time assembly line data access and key assembly line controlling features, to the floor supervisors who are always on the move.

The company had already invested in blackberry devices for their employees to access their email and now the company decided to enable real-time access to assembly line data and assembly line controlling features on to the blackberries of the floor supervisors. The amount of technical difficulties involved in achieving the same, emphasized the need for a partner who had a good amount of mobile technology consulting and implementation expertise. The key technology challenges were mobile enabling real-time data and features to control the assembly line, device side memory management, flexible graphical data representations, data security, development approach/methodology to handle the application development process for catering to the evolving blackberry models.

The solution

Endeavour Software Technologies, the mobility experts were called in and entrusted with the tasks of analyzing, recommending and implementing a solution to address the above mentioned technology challenge. Endeavour, by virtue of its domain expertise in manufacturing supply chain, was quickly able to understand the business impact and performed a detailed analysis by studying the above mentioned difficulties; the assembly line controlling software, the generic mobility pitfalls with respect to data, security, UI addressing the form factor and memory management encountered by any organization, and recommended the following.

- Consideration of device capabilities before rendering.

- XML interface for data exchange

- Custom security model on top of BES

- Data scaling to view data in multiple trends

- Client side handling for flexible graphical data representations

- Reusable components to handle memory management

- An efficient development approach involving low development efforts to handle evolving models

Business benefits

The solution once implemented, resulted in the floor supervisors accessing real-time assembly line data, monitoring them closely and making effective timely decisions at the point of activity. The floor supervisors were also able to control certain key factors of the assembly line from their blackberries. This resulted in increase of production efficiency thereby realizing the bottom line targeted by the organization through such strategic high tech investments.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Smartphone Web usage and market share

In a report released in April 2009, AdMob compared its market share stats vs. Gartner's.

The findings indicate a few things:

  • AdMob's stats are iPhone heavy;
  • Mobile usage, which is what AdMob tracks doesn't match market share;
  • Symbian, RIM and Windows Mobile have market share, but lag in mobile Web usage.

The notable chart from the AdMob report is the AdMob share of requests broken down by operators and manufacturer. The takeaways:
  • AT&T is reliant on Apple;
  • Verizon Wireless is in bed with RIM;
  • T-Mobile relies on HTC a good bit;
  • And the rest of the pack relies heavily on Samsung.

3G will Boost Enterprise Mobility in India

Mobility is emerging as one of the most important aspects of enterprise IT infrastructure today.

Avinash Mishra, CEO & co-founder of Endeavour Software Technologies talks about challenges enterprises face in enabling mobility & solutions and approaches that could help them tackle these challenges in an interview with associate editor Tabrez Khan.

What are the mobility challenges organizations face today?
We have seen in our experience that most organizations that we have worked with understand at a high level that they would like to mobile enable their processes... however to begin with they have:

1. No clear guidance on mobile solutions and their integration with organizational resources
2. A dilemma on whether to custom build or buy off the shelf
3. No clear picture on defining the success criteria for a mobile deployment
4. Confusion on the effort required to deploy, maintain and support a mobile solution
5. Finally no guidance on the impact to them of rapidly changing trends - new devices and new capabilities that are being introduced in the mobility landscape.

Given this backdrop, how does an enterprise embed mobility in its IT architecture/fabric?
The key to embedding mobility in the enterprise rests on two important aspects:

1. Understanding the linkage between people and process - what areas of an enterprise agent's day to day work would give maximum returns upon mobilizing.
These areas are usually around personal productivity, information collection or dissemination on the move, securely accessing enterprise resources from a mobile device or , as has been seen recently - the mobile "act on" capability i.e. an ability to monitor, manage and drive enterprise processes from a mobile device.

For some enterprises an understanding of the people invariably leads to how we may mobile enable to customers and partners. However the general principles remain the same.

