Thursday, April 9, 2015

Source Refrigeration selects agile mobile platform Kony for its large in-field workforce

The next BriefingsDirect enterprise mobile strategy discussion comes to you directly from the recent Kony World 2015 Conference in Orlando.

This series of penetrating discussions on the latest in enterprise mobility explores advancements in applications design and deployment technologies across the full spectrum of edge devices and operating environments.

Our next innovator interview focuses on how Source Refrigeration and HVAC has been extending the productivity of its workforce, much of it in the field, through the use of innovative mobile applications and services.

Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes. Get the mobile app for iOS or Android. Read a full transcript or download a copy.

We'll delve in to how Source Refrigeration has created a boundaryless enterprise and reaped the rewards of Agile processes and the ability to extend data and intelligence to where it’s needed most.

To learn how their successful mobile journey has unfolded, we welcome Hal Kolp, Vice President of Information Technology at Source Refrigeration and HVAC in Anaheim, California. The discussion is moderated by me, Dana Gardner, Principal Analyst at Interarbor Solutions.

Here are some excerpts:

Gardner: It’s my understanding that you have something on the order of several hundred field-based service and installation experts serving the needs of 2,500 or more customers nationwide. Tell us a little bit about why mobility is essential for you and how this has created better efficiency and innovation for you?

Kolp: Source started to explore mobility back in 2006. I was tasked with a project to figure out if it made sense to take our service organization, which was driven by paper, and convert it to an electronic form of a service ticket.

After looking at the market itself and at the technology for cellular telephones back in 2006, as well as data plans and what was available, we came to the conclusion that it did make sense. So we started a project to make life easier for our service technicians and our back office billers, so that we would have information in real time and we'd speed up our billing process.

At that time, the goals were pretty simple. They were to eliminate the paper in the field, shorten our billing cycle from 28 days to 3 days, and take all of the material, labor, and asset information and put it into the system as quickly as possible, so we could give our customers better information about the equipment, how they are performing, and total cost of ownership (TCO).

But over time, things change. In our service organization then, we had 275 guys. Today, we have 600. So we've grown substantially, and our data is quite a bit better. We also use mobility on the construction side of our business, where we're installing new refrigeration equipment or HVAC equipment into large supermarket chains around the country.

Our construction managers and foremen live their lives on their tablets. They know the status of their job, they know their cost, they're looking at labor, they're doing safety reports and daily turnover reports. Anyone in our office can see pictures from any job site. They can look at the current status of a job, and this is all done over the cellular network. The business has really evolved.

Gardner: It’s interesting that you had the foresight to get your systems of record into paperless mode and were ready to extend that information to the edge, but then also be able to accept data and information from the edge to then augment and improve on the systems of record. One benefits the other, or there is a symbiosis or virtuous adoption cycle. What have been some of the business benefits of doing it that way?

Kolp: There are simple benefits on the service side. First of all, the billing cycle changed dramatically, and that generated a huge amount of cash. It’s a one-time win, whatever you would bill between 3 days and 28 days. All of that revenue came in, and there was this huge influx of cash in the beginning. That actually paid for the entire project. Just the generation of that cash was enough to more than compensate for all the software development and all the devices. So that was a big win.

But then we streamlined billing. Instead of a biller looking at a piece of paper and entering a time ticket, it was done automatically. Instead of looking at a piece of paper, then doing an inventory transfer to put it on a job, that was eliminated. Technician’s comments never made it into our system or on paper. They just sent a photocopy of the document to the customer.

Today, within 30 seconds of the person completing a work order, it’s uploaded to the system. It’s been generated into PDF documents where necessary. All the purchase order and work order information has entered into the system automatically, and an acknowledgement of the work order is sent to our customer without any human intervention. It just happens, just part of our daily business.

That’s a huge win for the business. It also gives you data for things that you can start to measure yourself on. We have a whole series of key performance indicators (KPIs) and dashboards that are built to help our service managers and regional directors understand what’s going on their business.

Technician efficiency

Do we have customers where we're spending a lot of time in their store-servicing them? That means there is something wrong. Let’s see if we can solve our customer’s problems. We look at the efficiency of our technicians.

We look at the efficiency of drive times. That electronic data even led us into automatic dispatching systems. We have computers that look at the urgency of the call, the location of the call, and the skills necessary to do that service request. It automatically decides which technician to send and when to send them. It takes a work order and dispatches a specific technician on it.

Gardner: So you've become data-driven and then far more intelligent, responsive, and agile as a result. Tell me how you've been able to achieve that, but at the same time, not get bogged down in an application development cycle that can take a long time, or even find yourself in waterfall-type of affair, where the requirement shift rapidly, and by the time you finish a product, it’s obsolete.

