I sat in a top Business School, stunned. The traditional case study-based curriculum, based on case-studies, had elicited a lot of interesting discussion that day as the students attempted to create a simulated action plan for the subject company, which we were told was dealing with a serious product setback. And though we later learned that the company – in real life – had chosen to throw a “Hail Mary” pass to tie the score with competitors, the stunning part wasn’t that such a risky move had succeeded. It is that the students in that classroom – the future leaders of companies around the world – thought the lesson was that they should be willing to try the “Hail Mary” play often.
Some explanation is in order: I’ve worked in and managed organizations that designed computers, from servers to desktops to notebook to tablets, and many of the peripherals for all of these categories. I’ve always been interested in how organizations function, so I’ve read many business cases over the years. I have even been interviewed for a few business cases that were published about my own employers’ operations, each discussing examples of “innovation” that brought meaningful change. But the most in-depth analysis of these case studies was presented in my post-grad business school courses.
In one instance, we were presented a common business case from the 1990s. A firm had learned that they were a whole 12-month development cycle behind a competitor and, in less than 4 months, their competitor’s product would be announced at the annual industry tradeshow. After evaluating a full set of options to mitigate the blowback on their business, the firm decided to initiate an extremely rushed development cycle to get their own new product done in four months. Surprisingly, they met their goal and prepared to announce their product at the tradeshow. They were able to keep pace with their competitor. But, after hearing the professor explaining this result, I sat in this Top 50 Business School class stunned. Not because of the result, but because of what my classmates were interpreting as the lesson of the story.
Most walked out of there thinking that, if they simply insist on halving development schedules for their own companies, they too could be the hero of a business case. But they don’t have the experience of managing multiple engineering projects, or often any development experience at all. I, on the other hand, have been involved with many development projects, including some rushed ones. At best, I know there is a whole series of ripple effects, from cost hits, to inefficient use of people and resources, and the risk of confronting quality issues. The lesson? “Bet the company” kinds of moments shouldn’t be promoted. Nobody does case studies on companies that “bet the company” and then failed. Nor should any company rush to innovate, whether you’re trying to expand your product line or implement new mobile tech products that will help you keep pace with customer demand or competitors’ innovations.
Of course, skilled management can develop the capabilities to do things more quickly, more efficiently. Productivity gains are expected, and sometimes the jump in productivity can be dramatic. But that is a lot different from making dramatic changes and hoping that it all works out. To quote a recent movie, “ Hope is not a tactic”.
Yet, over the years, the team at Xplore has witnessed too many supply chain organizations – manufacturers, warehouse and distribution center managers, even transportation companies – “bet the company” on “out of the box” mobility solutions that, while seemingly sufficient for achieving business goals on an accelerated timeline, ended up straining resources further without resulting in the desired payoff. The goal is enhanced productivity, or the ability to do a new task which was previously impossible. The goal isn’t to implement a dramatic new technology. Mobile technology is a tool.
The alternative has been tried too. Some companies prioritized the low-budget appeal or misleading “simplicity” of an all-inclusive hardware, software, and accessory bundle provided by a single tech supplier, only to find that the compromises that entails were too restricting or costly. Bundled solutions usually have canned software; that means you have to change your workflow to meet the software’s coding. It can also mean mobile devices are selected for cost and better profit margin, certainly not because they’re a higher performance “best-in-class” solution with a lower Total Cost of Ownership (TCO). Also, the promised “shortcuts” of the bundle ended up creating more complexity within their IT systems and they didn’t have the expert internal resources – or the right partner – to help them navigate issues. Either way, nearly every company finds that their “all-in” bet on a bundled mobility solution from a single supplier is slowing down their ability to innovate. And innovation is a must: The only constant in business is change, and manufacturers need to have the flexibility to change their processes as needed – and without disruption – to keep their supply chain competitive. Thus, the current trend towards best-in-class technology strategies that allow for sustained and scalable innovation – not just within the mobility solution itself, but within the entire IT architecture as more advanced automation, IIoT, and Industry 4.0-enabling technologies are needed.
So, how does one embark on choosing the right products to meet their needs? There’s still a perception among many that “best-in-class” mobile solutions require a lot of money, resources, and expertise. That’s not true. And Xplore can prove it.
Their mobility experts have created the Playbook on how to formulate the best-fitting mobility solution for your manufacturing environment – without falling into the Industry4.0 tech trap. This invaluable resource walks you through the steps to thoroughly plan any new mobile technology implementation, no matter the motivating factor. It will help you ask the right questions and take the right strategic actions so that you can be confident that:
- Any change you make to your operating environment – such as a shift from paper to paperless workflows, or manual to automated data collection – can be completed without changing too much for workers.
- You aren’t being encouraged to be on the bleeding edge by an “advisor” who stands to benefit more from your investment in “disruptive technology” than your own organization, or is trying to lock you in.
- You don’t rush to make a dramatic change that may not change anything at all in your KPIs.
So, I highly encourage you to download this playbook now and save it to your desktop.
The use of mobile technology has been shown to improve many business processes, sometimes even dramatically. (You know that, which is why you’re evaluating your mobile tech options.) The secret of sustainable success for you and all your supply chain stakeholders is a planned, and incremental, rollout of mobile technologies that solve problems in innovative ways. This playbook helps you devise a winning strategy that does all of the above.
Blog Author: Bob Ashenbrenner
President of Durable Mobility Technologies, LLC.