[Interview] Building the Invisible Systems That Power Enterprises

In this video, CommonTime’s Head of Operations (Andy Brinkworth) discusses the invisible systems that power modern enterprises. We ask him about the vital applications and software that keep global businesses ticking — as well as the important role they play in operational processes.

Andy highlights the emergence of artificial intelligence, automation and cloud based solutions as three of the key trends that will affect business mobility over the coming year, offering an insight into the future of technology in business.

Can You Provide an Example of an Invisible System Which Serves an Important Business Function?

There’s a very good example in the backend of ArrowXL. They have an Oracle based system. But as far as the consumer is aware, and the consumer could be Littlewoods or Mothercare, they place an order and a number of days later it is delivered by a two man team.

In that time, these different systems have all integrated and pushed orders into the Oracle system, we have converted it to a manifest and goods have been pushed through a network. Ultimately, goods end up on a specific manifest, on a CommonTime device, being signed for by the end purchaser. It’s a great example of multiple integrations serving a single organisation.

What’s Most Important When Building a Business System; People, Process or Technology?

I would have to say none of those. It’s the attitude of the organisation to actually achieve mobility. The people, process and technology will underpin, ultimately, the success or failure of that venture. However, the organisation really needs to commit to achieving mobility in the first place. I think that is absolutely key.

What Do You Recommend to Businesses Seeking to Engage in Enterprise Mobility?

Firstly — don’t just assume you can take a paper process and make it mobile. Taking a two sided A4 form with a number of questions and converting it to a mobile device may not be the right way of doing things.

Engage in expertise, such as the CommonTime team, who can come in and help you look at that process — perhaps even apply lean principles to it. Also, don’t try to cover everything all at once. If you have a particularly complex process, break it down into stages. Release them, gather feedback and then use that feedback to a adopt a continuous improvement (or agile) approach to development.

It’s well documented that the most successful apps in the app stores are the ones which update 2–3 times per month. I wouldn’t necessarily advocate that for enterprise applications. But, frequent updates will ensure that you have user buy-in and also allow you to deliver/ test new features more often.

Which Technological Trends Will Have the Biggest Impact on Mobility Over the Next 5 Years?

Artificial intelligence and cognitive services for sure. It was a major theme for microsoft last year, who ran multiple workshops on these. I think the reliability, speed of learning, ability for AI services to understand intent & meaning, and speed of learning is phenomenal. This will play a massive part in enterprise mobility going forward.

Another trend is the Internet of Things (IoT) evolving into the Internet of Everything. We already know that you can be anywhere in the world, yet change your lights or heating at home. The more enterprise & commercial applications of this include being able to monitor remote outposts and make decisions on the fly (replacing the need for manual input).

I think if you can combine that with the AI services, there are some very powerful opportunities out there ready to be taken.