How have you been able to change your application development for your mobile applications in a way that keeps up with these business requirements?
This last year, we converted to the Kony platform, and all indications so far are that that platform is going to be great for us.

Kolp: We've worked on three different mobile platforms. The claim in the beginning was to develop once and just update and move forward. That didn’t really work out so well on the first couple of platforms. The platforms became obsolete, and we essentially had to rewrite the application on to a new platform for which the claim was that it was going to survive.

This last year, we converted to the Kony platform, and all indications so far are that that platform is going to be great for us, because we've done a whole bunch of upgrades in the last 12 months on the platform. We're moving, and our application is migrating very quickly.

So things are very good on that side and in our development process. When we were building our new application initially, we were doing two builds a week. So every couple of days we do a little sprint up. We don’t really call them sprints, but essentially, it was a sprint to add functionality. We go into a quick testing cycle, and while we're testing, we have folks adding new functionality and fixing bugs. Then, we do another release.

At the current stage where we are in production really depends on the needs of the business. Last week, we had a new release and this week, we're having another release as we fix some small bugs or did enhancements to the products that came up during our initial rollout where we are making changes. It’s not that difficult to roll out a new version.

We send an alert. The text says that they have got a new version. They complete the work order that they're on, they perform an update, and they're back in business again. So it's pretty simple.

Field input

Gardner: So it's a very agile, iterative, easily adaptive type of development infrastructure. What about the input from those people in the field. Another aspect of agile development isn’t just the processes for the development itself, but being able to get more people involved with deciding features, functions, and not necessarily forcing the developers to read minds.

Has that crept into your process? Are you able to take either a business analyst or practitioner in the field and allow them to have the input that then creates better apps and better processes?

Kolp: In our latest generation application, we made tremendous changes in the user interface to make it easier for the technicians to do their job and for them to not have to think about anything. If they needed to do something, they knew what they had to do. It was kind of in their face, in other words. We use cues on screens by colors. It’s something that's required for them to do, it’s always red. If there is an input field that is optional, then it’s in blue. We have those kinds of cues.

We also built a little mini application, a web app, that's used by technicians for frequently asked questions (FAQs). If they have got some questions about how this application works, they can look at the FAQs. They can also submit a request for enhancements directly from the page. So we're getting requests from the field.
If they have a question about the application, we can take that question and turn it into a new FAQ page, response, or new question that people can click on and learn.

If they have a question about the application, we can take that question and turn it into a new FAQ page, response, or new question that people can click on and learn. We're trying to make the application to be more driven by the field and less by managers in the back office.

Gardner: Are there any metrics yet that would indicate an improvement in the use of the apps, based on this improved user interface and user experience. Is there any way to say the better we make it, the more they use it; the more they use it, the better the business results?

Kolp: We're in early stages of our rollout. In a couple of weeks we'll have about 200 of our 600 guys on the new application, and the guys noticed a few things. Number one, they believe the application is much more responsive to them. It’s just fast. Our application happens to be on iOS. Things happen quickly because of the processor and memory. So that’s really good for them.

The other thing they notice, is that if they're looking at assets and they need to find something in the asset, need to look up a part, or need to do anything, we've added search capability that just makes it brain-dead simple to find stuff that they need to look for. They can use their camera as a barcode scanner within our application. It’s easy to attach pictures.

What they find is that we've made it easier for them to add information and document their call. They have a much greater tendency to add information than they did before. For example, if they're in their work order notes, which for us is a summary, they can just talk. We use voice to text, and that will convert it. If they choose to type, they can type, but many of the guys really like the voice to text, because they have big fingers and typing on the screen is a little bit harder for them.

What's of interest?

Gardner: We are here at Kony World, Hal. Did anything jump out at you that’s particularly interesting? We've heard about solution ecosystems and vertical industries, Visualizer update, some cloud interactions for developers? Did anything really jump out at you that might be of interest for the coming year?

Kolp: I'm very interested in Visualizer 2.0. It appears to be a huge improvement over the original version. We use third-party development. In our case, we used somebody else’s front-end design tool for our project, but I really like the ability to be able to take our project and then use it with Visualizer 2.0, so that we can develop the screens and the flow that we want and hand it off to the developers. They can hook it up to the back end and go.

I just like having the ability to have that control, and now we've done the heavy lifting. For the most part, understanding your data, data flow or the flow of the application is usually where you spend quite a bit more time. For us to be able to do that ourselves is much better than writing on napkins or using PowerPoint or Visio to generate screens or some other application.