2. Understanding the technology landscape: having understood people and processes, a clear understanding of the current and planned technology landscape of the target enterprise is essential. That is, identify elements in a technical infrastructure which would lend themselves to mobility most easily. An example would be a J2ee based enterprise app that exposes web services or the presence of a Blackberry Enterprise server in the enterprise or Microsoft's exchange server.

These two aspects are an integral part of Endeavour's "Mobile Opportunity Assessment - MOA" which we offer our enterprise customers. This assessment, which is usually a 2-3 week exercise, is part discovery and part mobile education targeted towards an enterprise.

How are Endeavour's applications driving enterprise mobility?
Enterprise applications developed by Endeavour are deployed by companies ranging across sectors such as manufacturing - mobile real time factory data, banking - mobile trading / portfolio management/ Forex / commodity/equities, patient healthcare - mobile health management , healthcare providers - hospital asset management, service provisioning - servicing of heavy vehicles with any paper chain involved, media - mobile news paper readers and many more.

These applications give enterprise users an amazing reach in being able to discharge their enterprise functions while on the move. Whether it is a simple task as checking on an order status or a more complicated one such as effecting a restart of a server that has run out of virtual memory, mobile apps are allowing people to execute while on the move. In terms of role, mobile enterprise apps are being used from CXO s to functional heads to sales force agents to shop floor supervisors.

Can business critical apps be made mobile?
Indeed they can. To quote a few examples, Endeavour has mobile enabled real time factory metrics for its customers in the US; supervisors use this data to control critical manufacturing parameters; Endeavour's mobile anesthesia manager helps doctors make critical decisions about patient health parameters vs. drug dosages; trading and portfolio management apps allow traders to place orders in real time. So business critical apps not only can be mobile enabled but it is these critical apps that give maximum return on investment when mobile enabled.

There are some key considerations while implementing mobility such as mobile network latency and bandwidth, device computing power and battery life and security.

What is your view on the current enterprise mobility scenario in India and comparison with global trends?
Enterprise mobility scenario in India since 2008 is very healthy and is at par with global trends. The area which held India back for sometime was mobile data - bandwidth and cost; but with the coming of 3g and lowered costs of smart devices, India, more than any country is looking to benefit from enterprise mobility. For example one company we are helping is doing a pilot for enabling a 10000 sales agent plus sales and distribution force with mobile data collection capabilities. This kind of scale for mobility adoption is more the exception than the rule globally.

As competition heats up Indian enterprises will be forced to unlock further efficiencies using mobility and so we are very bullish on the Indian market. Since early 2008 we have had an exponential increase in requests from Indian enterprises for customized mobile solutions

Monday, March 30, 2009

Smart mobile devices can replace notebooks

The usage of devices such as smart phones has seen a good amount of increment, whereas the growth for notebooks and laptops is reaching saturation.

Mobility is an emerging and upcoming trend in the industry. Manish Garg, COO and founder of Endeavour Software Technologies speaks to V. Sudhakshina of CyberMedia News about the latest trends and challenges faced by an enterprise in achieving mobility and how can consulting help in overcoming those challenges.

What are the recent trends that you see in the space of mobility?

Mobile devices are getting smarter as well as affordable day by day. The usage of devices such as smart phones has seen a good amount of increment, whereas the growth for notebooks and laptops is reaching saturation. These days' mobile devices can replace notebooks or laptops.

What are the challenges faced by the enterprises in achieving mobility?

Some of the common challenges faced by an enterprise in achieving mobility are network connectivity or bandwidth and costs of devices. However, in recent times these challenges are reducing because of the decrease in the prices of devices, and the connectivity issue is also being taken care of due to the advent of Wi-Max and 
3G in India.

Other than these two, the most important challenge faced by an enterprise is not getting comfortable with the feel of mobility. There is still lack in knowledge about what are the right set of solutions needed, which would be helpful even in future. With the ever-changing mobile landscape, enterprises are wondering as to what are the best practices that need to be followed. They are apprehensive with questions like where, when and how to start. This is where the need for proper consulting arises.

