|Latin America 2004
|How big businesses can help small business connect
|Vice-President, Communications Sector Americas
Adel Al-Saleh is the Vice-President of IBM’s Corporation Communications Sector for the Americas. Mr Al-Saleh is responsible for IBM business in Telecommunications, Energy and Utilities, Media and Entertainment industries across United States, Canada, and Latin America. Previously, Mr Al-Saleh served as General Manager of IBM’s Global Wireless Business. At IBM Europe, Mr Al-Saleh held various executive positions ranging from regional Director to Vice-President of Personal Systems Group for Europe, the Middle East and Africa. Mr Al-Salehjoined IBM as a development engineer in the VLSI (Very Large Scale Integrated chips) development organisation. As Mr Al-Saleh rose through the ranks, he held various technical development and management positions including systems development, sub-systems development and project management. Mr Al-Saleh managed the Personal Systems sub-systems development and technical procurement, was Global Brand Manager for IBM’s Visual products and was Sales Operations Manager in the Personal Systems Group. Mr Al-Saleh graduated from Boston University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Electrical Engineering, and received his Masters of Business and Administration from Florida Atlantic University.
Enhanced wireless services help harness existing IT investments. They improve the efficiency not only of field workers, but reduce back office expenses. Wireless innovations such as RFID (radio frequency identification) can quickly improve inventory control, improve productivity, and reduce costs. Small companies, as well as large, can benefit from the same technology. Indeed, most successful large-scale implementations start with a small-scale pilot designed to prove the benefits. Wireless solutions, generally, improve employee productivity, service speed and efficiency.
With investment budgets still under pressure, small businesses are firmly focused on productivity improvements to gain rapid Return on Investment (ROI). In addition, competitive pressures are making customer service and customer retention even greater priorities. To address these requirements, telecommunications service providers are offering enhanced wireless services so customers can harness their existing IT investments, improve efficiency, reduce inventory, improve productivity and maximise profitability within short time frames. Two key technologies – pervasive devices and mobile digital services – now provide significant potential for tangible business benefits. If businesses are to maximise successfully their wireless investments they need: 1) An optimised infrastructure that provides secure, robust, highly available services and can manage the high volumes of data and transactions carried over these networks; 2) An intimate understanding of the organisational impact that can result; 3) To integrate the technology, people and processes involved. What, then, is the role telecommunications service providers can play to increase revenues? How can they help customers implementing wireless technology control costs? What are the key success factors for wireless deployment? What is the best way to get a good return on investment – ROI? Understanding the wireless potential Return on investment in wireless can result from both cost controls and increased revenue. With the economic climate still unstable, focusing on cost controls is still a key objective. The broad range of wireless technology available today presents a wide array of cost control options. Increased revenue On the other side of the economic equation, organisations are striving to maximise profitability. Wireless solutions are playing an important role in: – Increasing the efficiency of the sales force; – Improving interactions with business partners and suppliers; – Enhancing customer relationships; – Developing new products and services; – Delivering new and innovative customer services; Many wireless solutions deliver a combination of cost control and revenue increase benefits. Areas of benefit include improved: – Employee productivity; – Service quality; – Business processes; – Asset life and cost/return; – Customer service metrics. This is good news for smaller businesses. Experience in hundreds of wireless implementations has shown that these benefits are not confined to large enterprises with thousands of employees – it is entirely possible for small businesses to use the same technology employed by Fortune 500 corporations to realise similar benefits. In fact, many successful implementations start with a small-scale pilot designed to prove the benefits. The up-front costs of devices, infrastructure and service can also be mitigated by hosted options, service plans and leasing. Here is how wireless technology can support core objectives and deliver significant business benefits. Return on wireless investment The benefits of wireless solutions used by sales and engineering field forces are well documented. Areas such as warehouse management, asset management, human resources and customer service, though, also offer opportunities for business development. Wireless solutions for field-based sales and support employees generate savings: – By giving the staff real-time access to existing information can maximise the investment in existing infrastructure – with a little extra investment, greater benefit can be extracted from existing assets; – By providing the appropriate wireless devices Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) can be reduced – a wireless PDA can often replace a laptop PC, for example, at a fraction of the cost, and do as good a job or better; – By improving communication for mobile and remote workers, such as delivery drivers, scheduling and responsiveness to customer demands can be improved and overall costs reduced (e.g. savings on fuel by re-routing, real-time elimination of cancelled deliveries). Sales Remote synchronisation can update calendars and contact databases. This can deliver significant travel time saving and, by enabling staff to utilise what otherwise would be ‘dead time,’ provide up to a 30 per cent gain in sales staff efficiency. Real-time information lets sales staff review credit status, status of last order and other issues before visiting. It can also provide immediate answers to customer questions on pricing, inventory and delivery times. One study showed a nine per cent increase in sales conversions. Real-time direct access to corporate systems eliminates the need for back-office staff to input sales information. Direct input to the billing system increases the speed and accuracy of invoice generation and reduces bad debts. The estimated 70 per cent saving in input time enables the administrative staff to focus on more profitable or productive business activity. Wireless solutions can directly reduce costs by shrinking remote access time and cell phone charges and by replacing existing paging services. Indirect cost reduction includes increased productivity, improved customer responsiveness, enhanced customer satisfaction and improved employees ‘work/life balance’. Field services Dynamic scheduling enables organisations to optimise task allocation, rescheduling routes in real-time to meet customer demands, while in-field data capture significantly improves the quality of information fed back into billing and customer service systems. Access to parts information and best practices, along with remote diagnostics to resolve minor faults, reduces completion time and reduces the number of visits per problem. Human resources Wireless provides a huge opportunity to improve employee work/life balance. It facilitates new working practices and improves morale. Flexible working practices are a proven way to increase productivity and reduce absenteeism. Additionally, companies report increased loyalty and a reduction in staff turnover, as well as an ability to attract new, skilled, personnel. Customer services While the benefits to an organisation of improved customer services are intangible, any developments that increase customer retention are extremely valuable given the significant cost of attracting new customers. Real-time information access provides customers with the ability to make immediate decisions about the cost and availability of goods or services. Enhanced customer information via wireless devices reduces the cost of a customer services infrastructure, focusing staff on more productive/profitable initiatives. Production services A combination of Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) Tags, wearable PCs and wireless LANs are delivering significant financial benefits to manufacturers, distributors, and retailers throughout the supply chain. Unlike barcodes, RFID tags are robust and programmable, enabling organisations to track goods as they pass through the supply chain. – Maximising warehouse space: RFID tags allow organisations to remotely track the location of goods and reduce real estate costs by maximising the efficient use of warehouse space, helping to cut the high cost of storage – Minimising goods shrinkage: A combination of theft and imprecise inventory management means retail shrinkage (which accounts for up to 1 percent of stock) puts a significant dent in profit margins. Remote monitoring devices raise an alarm whenever goods are taken without payment. – Minimising errors in delivery: a tightly integrated supply chain means fewer misdirected deliveries, incorrect orders, and fewer ‘on-shelf out-of-stock’ situations. When organisations rely upon specific components to fulfil their own order schedule, delivery errors can cause business-compromising delays. – Minimising inventory: just-in-time retailing enables retailers to reduce stock levels, but distribution companies have to hold increased quantities of just-in-case stock to meet demands. Improved supply chain visibility, based on accurate, up-to-date information, will help reduce these buffer stocks. Asset Management Airline customers worry more about lost luggage than delayed flights, so airports are exploiting the programmable nature of RFID tags to improve luggage tracking. ‘Smart Labels’, enabling tracking from check-in to destination triggers an alarm sound, which alerts the handlers of an error, or if luggage is loaded incorrectly. Conclusion How can telecommunications providers leverage wireless to build value for their customers? – By understanding their customers and their needs and ‘pain points’; – By examining existing telecommunications services to discover how pervasive wireless technologies could provide additional advantage; – By working with customers to identify potential benefits from enhanced wireless communications services; – By starting small, in a high-potential area of the customer’s business, gain strong and expanding to other areas as the results warrant. Many telecommunications service providers, including KDDI, Telefonica Moviles, Sprint, Nextel and MCI, provide wireless services to help their small business customers achieve cost savings, increased revenue and other benefits. There’s no time like now to get started!