Enterprise mobility: practice allows insurers to blend convergence, collaboration and management.
The value of enterprise mobility--being able to work from anywhere at anytime with full access to whatever corporate systems are required--has been proven in the insurance world. However, enterprise mobility has evolved as insurance business solutions continue to evolve, fueled by increasing user expectations.
When the first personal digital assistants came out, we were ecstatic to be able to carry our contacts, calendars and e-mails around with us. The fact the e-mails were not up-to-date but were instead as current as your last synchronization (1) See synchronous and synchronous transmission.
(2) Ensuring that two sets of data are always the same. See data synchronization.
(3) Keeping time-of-day clocks in two devices set to the same time. See NTP. with your personal computer (via a physical cable connection from PC to PDA (Personal Digital Assistant) A handheld computer for managing contacts, appointments and tasks. It typically includes a name and address database, calendar, to-do list and note taker, which are the functions in a personal information manager (see PIM). ) wasn't an issue. Today, if someone forgets his or her BlackBerry blackberry, name for several species of thorny plants of the genus Rubus of the family Rosaceae (rose family). See bramble.
blackberry when going out to lunch, the perceived risk of missing an important e-mail the second it comes in can cause serious heartburn heartburn, burning sensation beneath the breastbone, also called pyrosis. Heartburn does not indicate heart malfunction but results from nervous tension or overindulgence in food or drink. .
At an application level, enterprise mobility applications have broadened their horizontal reach and an increased number of vertical solutions have become available. Horizontally, mobile messaging has evolved beyond e-mail to include text messaging Sending short messages to a smartphone, pager, PDA or other handheld device. Text messaging implies sending short messages generally no more than a couple of hundred characters in length. and instant messaging Exchanging text messages in real time between two or more people logged into a particular instant messaging (IM) service. Instant messaging is more interactive than e-mail because messages are sent immediately, whereas e-mail messages can be queued up in a mail server for seconds or . Vertically, insurance applications have become more integrated into the insurance business process and have caused existing processes to evolve to take advantage of mobility solutions.
External technology drivers have had a continuous effect on the progress of enterprise mobility. Convergence, whether it be voice and data or wireline and wireless, expands the universe of mobile functionality. Voice-over-IP, the prime example of voice and data convergence, has made mobility easier. Take the example of being able to "take" your phone number with you when you travel across the country; the concept of a "virtual office" doesn't seem strange at all.
Wireline and wireless integration are part of an overall fixed-mobile convergence, which refers to technologies that enable use of a single device anywhere. For example, a device such as a dual-mode phone See dual-mode handset. could access cellular service if available. If WiFi service were available, the phone would be able to access that, too. Users could then choose the least-expensive service, or the service with the strongest signal, to switch seamlessly between systems. As an added benefit, fixed-mobile convergence users would have a single voice mailbox A simulated mailbox in the computer that holds e-mail messages. Mailboxes are stored on disk as a file of messages, a database of messages or as an individual file for each message. The standard mailboxes are usually In, Out, Trash and Junk (Spam). .
One far-reaching benefit of enterprise mobility and the related technology convergence is the beneficial impact on employee collaboration. Instant messaging and Web conferencing A videoconferencing session via the Internet. In order to interact with other participants, attendees use either a Web application or an application downloaded into their client machines. are already key collaboration tools A collaboration tool is something that helps people collaborate. The term is often used to mean collaborative software, but collaboration tools were being used before computers existed, a piece of paper can for example can be used as collaboration tool. . Other collaboration applications, such as blogs and podcasting Recording a non-music audio broadcast (news, sports, discussion, etc.) in the MP3 format for playback in a digital music player. See podcast. , empower the mobile worker--blogs as possible knowledge repositories and podcasting as sales, service or training applications.
The impact of collaboration and the impact of enterprise mobility on collaboration should not be underestimated. A recent Frost & Sullivan study entitled "Meetings Around the World," which was funded by Verizon and Microsoft, specifically correlates the impact of collaboration on business performance. According to according to
1. As stated or indicated by; on the authority of: according to historians.
2. In keeping with: according to instructions.
3. the study, a company's "collaboration index" is a larger contributor to its overall financial performance and to its innovation and product quality than is the company's aggressiveness in pursuing new market opportunities.
With all the benefits available from enterprise mobility, it's important to not underestimate the importance of your information technology department and your IT infrastructure in providing the management and security necessary to support enterprise mobility. Funding this underlying requirement can be tied to the return on investment calculations associated with the new enterprise mobility applications being deployed.
However, the ability to integrate enterprise mobility infrastructure investments with other IT requirements can provide additional corporate benefits. The most basic example of that is the consolidation of security and business continuity where business continuity has become more reliant on overall corporate security. Spending in either one of these areas could, and should, be mapped across multiple IT initiatives including enterprise mobility. In the case of business continuity, there's no better business continuity tool than enterprise mobility.
As enterprise mobility grows even more in importance for both U.S. and global carriers, it will be essential that insurers continue to learn and adapt their business applications and business processes to the flexibility, efficiency and productivity enabled by enterprise mobility. Those that do won't regret it.
Gates Ouimette is a Best's Review columnist from Massachusetts. He can be reached at email@example.com.