Can you elucidate with an example on how does consulting help enterprises in adopting mobility?

Mobility helps enterprises to add value to their business as well as helps in increasing productivity. But due to a few constraints, as I mentioned earlier, enterprises are finding it difficult in achieving it.

We, through consulting, help companies in building a road-map for mobility. We give consultation to companies on selecting appropriate hardware and design, build, test and roll out industry strength mobile-hand-held solutions, important values before them, ROI, etc.

We analyze the competitive landscape ahead them. Make them aware of the latest trends and technologies and help them selecting the appropriate one's, which would not only help them now but also be useful in future.

One such example that I can cite here is of a UK-based private equity firm. The firm had employed 250 people and was spread in 13 geographies. The firm was finding it difficult to have proper interaction between these geographies, while taking certain important decisions.

We helped this firm achieve a proper mobility platform for easier work flow. In the first year of implementation the employee responsiveness increased by 40 to 50 per cent and the work productivity too increased by 60 to 70 per cent.

Proper consulting is required in the space of mobility so as to make the enterprises aware about the latest trends, analyze them, and recommend a proper platform as per their business needs.

We help companies evaluate the potential of the product in each prospective market.

Social media and impact on organizations & businesses

Note: Please click on the mindmap to view the enlarged image

Thursday, March 19, 2009

SMS is our backbone for customer interactivity

What are your prime offerings? Which verticals are you targeting?We are primarily a software services and consulting company and develop applications with a focus on mobile technologies. We d0evelop applications for the healthcare domain, BFSI, retail, and market research. In healthcare our strategy is to address not only the consumers but also the doctors and support staff. We have categorized our healthcare offerings mainly into three categories: wellness, clinical and support. We use SMS as the backbone for interaction with the consumer and provide the consumer with healthcare information.
In the banking and finance sector we develop applications for hedge funds. With our solutions companies can provide market forecasting and other applications to hand-held devices.
Do you have any specific plans for the Indian market? Being a services company our major clients are naturally in the western countries. We plan to launch some of our healthcare applications now in India by collaborating with one of our US partners. We have already started discussions with hospitals like Apollo and Wockhardt. In India the healthcare sector is witnessing a huge growth and we are very much optimistic about the Indian market. Within the next six months we are planning to provide content and music provisioning in India.
What role does the Indian team play in your overall business? Though our major focus is on the western market our development and consulting work is done out of India. We have a strong team of 150 people in India. We are also planning to improve and expand sales and marketing presence in the US and UK. We are planning to open a new facility in Mysore, which will be an extension of our Bangalore office.
What are your major focus areas in the mobile space? The important areas that we are looking at is mobile social networking. Being an untapped area it provides a great opportunity. According to a latest study, mobile social networking users will cross 800 mn by 2011. We have conducted a study on various applications needed by the user in mobile social networking. Based on the study we are developing an application that can make mobile social networking more easy and useful. This gives us a huge market opportunity and will have a lot of significance in Indian market also.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Breakthrough Phone

On January 7, 2009, on the eve of CES 2009, Palm Inc called a special press conference and announced the launch of its smart phone, Palm Pre. Powered by Web OS, Palm Pre has amazing software capabilities. By combining touch, QWERTY key board and support for EV-DO high speed network, Palm Pre combines the best of breed features of today's smart phones and paves the way for the next generation of smart phones.

I am personally blown by the announcement and I take back my words which I have put in my blog on September, 2008 (The Palm Story - An Ending Dream). Palm is an unusual company that has gone through some really bad times in recent years. By introducing Palm Pilot in 1996, Palm created the PDA (Personal Digital Assistant) market. Palm Pilot was an unquestioned leader that introduced many innovations. Palm which dominated the smart phone market till 2005 was pushed down into the distant third position with the launch of Blackberry by RIM and iPhone by Apple.

