Mobile software pulls in business system information in the language users know

Field service remains notoriously constrained by paper-centric and manual processes. That's why mobile enterprise applications are the next competitive differentiator—especially for service repair situations—when a customer has a problem with a product. Wi-Fi-enabled mobile applications offer much promise—with a caveat: Adoption is as much about culture change as it is process...

09/01/2007


Field service remains notoriously constrained by paper-centric and manual processes. That's why mobile enterprise applications are the next competitive differentiator—especially for service repair situations—when a customer has a problem with a product.

Wi-Fi-enabled mobile applications offer much promise—with a caveat: Adoption is as much about culture change as it is process change.

Minneapolis-based Tennant Company is a global provider of indoor/outdoor cleaning equipment, solutions, and coatings. It wanted to mobilize customized SAP applications at low cost for its North American and Western European field technicians to eliminate paper, phone, and fax during customer service calls. Tennant selected Dexterra for a mobile platform and composite applications, which were first deployed to 400 technicians in North America, followed by a European rollout to 200 technicians, a pilot in the U.K. in June 2006, and completion this past March.

Knowing there might be initial resistance to change—i.e., service personnel suspecting it was really about getting them to do more administrative work—the project leaders thus anticipated how to respond to the question: What's in it for me?

“We came up with two things to directly aid them,” says Leo Suurmond, manager of service development in Europe. “They can order all their parts through the application, and we gave them online access to all our machine manuals. As a result, they're more up-to-date now than some people in the office.”

Tennant hit its goal to push 80 percent of parts ordering through the application in April—just weeks after full deployment. With a goal to push 75 percent of jobs being automatically processed into SAP, Tennant exceeded that target, tallying 87 percent, also in April.

While Dexterra is a leading provider of mobile middleware platforms, it is focusing on extending the breadth and reach of its solution with composite, mobile enterprise applications. Key to its market acceptance—growing at 250 percent year-over-year—is its service-oriented architecture-enabled composite application architecture that supports both Microsoft .NET and Java environments. Dexterra Concert includes middleware, a smart client that runs on the mobile device, and an adapter framework for connecting with business systems from SAP, Oracle, J.D. Edwards, Siebel, and others.

“Our new Mobile Command Center is an out-of-the-box solution that we see as game changing,” says Howard Beader, VP of corporate marketing for Dexterra, citing the platform's critical scheduling & dispatching and additional intelligence—such as the ability to link with GPS—as applications that typically are separately sourced. “We are extending workflow processes and adding intelligence to drive a new breed of service success in the future,” says Beader.

Stacy Sudan, research analyst for mobile enterprise software at Framingham, Mass.-based IDC , says ease of use is critical to adoption. “It's about improving customer service, employee productivity, and cost savings through more efficient processes,” she says. “You can't take everything on the desktop and put it in the device, as it would be too complex. Companies want to make sure applications are built the way workers do their jobs. Dexterra is becoming known as an enterprise application provider, employing a highly flexible composite application architecture with a strong platform underneath.”





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