It’s nice because ultimately we will be able to go use Visualizer, push it into the application, take the application, push it back into Visualizer, make more changes, and go back and forth. I see that as a huge advantage. That’s one thing I took from the show.
When your business says that you can't mobilize some process, it's probably not true. There's this resistance to change that's natural to everyone.

Gardner: With this journey that you've been on since 2006, you’ve gone quite a way. Is there anything you could advise others who are perhaps just beginning in extending their enterprise to that mobile edge, finding the ways to engage with the people in the field that will get them to be adding information, taking more intelligence back from the apps into their work? What might you do with 20-20 hindsight and then relate that to people just starting?

Kolp: There are a couple of things that I’ll point out. There was a large reluctance for people to say that this would actually work. When your business says that you can't mobilize some process, it's probably not true. There's this resistance to change that's natural to everyone.

Our technicians today, who have been on mobile applications, hate to be on paper. They don't want to have anything to do with paper, because it's harder for them. They have more work to do. They have to collect the paper, shove the paper in an envelope, or hand it off to someone to do things. So they don’t like it.

The other thing you should consider is what happens when that device breaks? All devices will break at some point for some reason. Look at how those devices are going to get replaced. We operate in 20 states. You can't depend upon the home office to be able to rush out a replacement device for your suppliers in real time. We looked pretty hard at using all kinds of different methods to reduce the downtime for guys in the field.

You should look at that. That’s really important if the device is being used all day, every day for a field worker. That’s their primary communication method.

Simpler is better

The other thing I could say is, “simpler is better.” Don't make an application where you have to type-in a tremendous amount of data. Make data entry as easy as possible via taps or predefined fields.

Think about your entire process front to back and don't hesitate to change the way that you gather information today, as opposed to the way you want to in the future. Don't take a paper form and automate it, because that isn't the way your field worker thinks. You need to generate the new flow of information so that it fits on whatever size screen you want. It can't be a spreadsheet or it can’t be a bunch of checkboxes and stuff, because that doesn't necessarily suit the tool that you are using to drive the information gathering.

Spend a lot of time upfront designing screens and figuring out how the process should work. If you do that, you'll meet with very little pushback from the field once they get it and actually use it. I would communicate with the field regularly if you're developing and tell them what's going on, so that they are not blind-sided by something new.
The simpler you can make your application, the faster you can roll it out, and then just enhance, enhance, enhance.

I'd work closely with the field in designing the application. I'd also be involved with anybody that touches that data. In our case, it's service managers. We work with builders, inventory control, purchasing people, and timecards. All of those were pieces that our applications touch. So people from the business were involved, even people from finance, because we're making financial transactions in the enterprise resource planning (ERP) system.

So get all those people involved and make sure that they're in agreement with what you're doing. Make sure that you test thoroughly and that everybody signs off together at the end. The simpler you can make your application, the faster you can roll it out, and then just enhance, enhance, enhance.

Add a new feature if you're starting something new. If you're replacing an existing application, it's much harder to do that. You'll have to create all of the functionality because the business typically doesn't want to lose functionally.

Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes. Get the mobile app for iOS or Android. Read a full transcript or download a copy. Sponsor: Kony, Inc.

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Ariba elevates business user experience with improved mobile apps and interfaces

LAS VEGAS -- Ariba today announced innovations to its cloud-based applications and global business network designed to deliver a personal, contextual and increasingly mobile-first user experience for business applications consumers.

Among the announcements are a newly designed user interface (UI) and a mobile app based on the SAP Fiori approach, both due to be available this summer, for Ariba's core procurement, spend management, and other line of business apps. Ariba, an SAP company, made the announcements here at the Ariba LIVE conference in Las Vegas.

"This gives us a cleaner approach, more tiles, and a Fiori-like user experience," said
-- Chris Haydon, Ariba Senior Vice President of Product Management. "Users see all the business network elements in one dashboard, with a native UI for a common, simple experience for Ariba apps upstream and down."

The new UI offers an intuitive experience that simplifies task and process execution for all users – from frontline requisitioners to strategic sourcing professionals, said Ariba. [Disclosure: Ariba is a sponsor of BriefingsDirect podcasts.]
Users see all the business network elements in one dashboard, with a native UI for a common, simple experience for Ariba apps upstream and down.

The goal is to make the business users want to conduct their B2B processes and transactions using these new interfaces and experiences, in effect having them demand them of their employers. User-driven productivity is therefore a new go-to market for Ariba, with simplicity and everywhere-enabled interactions with processes a growing differentiator.

