The 3 D’s of the Mobile World: Data, Databases, and Decisions
It’s been fun watching the computing world mature, from the days when mainframe computers occupied an entire operations-intensive room to the power of applications on our mobile phones. Have we finally awoken to the reality that mobile communications has caught-up with the Dick Tracy comic character and his 2-way wrist watch phone? Technology has been (as predicted!) evolving so quickly, that even professional prognosticators are merely guessing where we will be in another 10-20 years; Science Fiction has rapidly become Science Fact.
Technology & Lifestyle Morphing
Today, data intensity is enveloping our business and social worlds – from airwaves, to telephone circuits, computer cables, and mobile devices we are growing into data junkies relying on our next data fix to help us make the smallest of decisions! Our lifestyle and habits are changing radically with our dependence on technology to support our daily existence. In this new digital-centric way of life businesses that provide services and products supported by digital highways and mountains of data must pay close attention to the operation and performance of their technology infrastructure. On the other hand, consumers need to develop reasonable expectations on the value and use of the data retrieved and used. For example, do we rely completely on sourced data or attempt to balance with our lifetime of experiences and insights contained in our sensory, short and long memories?
Information is King. That was true a thousand years ago, and it is true today. It was also true that gathering information, for the purpose of making informed decisions, was and will always be the most critical success factor in almost any undertaking. Leveraging the digital environment: What has changed immeasurably today over a thousand years is the ability to find and access data. If you can access the internet from your handheld, you can access more than a thousand years’ of human learning almost instantly.
But, what do you do with it? Furthermore, how do you handle structured versus unstructured information? Can you aggregate the information as you need it? Probably not, there’s too much there. What about a web application though? There things get more interesting, because you may be able to interface with the data you want, already organized in a useful manner in a database. In effective decision making the big challenge is making sure that the data is being aggregated into actionable information and subsequently used to generate new tacit knowledge accurate, complete, and appropriate.
The astonishing acceleration of data growth and the heterogeneous character of the data mean that organizations whose IT infrastructures transport, store, secure, and replicate large amounts of data, have little choice but to employ ever more sophisticated approaches, techniques, and tools for information management, security, search, storage and database management. Add mobile into the mix and data management presents a new level of complexity for ensuring total accuracy, high level of performance and successful rendering of data and information with the different technical environments. Effective data and database management empowers business and technology executives to use current information as the basic building block of high-quality decisions.
Enterprise Data Challenges
That said, let’s talk about your corporate database and remote access. Some of your data and information is customer facing, some of it is internal-eyes only. You probably have some information that you simply don’t want accessible from a web application without VPN protection. What happens then when you have an off-site conference, sales event, or activity? And what happens when you are missing either the VPN or the internet access?
You need to give your off-site workers access to critical data in order to facilitate their decision-making processes. The ability to get the right information to the right mobile devices and mobile workers has gone from a “nice to have” to “mission critical.” We are in a whole new work environment — much different than in our grandparents’ days when the work day was 9-5 and they left work to enjoy the remainder of the day with their family. Contrast that with today’s typical executives or workers who are expected to respond quickly to after-hours calls and emails on their hand-held devices and be in a position to instantly make decisions and collaborate with colleagues!
A Typical Data Story
At a recent event on a cruise ship, it was observed that the sales staff struggling to get sales desk set up because they did not have the information they needed at hand. Customer information was missing; inventory information was missing; and the ability to connect past sales with present sales (essential for a variety of reasons) was not there. Their helplessness to process transactions on a timely basis and without correct information cost them over 6 figures in sales for the event. This is not isolated to cruise ships; outdoor events in remote locations have the same issue, no cell tower, and no internet access. Even some higher-end hotel locations may not have disabled VPN connections through their own pipelines.
There are two potential solutions to data helplessness: first, you can create the custom database access application (to your remote data) for the remote (handheld) device; second, you can put critical, selected components of the data directly on the remote device. Both cases are probably meat for a couple of additional blog entries.
Your “feet on the street” need access to the right data, right now, for two reasons: first, it maximizes sales and improves customer service and loyalty; second, if you don’t do it, your competitor will! The simple truth is that data needs to be proactively managed and accessible 24/7 if we are to reap the significant benefits from leveraging and exploiting our valuable corporate data.
In conclusion we leave all with a topical Albert Einstein quote – “The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing. ”
Authored by Jeffrey Garbus, President of Soaring Eagle Consultants Inc. (http://www.soaringeagle.biz/) and,
Kevin M. O’Sullivan. President of The Knowledge Compass, Inc. (http://www.knowledgecompass.com )