Job Rubinstein was brought into Palm in 2006 as Chairman by Elevation Partners which invested in Palm. Jon is the person who designed iPod while working for Apple during 1995-2005 and it was expected that Rubinstein's magic would do wonders for Palm as well. Thankfully, Plam Pre is one such exciting product.

2008 has been a watershed year for smart phones (refer the comments to my blog "Mobile Trends - 2009 and beyond"). Blackberry and iPhone have set high benchmarks. 

What is exciting about Palm Pre?
  • Ergonomically designed
  • QWERTY slide-out keyboard
  • Gesture-based interface
  • High Speed connectivity using EV-DO (3G on CDMA)
  • 802.11b/g//n for Wi-Fi
  • GPS
  • 3 mega-pixel camera including LED flash
  • USB 2.0 connection
  • Three sensors viz Proximity sensor, accelerometer, ambient light sensor
  • Replaceable battery (missing in apple iPhone)
  • 3.1" display with 480x320 resolution in 24-bit colour
  • 2.35"x3.96"x0.67" makes it the smallest among smartphones; weighs 135 grams
  • Touch is capacitor based just like iPhone
  • There is a unique wireless touch charger
What is special about Palm Pre?
  • Palm Pre uses the Webkit over linux: We have heard a lot about WebKit. It seems to be very powerful in the Safari and iPhone. We can do things with Webkit which may override some of the restrictions of the Palm CEO repeatedly mentioned that knowledge of HTML, CSS and JavaScript (all three are well accepted and widely used standards). I have further read that “The new browser is built on top of Webkit, just like the Android and iPhone browsers, and renders full pages in under 10 seconds". The underlying concept is that of constant connect to the Internet (not merely the telecom network).
  • Concept of "Synergy": This refers to one view from all sources. WebOS links contacts across multiple environments - desktop tools like Microsoft Outlook, cloud computing tools like GMail, and, social networks like Facebook. More importantly it does so over the air without user having to synchronize to a PC or MAC desktop machine. Also the individuality is perserved; one can read / respond to corporate mail / home mail / web mail separately all using Palm Pre or have an integrated view of all mailboxes.
  • User based Multitasking: The innovation seems to be the Card system and is this something we can organize our applications UI. Using a Card metaphor, Palm Pre further simplifies the use of multiple applications.
  • The Palm App Catalog: They announced an Appstore as well, which means there is a huge opportunity for software vendors to build the ability to port every application on iPhone or Blackberry to this new platform as well. 
In all the Palm Pre offers the simplicity and convenience which which the applications can be built and deployed. Pandora talks of being able to develop applications in 3 days (instead of 3 months for other mobile platforms).  Here are my thoughts on why I find this to be the next step in tech evolution in mobile devices:
  1. The OS will be more powerful, as WebOS has been created with the mobile device being a small form factor. Concepts such as multi-tasking, the CARD concept, features such as one SYNCH of contacts, calendar, email, text gives it a platform which is probably more powerful than Google Android. This adoption may result in helping Palm get acquired as part of platform consolidation.
  2. With this only device there migth be queries among readers on the lack of diversity and choice in terms of harware when we compare to the BB's and Nokia's of the world. But I can sense a sort of consolidation happening on this front as well. Already we have seen that iPhone has shown phenominal growth inspite of a single iPhone offering unlike BB, WM, Nokia where each provides more than 10 different choices to the user.  This consolidation will first happen on standards level and then the devices level. We will see Device integration in the next 3-5 years in terms of mobile handset mfrs, platform developers, wireless providers all making acquisitions, once the economy picks up. In the end we will get 3 top players (whether palm with be among them is yet to be seen).

Friday, January 09, 2009

Mobile Trends - 2009 and beyond

2008 has been a very exciting year for mobile technology in general and I feel that despite the shaky economy, the developments in the mobile space will continue on its growth path, creating opportunities for new application scenarios for entrepreneurs in the ever-evolving global mobile ecosystem.