"We want to make it easier to use the central procurement department, rather than to go around it," said Cirque du Soleil Supply Chain Senior Director Nadia Malek. Ariba Sourcing, she said, helps Montreal-based Cirque standardize to keep all of its many shows going around the world. And by having all the Ariba apps funnel into SAP, they can keep costs managed, on a pay-as-you-go basis and still keep all the end users' needs met and controlled.

In another nod to consumer-level ease in business, B2B enterprise buying on Ariba increasingly looks like an Amazon consumer online shopping experience, with one-click to procure from approved catalogs of items from approved suppliers. Search-driven navigation also makes the experience powerful while simple, said Haydon.

Behind the pretty pictures is an increasingly powerful network and platform, built on SAP HANA. Network-centric and activity-context-aware apps allow Ariba to simplify processes across the cloud, on-premises, and partner ecosystem continuum for its global users. The interface serves up only what the users need at that time, and is context aware to the user's role and needs.

"The future of commerce means processes across multiple business networks, on any device, with shared insights by all," said Tim Minahan, Senior Vice President at Ariba.

Scale and reach

The Ariba Network supports these apps and services in new terms of scale and reach as well. Every minute the Ariba Network adds a new supplier, and every day, it fields 1.5 million catalog searches while generating $1.8 billion in commerce, said Ariba.

"Business strong, consumer simple" is the concept guiding Ariba's user experience development, said new incoming Ariba President Alex Atzberger. And SAP is increasingly focusing on far-reaching processes among and between companies to better control total spend and innovate around the analytics of such activities, he said.
Some 1.7 million companies are now connected by Ariba, more than for Alibaba, eBay and Amazon combined.

Some 1.7 million companies are now connected by Ariba, more than for Alibaba, eBay and Amazon combined, said Atzberger.

Ariba is also in the process of integrating with SAP HANA and other recent SAP acquisitions, including Concur and Fieldglass. Haydon emphasized that Ariba is striving to make those integrations invisible to users.

"Ariba is leveraging SAP HANA to integrate Concur, S4HANA, and Fieldglass, with no middleware needed," said Haydon.

The scale and sophistication of the Network and its data is also enabling new levels of automated risk management to Ariba and SAP users. The Hackett Group says more than half of the companies surveyed recently see reducing supply risk as a key initiative.

The scale and sophistication of the Network and its data is also enabling new levels of automated risk management to Ariba and SAP users. ata-driven risk management is increasingly being embedded across supply chain and procurement apps and processes, says Ariba. Now, the risk of businesses having forced labor or other illegal labor practices inside their supply chain is being uncovered.

Made in a Free World

Also at the conference here, Ariba announced a alliance with San Francisco-based non-profit Made in a Free World to help eliminate modern day slavery from the supply chain. Ariba has donated part of the Ariba LIVE registrations to help fund further development of Made in a Free World's supply chain risk analysis tool, which improve a business's visibility of their supply chain.

Also at Ariba LIVE, the company presented T-Mobile with its 2015 Network Innovation Award. T-Mobile was an early adopter of Ariba Pay, a  cloud-based solution designed to digitize the "pay" in "procedure-to- pay." Prior to Ariba Pay, the payment process was largely paper based, making it costly and inefficient.
Disruption fuels innovation. And innovation drives advantage.

“Emerging payment technologies are certainly disruptive,” said Atzberger. “But as T-Mobile proves, disruption fuels innovation. And innovation drives advantage. And for this, we are pleased to recognize the company with the 2015 Network Innovation Award.”

But the mobile enablement and so-called "total user experience" improvements seemed the most welcomed by the audience. The experience factor may well prove to be where Ariba and SAP can outpace their competitors and fundamentally change how enterprises use business services.

For example, for all Ariba users -- from technicians on the plant floor to sales people in client meetings -- the company now provides a mobile app, Ariba Mobile, which is available from the Apple App Store or Google Play. With the app, users can quickly and easily view, track, and act on requisitions from their mobile devices, transforming the speed and efficiency with which work gets done. Ariba’s approach is not just about replicating existing user interactions onto mobile devices, but providing continuity between desktop interactions and working outside the office.

Easy access

“The Ariba Mobile app provides our requisition approvers with easy access to requisitions anywhere, anytime and gives them the information they need to make spend decisions while keeping up with global demand,” said Alice Hillary, P2P Enablement Lead at John Wiley and Sons. “Using the app, approvers can view their requests in a sleek interface and access details in an easier-to-read format than general emails. The feature has also helped us to address security concerns with approvals done through email.” 

