Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Mobile Code Scanning: The Enterprise Application Opportunity

Following my post that mentioned possible revenue stream for operators, that arise from code-based solutions, I have been asked about code-based enterprise applications. That's a great question, since many players in the space have to focus on the vertical they believe in. Code scanning is a technology enabler, that applies to many verticals, so it's a tough choice.

Let's take a closer look at enterprise vertical. Firstly, the mobile code scanning solution could prove highly feasible for them. What options do businesses with field force have (take for example a courier business):
  • No Automation: Keep the current system, no upgrade costs. OK...let's look at how much revenue a typical independent courier looses: Let's take the case where that courier has 10-50 drivers (take 25), each doing 50 deliveries/day. Let's say a total 20k deliveries a month. Each package lost/delivery dispute/... cost is $5. Let's say the combination of human errors in tracking, delivery and invoicing is 5%. Not automating the system can cost a courier $5k/month. That's $60k/year under very modest numbers.
  • Sophisticated off-the-shelve automation: buy a dedicated scanning hand held device. A typical price point for that kind of ruggadized- good-for-nothing-else device would be in the hundreds of $. Once you have that, can one do any customization to enable business logic on the reader? unlikely
  • Code Scanning solution that would install virtually on any off-the-shelve handset and connect to an existing backend API to a database, invoicing system etc. It's possible to embed business logic and user interface customization. Drivers need phones anyway...that's an easier decision to make
Now that hopefully the case for mobile code scanning automation for enterprise users is established, here's a couple more advantages to focus on this vertical:
  • No Reach issues: one very difficult challenge every application developer in the mobile space faces, is that every single phone is different. It's different because vendors, amongst other reasons, want to differentiate :-) That means, if your application targets subscribers, you have to make sure the application works on all those different phones. Not in the enterprise world. The IT manager would in fact mandate that only one phone would be used to reduce his maintenance cost. Big relief
  • Building the complete solution: Usually enterprises know their context much better than the code scanning vendor does. They will be more inclined to get an SDK (hence the case for SDK for enterprises!) and build their own solution, which might be already built, but currently based on manual keystrokes. If they don't take ownership of building the solution, enterprises will pay handsomely for you to build it, as they can see the immediate upside
  • It is possible to build a very simple, consistent business model that works for both sides. Almost no dependency on unknown factors. You can go per license, per usage, per month, doesn't matter. It's very cleans and concise.
  • In most cases, the decision making process is not as long and complex as launching a consumer product. the requirements are usually clear, there aren't massive demo and trial requirements, and proceeding to the final solution is in both sides benefit.
  • In some cases, enterprise users use very capable high-end phones and would be open to high-end numbers in your proposal :-)

I think it would be worthwhile contrasting 3 code-based enterprise solution requirements against the consumer solution:
  • Rapid successful scans: Typically, the enterprise user (courier for example) doesn't have time for multiple scans. He has to be able to successfully scan rapidly and move on. Codes that were designed for the mobile context (deal with blur, slight motion, rotation, different lighting conditions) will do better at this
  • Reliability: There's a lot at stake in taking in erroneous data. Algorithms that deal with error detection and correction are very applicable here
  • Encryption: some businesses may want to contain sensitive information in the code. The implication here is that they would not want, for example, for just anyone to be able to read (and then possibly recreate) their codes, which can easily be done with open standard codes.
In contrast, typical businesses would not care as much about code size and other aesthetic features like consumer-facing brands would.

OK, I hope that gives some sense to the case for mobile code scanning for businesses. Like said, it's not an obvious decision to point your strategy there because code scanning can be applied in many, attractive fields, and you need to be wise when you go about it.

Hope that's useful, thanks for reading!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Web 2.0 approach to enterprise application development is the first factor that makes our applications bring about a SEA-change.