I have over here tried to present the evolving trends in the mobile space not for the immediate year per say but from a long term perspective ...

Trend 1: Ad funded revenue model
Over the last decade we have seen phenominal growth in mobile adoption and SMS volume growth and the key drivers are now in place for mobile services to reach the critical mass. 

This has in turn lead to a trend among consumers who are now looking for new and innovative offerings for which they do not have to pay a premium for mobile content they can access for free online through a more convenient PC/laptop experience. As a consequence, mobile paying audiences will represent a limited share of the overall mobile content audience. Mobile content will thus increasingly transition to use of ad-funded revenue models.

Trend 2: SMS becomes commodity
I also see that even though the volume of SMS is soaring to new levels but the declining prices will force the operators to rethink on their offerings to cover up for this loss in revenue. As reported by Forrestor, we will see operators moving to flat-rate adoption rates (for mobile Internet tariff). We will observer operators bundling data options in their pay monthly tariffs (such as Orange with its Origami offering or Vodafone). After voice (per minute), voice packages, SMS per units, SMS options, unlimited SMS bundled into voice, data options, unlimited data package. 

As SMS becomes a commodity no one would be willing to pay for other services and we will see the evolution of voice+unlimited data plans. 

We might also see operators offering data / Internet package with different services bundled such as social networking, IM or communication with presence / location to stay in touch with your community of friends / relatives.

So definitly the door is going to be wide open and competion with heat up not only among application providers but also between application providers and service providers.

Trend 3: Consolidation
Consolidation will continue to be the mantra in the mobile industry. Companies having adequate cash or which have raised capital before the financial crisis (think of Zed and its 92,5M€ raised in July) will be interested in making new acquisitions. Also companies who are not into the mobile space will be willing to enter this space will be looking out for easy preys and there will be many medium-sized players and lots of start-ups with innovative ideas and technologies that may go bankrupt this year because they rely on long-term advertising business models.
That’s true for large operators willing to buy regional ones in emerging countries. That’s true for handset manufacturers (Motorola handset division is officially for sale). 

Trend 4: New Devices filling the market
Blackberry launches Bold and Storm.
Apple will launch new devices. Still tricky to say whether this will be a nano or something else. 
Major handset manufacturers will launch Android-based handsets and we’ll now discuss millions of phones.
Nokia launching N97 and so on.

So there will be a list of new devices coming to the market. That being said, I still believe it won’t change the game in 09. Blackberry will continue to stay strong in its segment for business users and travellers and it will stay there for a while since the iPhone is still lacking good & fast keypad input. 

The industry will stop talking about a Google Phone and realize that launching an OS is a long-term play that depends on your manufacturer partners. Nokia has a problem with it’s OS. The company will need at least two years to move seamless to the new open-source OS after having acquired Symbian in 2008.

Trend 5: Merchandizing of Mobile Applications
The success of Apple AppStore has completely refined the way application provides sell their applications. 300 millionapplication downloads in less than 4 months and over 10000 applications on the store has changed it all. Still I actually agree with Thomas that these are early days of mobile merchandizing and we can expect lots of improvement in mobile application merchandizing and expect a bunch of operators to launch widgets and equivalent of Apple Application stores. Blackberry Store is expected to be launched by March 2009 and Google coming with Android MarketThis will pose a significant challenge for the mobile developers as well and we will see a surge of innovations in the application development space. Read my article on "Contraint based innovation

Though there is a lot more to talk about but let me not make it long. 

I do recommend the following articles from Rudy & Thomas which are quite interesting where they share their predictions for 2009.

Wish you all the best for 2009!

Monday, January 05, 2009

Constraint based innovation

As an iPhone application provider Endeavour Software Technologies has been developing applications for Appstore since its launch and we’re starting to see a trend that is evolving.  People want large number of small apps. That the iPhone dev market is getting highly commoditized and as a result the word going around in the US is that you can get an iPhone app developed in around 10 K $.

