Posted by Kelly Ungs
The consumerization of IT gets a lot of attention these days. BYOD is being seen as a headache by that virtually every IT department is struggling with it, and it the problem is quickly escalating. Users are doing more than bringing in their own devices; they’re downloading applications and using services – some free, some not – without IT’s permission, or even knowledge.
What has gotten much less attention but is equally important is the reverse trend: the IT-ization of the consumer. Employees may be bringing their own phones and laptops onto the network, but they’re also doing more to address issues they would have taken to be addressed by IT in the past. Gen Y is blasting into entering the workforce with a vengeance. They grew up with computers, and many prefer to fix their issues themselves. And they’re not the only ones. The pervasiveness of smartphones and other tech has made everyone from baby Johnny to Grandma Sally more familiar and comfortable with technology.
There are upsides and downsides to this, but the bottom line is that these two trends – consumerization and IT-ization – are presenting IT with a golden opportunity to transform their value to the organization and move from a firefighter role to a business enabler that provides value to the bottom line.
The primary downside that keeps many organizations from embracing the IT-ization trend is the loss of control. When users are in charge of fixing their own problems, finding their own applications and installing their own solutions, who knows what they’ll end up installing? However, empowering your end users doesn’t have to mean totally giving up control. There are solutions on the market that will enable you to provide easy and pre-approved solutions to your end users, ensuring that workers they find the tech they need without resorting to potentially insecure software. LANDesk is one provider of such solutions, with their shopping cart feature.
On the other hand, the upside for IT is big. By empowering the end user through IT-ization, IT folks free up much of their own time. Instead of focusing on closing tickets or fighting fires, IT can is able to work more closely with the business units to determine where there are inefficiencies, redundancies and opportunities areas for improvement. IT can use that “extra” time to develop custom applications to solve fulfill the unique problems of your organization.
IT is on the cusp of a major change. Even though many fear that BYOD, consumerization and the increased self-reliance of IT-ized end users may eventually cost them their jobs, the exact opposite is true. Now is the time for IT to make itself an indispensable business partner by giving workers access to what they need when they need it.
The Cofares Group supply products ranging from medicine to health and beauty products to 13,000 pharmacies in Spain from nearly 30 distribution centers. Often they deliver orders that range from one to 20 items to each pharmacy three or four times a day. They need to be able to make these deliveries quickly and accurately.
“Our customers evaluate us based on our ability to deliver complete and accurate orders,” said Abelardo Vaquerizo, duty manager of Cofares Group. “It is a hectic environment where we need to fill orders quickly, but it doesn’t matter how fast we are if we get an order wrong.”
Distribution centers process a large number of orders on a daily basis and Cofares is no different. Most of the medicines are filled by automated machines, but health and beauty items are picked by hand from the warehouse and loaded into delivery trucks. It is a logistical challenge to ensure that the right items get in the right order on the right trucks every time in the most accurate and efficient way possible.
With the number of orders being processed every day, it is a logistical challenge to ensure the right items get in the right order on the right trucks every time. Cofares, through its technology partner, Felguera TI, an affiliate company of Duro Felguera, selected the Speakeasy voice solution from Wavelink to add text-to-speech and speech-to-text functionality to their warehouse applications. The ability for Speakeasy to combine voice with other types of data entry, such as bar code scanning, provides a further crosscheck to ensure that tasks are accurately completed.
“We have initially implemented Speakeasy in two of our larger distribution centers in Madrid,” says Vaquerizo. “Workers are able to speak into their device the item they need to pick and have it speak back to them with a bin location. Once there, they can scan the barcode on the bin, select the items and verbally confirm the item and quantity. This gives us even greater accuracy while also helping them complete the task faster.”
In locations where Speakeasy is being used, Cofares handles approximately 1,200 orders per day. Prior to Speakeasy, there was an average of 20 to 30 errors in those orders, which was still a 97.5 percent accuracy rate. However, with each incorrect order, there was the cost of returning the product and a loss of the sale as well as the negative impression it left with the customer. With Speakeasy, Cofares has virtually eliminated errors with an average of zero to two errors per 1,200 orders.
