A recent article in the New York Times describes a New York Police Department (NYPD) pilot program in which approximately 400 officers have been given smartphones to help them fight crime. You can read the full article here, but here’s the gist of the NYPD’s mobile application.

The NYPD’s Android-based phones feature an app designed to provide foot-patrol officers with quick, easy access to information assembled from various separate databases. Such sources include databases containing arrest and police incident files, the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) records, and parolee and other offender-related information.

As an example, upon approaching an apartment building, officers making their rounds simply enter the address in the app, upon which they are presented with various police/crime-related information for this particular location, including: the names of every resident with a warrant, arrest record, or previous police summons; a list of apartments associated with domestic disturbances that have required police attention; registered gun owners; and photos of every parolee living in the building, in addition to other information.

In short, this smartphone app provides police officers with a veritable wealth of information tailored to help them perform their jobs better. Moreover, the mobile app is fast and intuitive, allowing officers to rapidly view detailed information that cannot be practically obtained from headquarters via their radios (or, for that matter, the laptops in patrol cars) because the information is maintained in multiple different databases and systems that are not integrated. (Apparently, in order to avoid the possibility of having exceptionally high bills from unauthorized calls, the phones do not allow officers to make calls — only to access information.)

Although this project is still undergoing trials, it looks very promising. In effect, the NYPD’s new mobile anti-crime app appears to be dramatically changing the way officers carry out their patrols. And this is the kind of “game-changing” or “killer” mobile enterprise app that companies should now be focusing on developing.

Considering Some Possible Killer Mobile Enterprise Apps

What if your outside sales force or field services staff were equipped with mobile devices and apps similar to the NYPD’s mobile app? Instead of getting access to crime-related information, however, imagine that as sales reps or service technicians approach a client’s facility, their GPS-enabled tablets would automatically serve up selected localized information pertaining to a specific client or customer(s).

In this manner, the sales rep or service technician could instantly see the amount of business the company has done with the customer he or she is scheduled to meet with, view (and interact with) specific orders and service plans, access inventory levels, check shipping dates, and so on.

Such an application would streamline sales and support processes, not to mention enable reps and technicians to appear sharply focused on the customer’s needs, which the client would realize and appreciate. For example, using a tablet, the rep can immediately correct a problem associated with an existing order — even taking advantage of the tablet’s big screen to show and explain to the customer what he or she has done to correct the problem while at the same time emailing an updated order.

It’s easy to see how such a capability could dramatically change how sales and service employees perform their jobs, because it helps optimize the activities by allowing them to carry out various tasks immediately and while in the presence of the customer or client. This can help shorten sales cycles and streamline maintenance activities and other operations while at the same time go a long way toward assuring clients and customers that your company is indeed very much on the ball when it comes to meeting their needs.

Let’s consider another possible mobile enterprise application scenario. Having received an exception alert while commuting to work, a merchandiser or manager, using a mobile app to interact with real-time data, can analyze store or supply chain performance and generate and share a report with colleagues. In this manner, merchandisers and managers are immediately forewarned of any overstock or out-of-stock conditions. Based on this information, they might decide to accelerate or cancel a supplier’s order, allocate additional merchandise to a specific store or plant, promote an item, or put it on clearance — all with just a few taps or swipes on their tablet or phone. Moreover, if such an app were integrated with the company’s enterprise social network (or some other collaboration environment that supports mobile users), it would serve to further help optimize and streamline store or supply chain operations by allowing managers, merchandisers, and other stakeholders easily to share information and collaborate to solve more complex issues as they arise.

Mobile applications like these are now practical, and today we are seeing forward-looking organizations implementing them.

Conclusion

The first wave of mobile enterprise apps primarily focused on adding mobility to existing enterprise applications. Now we are seeing a new wave of enterprise mobile apps designed to streamline and optimize, if not literally change outright, the way employees carry out their jobs. In fact, I would be surprised if we don’t soon witness some innovative company deploy applications that combine enterprise social, mobile, and analytics technologies in a manner that radically alters the way they do business, potentially upsetting their industry. That is the impact I see social, mobile, analytics, and, of course, the cloud (SMAC) having on business in the not-too-distant future. In short, the time is right to start focusing on implementing cutting-edge mobile enterprise apps.

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Curt Hall

Curt Hall is a Senior Consultant with Cutter Consortium's Data Insight & Social BI and Business & Enterprise Architecture practices. His expertise includes BI, data warehousing, data mining, and other analytical technologies and products.

Discussion

  6 Responses to “The New Wave of Killer Mobile Enterprise Apps”

  1. avatar

    They “enter the address in the app” — Why? The phone has GPS.

  2. I’m not sure. That struck me as funny, too. Plan to find out more about it.

  3. Hi Curt,

    Your article is spot on. What you are saying now is what everyone will figure out in the next 48 months. Our profession has spent the last 48 months resisting and dragging our feet on cloud computing and now that is finally taking off in a big way. But it is only the start. Cloud is the on-ramp for all the things you mention.

    It’s going to be a wild ride. And smart IT folks who figure this out and participate in making it happen are going to have career opportunities the likes of which haven’t been seen since the introduction of the Internet itself.

    As detailed on-demand information becomes available to front line workers it will change the traditional role of managers and executives. We’ll shift from centralized command and control (pyramid shaped hierarchies) toward networks of autonomous business units authorized to act to achieve company goals. Instead of passing information up the chain of command and waiting for permission to act, they will access relevant data and act on their own initiative.

    Video games known as massively multiplayer online games (MMOs) and alternate reality games (ARGs) are already providing models for combining technology and operating tactics in ways that leverage the power of cloud and consumer IT and mobile apps. Social media like Foursquare and SCVNGR are experimenting with this combination of technology and operations to explore new ways to organize and motivate people. Businesses will follow. It will cause major structural changes in the way companies operate.

    I write about this in my book “Enterprise Games” (http://www.amazon.com/Enterprise-Games-Mechanics-Better-Business/dp/1449319564)

    Michael

  4. avatar

    Hey Michael, thanks! I think you’re correct; these new technologies–in conjunction with mobile and analytics– are going to completely change how employees get things done. I’m going to check out your book.

    Thanks again,

    Curt

  5. I completely agree that there is plenty of opportunity for innovative enterprise mobile use. I just have one concern – where the article mentions “Having received an exception alert while commuting to work, …” I shudder to imagine someone attending to such business matters on their smart-phone when he/she should be focussed on driving. Can the driver/employee sue the employer for providing an app that caused the distraction that lead to an accident?

    • By “commuting” I was referring to the idea that an employee would be able to use the app while on the subway or bus, or while riding as a passenger in a car. Hopefully they would have enough sense not to try and interact with the app while driving a car. But, every day, I see people texting or checking their phones while driving. Doesn’t matter if it’s on the city streets or the freeway. So maybe you have a point. So maybe we’ll have to wait and see if the situation arises.

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