And as part of planned innovations, Ariba will provide access to templates, best practices, videos and more within many of its applications, beginning with its Seller solutions. Users will also be able tap directly into the Ariba Exchange Community, enabling collaboration within the context of their apps with professionals who have the expertise, experience, and knowledge to help them execute a process such as responding to an RFP or creating an auction.

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Tuesday, April 7, 2015

ITIL-ITSM tagteam boosts Mexican ISP INFOTEC's operations quality

The next BriefingsDirect IT systems performance innovation case study interview highlights how INFOTEC in Mexico City improved its service desk and monitoring operations and enjoys impressive results -- an incident reduction of more than 20 percent -- from those efforts.

INFOTEC needed to react better to systems failures, to significantly reduce the time to repair, and to learn from those failures to prevent future ones. Now, by deploying advanced IT service management (ITSM) tools, the ISP's users have a much higher quality of dependable service. 

Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes. Get the mobile app for iOS or Android. Read a full transcript or download a copy.

To learn more about how they obtained such improvements, we're joined by Victor Hugo Piña García, the Service Desk and Monitoring Manager at INFOTEC. The discussion is moderated by me, Dana Gardner, Principal Analyst at Interarbor Solutions.

Here are some excerpts:

Piña: INFOTEC is a Government Research Center. We have many activities. The principal ones are teaching, innovation technology, and IT consulting. The goal is to provide IT services. We have many IT services like data centers, telecommunications, service desk, monitoring, and manpower.

Gardner: This is across Mexico, the entire country?

Piña: Yes, it covers all the national territory. We have two locations. The principal is in Mexico City; San Fernando, and the Aguascalientes City is the other point we offer the services.

Gardner: Explain your role as the Service Desk and Monitoring Manager. What are you responsible for?

Three areas

Piña: My responsibility is in three areas. The first is the monitoring, to review all of the service, the IT components for the clients.

The second is the service desk, management of incidents and problems. Third is the generation of the deliveries of all the services of INFOTEC. We make deliveries for the IT service managers and service delivery.

Gardner: So it's important for organizations to know their internal operations, all the devices, and all the assets and resources in order to create these libraries. One of the great paybacks is that you can reduce time to resolution and you can monitor and have much greater support.

Give us a sense of what was going on before you got involved with ITIL and IT service management (ITSM), so that we can then better understand what you got as a benefit from it. What was it like before you were able to improve on your systems and operations?

Piña: We support the services with HP tools, HP products. We have many types of assets for adaptation and for solution. Then we create a better process. We align the process with the HP tools and products. Within two years we began to see benefits to service a customer.
That reduces considerably the time to repair. As a consequence, users have a better level of service.

We attained a better service level in two ways. First is the technical report, the failures. And second, the moment the failure is reported, we send specialists to attend to the failure. That reduces considerably the time to repair. As a consequence, users have a better level of service. Our values changed in the delivery of the service.

Gardner: I see that you have had cost reductions of up to one third in some areas, a 40 percent reduction in time to compliance, with service desk requests going from seven or eight minutes previously down to five minutes. It’s a big deal, an incident reduction of more than 20 percent. How is this possible? How were these benefits generated? Is it the technology, people, process, all the above?
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Piña: Yes, we consider four things. The people with their service is the first. The process with innovative mindset, the technology, is totally enabled to align with the previous two points, and the fourth, consistent and integral to the work in terms of the above three points.

Gardner: It sounds to me as if together these can add up to quite a bit of cost savings, a significant reduction in the total cost of operations.

Piña: Yes, that’s correct.

Gardner: Is there anything in particular that you're interested in and looking for next from HP? How could they help you do even more?

New concept and model

Piña: I've discovered many things. First, we need to know better and think about how we take these to generate a new concept, a new model, and a new process to operate and offer services.

There have been so many ideas. We need to process that and understand it, and we need to support HP Mexico to know how to deal with these new things.

Gardner: Are there any particular products that you might be going to, now that you've been able to attain a level of success? What might come next, more ITIL, more configuration management, automation, business service management? Do you have any  thoughts about your next steps?

Piña: Yes. We use ITIL methodology to make changes. When we present a new idea, we're looking for the impact -- economic, social, and political -- when the committee has a meeting to decide.

This is a good idea. This has a good impact. It's possible and proven, and then right there, we make it the new model of business for delivering our new service. We're thinking about the cloud, about big data, and about security. I don’t want to promise anything.

Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes. Get the mobile app for iOS or Android. Read a full transcript or download a copy. Sponsor: HP.

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