Cofares were also able to benefit from an intuitive user interface, which allows any employee to pick up a device and use it immediately without needing to create a voice profile. Vaquerizo adds, “Our employees have been very happy with the ease with which they can use Speakeasy. We have experienced very short training times, where we have been able to quickly get a new worker using the system. This was a big cost benefit in terms of our ability to be immediately productive.”
Since Speakeasy is a client-side solution that does not require the addition of voice servers or modification to the host applications, the implementation of the voice solution went smoothly and was completed in just a matter of days. Adding voice to streamline your operations should be simple, straightforward and effective, in today’s non-stop supply chain environment it just has to be.
Posted by Brandon Hill
Consumers adopt new technology much faster than businesses. For instance, many are in line at the Apple store the day the latest iOS-based device is available. Imagining a similar scenario for the IT department is almost laughable. Not only would the IT team have to buy hundreds to thousands of those devices (depending on the size of their enterprise), but they would then have to spend hours upon hours individually setting up each device to be secure, compliant and easily manageable. Then, there’s the actual expense of such an endeavor.
It’s no wonder that the majority of end-users feel they have better computing technology at home than they do in the workplace. And because they have become so accustomed to using newer, more advanced devices at home, they are requesting this same technology in the office. And who can blame them? These devices are often faster, easier to operate and they are what the user feels most comfortable with.
That said, as mentioned above, many IT departments do not have the budget or resources to supply end-users with the smart devices they have become accustomed to in their personal lives. Thus, IT faces the issue of pooling its often strained resources to provide end-users with these devices or in letting them engage in BYOD behavior.
The human voice is a powerful thing. Sure, the spoken word is our most common means of communication, but these days it’s giving us a bit more. Think about your daily routine, and the tasks you ask of others in straightforward, clear commands (we politely call them “requests”). Now think about how we speak with the technology that surrounds us. That’s right. How do you speak with technology?
We’ve been using key-based commands to operate technology for several decades. However, in the past few years, we’ve finally been able to make commands to some technologies with just the sound of our on voices. For me, the most common experience sounds like this:
Me: “Dial by number.”
Car: “Say the number.”
I couldn’t wait to finally get a car that could connect with my phone so I could get high-quality, hands-free voice. I had been the route of using my phone in speakerphone mode and then tried the Bluetooth speakerphone, but neither delivered what I had hoped. Finally, when I was selecting a new car, I not only was able to use voice commands to place the call, but to configure the system. It took me a few steps to get through the hurdles of an evolving technology, but it eventually became easy to use, inexpensive to implement, and high quality.
While my wife might find this post a bit concerning, I think that more people should fall in love with voice. After all, voice enabled applications are known to make everyones lives much easier. They are know to save you money. They make you more accurate. And they are known to increase safety in the warehouse. What’s not to love!?
Well, did you also know that you can fall in love with voice in 30 days or less? That’s right, in as little as 30 days your SAP, Oracle, Manhattan, Red Prairie or any other WMS, can be talking back to you with voice enabled data and direction. Sign-in to the webinar we hosted yesterday and see for yourself.
On behalf of the Wavelink team, we wish you and your special voice-enabled application a wonderful Valentines Day!
It started with a simple $5 wristband in November 2011; Let’s Create Jobs for USA was founded with a $5 million contribution from Starbucks and a promise to create jobs for the American people. I vividly remember purchasing my wristband when they went on sale (ironically I was in the company’s hometown of Seattle). As someone who lives in a state that’s seen substantial unemployment, I was eager to play a small part in launching the movement.
As part of my weekly Starbucks visits (I won’t admit to a daily addiction), I recently noticed that they’ve taken this movement one step further by assisting small businesses on the technology payment front through a payment processing option called Square Mobile Card Readers.