The developers are lowering prices to the lowest possible level in order to get favorable placement in iTunes.

Many of the responses to Craig’s post focus on the need for marketing vs. depending on the App Store for sales. I do agree with the need for marketing, but if we are talking of low cost apps then marketing activity which involves additional cost is adding to the cost. There are methods which are cost effective such as working with press or getting featured by Apple but they are incredibly hard to guarantee.

What will it take to succeed?

I see that in order to make profits and sustain in this market companies need emphasize on a flawless, streamlined process where there are GUERILLA teams which churn our code quickly. By Guerilla I mean the ability to move in and move out of customers and their applications quickly, be able to get a very robust configuration, build and release mechanism to handle large volumes and a robust project and cost management oversight, which is led by a senior level executive.

The profits have to come out of the efficiencies by the way we build those apps. In the "app store" world we have seen that smaller players want to build an app quickly and inexpensively because for them the profit comes from launching many apps with small time to live, not with a single, large time to market application. Companies must therefore understand this trend and adapt.

Similarly, we know that BlackBerry app store is getting launched shortly. This will give rise to the need for the publishers to make their iPhone offerings available for the BB store as well. Here again the, short time to launch, high volume, low price app laws will hold. And here again we must tailor our offerings accordingly.

As of day there are over 10,000 applications on the iPhone Appstore and growing. In order to get a significant chunk of this one has to get the right price to drive volumes. This however is a million dollar question and begs some research. It is important t know the price point in which we get a customer to say YES? Is it $10,000, $8000 or $15000?

At the same time one has to think of innovative ways to bring down the cost such as Annuity based pricing? Are we willing to do development for a one-time cost of say $7000 and the rest in revenue per seat sold by our customer. For example, customer pays $7000 per application and then promises 25 cents per download on the Appstore.

Companies need to focus on agile development which has elements of

  • Process steps are well defined, streamlined and efficient
  • Rework is a minimum
  • Self Motivated and Independent teams

This concept though is not new and similar concept is also developed by Mobile Distillery for other java enabled devices. They proclaim reducing 30% of development time. This tells me that that software development for the mobility world has to change dramatically over standard s/w development where speed and portability becomes key.

Companies need to come up with automated development and test frameworks for rapid application development. The efficiency will be the key. I have seen Barclays using such frameworks for building complex trading tickets by designing widgets (GUI controls embedded with behaviour) and then by just putting these together for building the application. This worked very well. These widgets were individually tested to save time and finally the overall picture needed to be tested.

In all this one must keep in mind the three main issues with mobile applications

Porting:- Not a tough job as such, we just have only one SDK to develop the application for

Distribution:- Appstore is all about distribution and as easy as downloading music via iTunes

Discovery:- This is something that isn't sorted out yet & needs further elaboration

Approach to beat the market

  1. Focus on Agile development and be able to change concept of software development for changing face of software that is needed for the mobile platform.
  2. Need for a dedicated testing team connected to each application. We can offer it as a service for Appstore developers and publishers
  3. Need to practice for each horizontal platform such as iPhone, Blackberry, Windows Mobile, Android Market, etc. This can also be extended to vertical elements as we go on.


Well, its true that in crowded market prices is driven down but is only true of products and services where the barrier to entry is low. Indeed in a globalized and open playing field only those who provide a differentiated offering and able to educate their target audience will be able to command a better price.

Such barriers though are the very seeding point for creativity that will be born out of very constraints that are now seen as barriers. Constraint based innovation as C.K. Prahlad would say.

If one market place, say Appstore, does not offer what the customers want over a period of time then again market will shift in a direction to create quality. The move from the red ocean to blue ocean.

Never in human history have we been held back because the space for selling is crowded. Markets always find a way and mobility is still at its infancy...