Available in every company operated Starbucks store in the United States, “Square’s Mobile Card Reader with the free app, Square Register, enables anyone to easily accept credit cards so individuals and business can connect with customers anywhere their business takes them.” This simple tech attaches to an iOS or Android device and enables any size business to accept credit and debit cards. According to Starbucks roughly two-thirds of the 27 million small businesses in the United States do not currently accept credit or debit payment due to expensive processing fees and extensive applications. Think of the potential this small mobile card reader can bring to a small business and talk about a low investment – these card readers cost only $10 and come with a $10 rebate!
Say what you will about fancy and expensive coffees, but this is a highly effective tool that allows small businesses to generate new ways for income. Having said that, I won’t lie that my second thought was PCI compliance and keeping those devices secure. Any mobile device, be it rugged or consumer, has the capability to suffer a security breach. Add additional devices to your network and you further increase the importance of keeping them not only secure but maintaining peak performance. A Mobile Device Management (MDM) solution therefore still provides substantial value to any business whether you have two or three devices or two or three thousand devices.
For small business owners, a MDM solution that you manage in the Cloud is a perfect way to ensure devices are not only secure, but configured and managed from an easy-to-use console and without the need to purchase servers or an entire IT department. With MDM you also get the capability to lock down these consumer devices if they go missing and immediately protect them by securing and wiping confidential data. You even have the power to detect foreign devices entering your network and define specific parameters that your device(s) can be utilized in.
In closing, while we look at new ways to add jobs let’s not forget the critical nature of protecting the devices that come with them.
Posted by Brandon Hill
With plenty of 2013 predictions focusing on the continued rise of mobile, we imagine that many IT organizations will be revisiting their MDM “wish lists” and redefining their focus areas to address the new set of challenges anticipated for the year. To help prepare you for 2013’s challenges, we’ve highlighted a few MDM resolutions to consider for your IT and overall business success in the coming year.
Plan for BYOA (whether or not your company allows BYOD)
Even if the mobile devices your employees are using are company-owned, and personal devices aren’t sanctioned for business use, your IT department will likely recognize (if yours hasn’t already) a need for an application management strategy. Not only are consumers accustomed to using the same mobile devices they use for work to play Angry Birds, but the increasingly self-reliant workforce is comfortable finding their own external programs and applications to help with job productivity. These apps could include programs that put sensitive company data at risk of being lost or compromised. Address the issue of potentially harmful apps by implementing a management strategy that grants access to previously-blessed programs or prohibits access to those that may be risky. Enterprise app stores that work in tandem with your MDM solution can help align BYOA plans with the overall management of the device.
Keep Considering Consumerization
Basic mobile device management begins with support of popular operating systems and consumer-like capabilities. Embracing this reality helps create a working environment that delivers an optimal employee user experience, increased productivity,
and an overall familiarity in approach that employees will appreciate. Recently, Gartner reported that IT departments have increasingly
shaped their enterprise device offerings with consumer preferences in mind. Gartner points out that the presence of Android and iOS will only increase in the enterprise. With more and more companies switching from traditional ruggedized devices to iPads and other consumer devices to accomplish tasks like product tracking, this year could mean potential hardware changes for your company. Consider accommodating the popularity of consumer options by choosing solutions that provide an optimized ability to manage popular operating systems.
Strengthen Mobile Security
While mobile is growing exponentially, you can expect that security risks to your mobile devices will grow along with it. Some mobile devices are even expecting new forms of cyber attacks that lock the user out of the device. The ubiquity of mobile computing has already caused and will continue to cause the increased targeting of mobile devices. Safeguard your corporate devices (and devices used for business purposes) by planning for these types of attacks. Make sure you have the ability to locate any lost devices, remotely wipe, lock or reset as well as manage what can be downloaded to them.
What do you think of those resolutions? Would you add or remove some?
With the rise of speech recognition technology such as Siri for the iPhone, Dragon for PCs and OnStar in vehicles, it seems voice-enabled technology is becoming ever more prevalent for consumers. In fact, Melanie Pinola of PCWorld states “It isn’t hard to imagine a near future when we’ll be commanding our coffee makers, talking to our printers, and telling the lights to turn themselves off.”
As with the BYOD trend, once consumers become accustomed to using specific technology in their personal lives – they expect the same functionality in the workplace. We see this as many bring smartphones and tablets into the corporate space and we can expect that voice functionality will follow the same path.
But does voice technology even make sense for businesses? Absolutely. This is especially true in a back-office environment, such as a warehouse. Adding voice capabilities has been proven to deliver 99 percent accuracy, as well as a 10 percent improvement in productivity to warehouse applications such as data-entry, picking and processing. Voice also dramatically improves safety by allowing workers to work in a hands and eyes-free environment.
While the benefits for voice-enabled technology are many, both consumers and corporations alike are sometimes fearful that there may be negative implications as well. Slate Magazine recently reported that the country of Ecuador has successfully completed installation of “the world’s first biometric identification platform, at a nation-wide level, that combines voice and face identification capabilities.” While the technology behind such a massive project is impressive, many are worried about the issue of privacy for Ecuadorian citizens. In addition, Sherry Tufts, a professor at MIT, recently told the New York Times “I’m not saying voice recognition is bad. I’m saying it’s part of a package of attachments to objects where we should tread carefully because we are pushing a lot of Darwinian buttons in our psychology.” Tufts believes that by speaking with inanimate objects, humans behave differently than they would if they were simple typing or clicking a mouse. “Humans are wired for speech and tend to respond to talking devices as if they were kindred spirits,” she told the Times.
But don’t the positive outcomes outweigh any potential negatives? In my opinion they do, especially when it comes to applications where typing or manually inputting data into a machine can be detrimental or even hazardous. This applies to a number of types of jobs – from a warehouse worker taking inventory from a tall ladder to a doctor recording patient vital signs.
I believe that the applications for voice-enabled technology are limitless and will skyrocket in the coming years. As consumers interact with this technology more and more in their personal lives, they will expect it in the workplace too. I think we’ll see speech recognition move beyond the few business applications where it currently resides, such as supply chain, healthcare and field services, to the desk of nearly every end-user in the corporate enterprise. They’ll be commanding their computers, phones and other objects with their voices and fingertips. And the keyboard may just become obsolete. So, tell me, do you think voice-recognition technology makes sense for your business? Leave a comment below and explain why or why not.
Posted by Gemma Randazzo
I recently read that logistics are as essential to the “holiday season as the Christmas tree and the Menorah.” I don’t think I need to do too much convincing at this time of the year for you to appreciate just how true that is. Just open your inbox and you are immediately reminded that if you want your holiday packages delivered before the festivities you better get a move on. As I write this an array of “final hours” emails bombard my inbox.
According to eMarketer “online shoppers in the United States will spend $54.47 billion this holiday season, up 16.8% from $46.63 billion last year.” That is a staggering number and only accounts for one country. It is easy to see why companies like Amazon are expanding fulfillment centers and opening a new 1-million square foot facility (yes, 1 million square feet) in Washington State. With the trend of online shopping only growing, fulfillment centers around the globe will continue to see their business models change to reflect that of the online consumer. Today’s online consumer appreciates the diverse number of stores they can purchase from without leaving home and driving several miles, but it also means that the instant in-store gratification is no longer there. Just because it isn’t there doesn’t mean consumers don’t still want it and for instant gratification you need logistics.
Transportation and logistics companies get items where they need to be as quickly as possible. To minimize hiccups a vital part of this process is managing the hand-held devices that get the packages to your doorstep. From the warehouse where the items are picked, packaged and shipping labels are then printed, to the logistics company picking up the package, scanning the label and then flying and/or driving it to where it needs to go. The whole time this package is tracked using a hand-held device so you can monitor its progress. If a device goes down or experiences a malfunction you aren’t going to care because you just want your package. But to businesses managing these devices is a critical component of their job after all customer satisfaction is number one. A total mobile device management effectively keeps these devices secure and up and running from anywhere in the world. In any given day there are many different “fires” for businesses to put out and with a reliable device management solution, managing and tracking all their hand-held devices is one less “fire” they need to worry about.
And with that I must go – someone changed their mind on which of the latest video games they wanted and to avoid rush-shipping charges I need to hit purchase.