Striking a ChordBy Samuel Greengard Print
Wireless technology enables Avnet to offer real-time information to employees and provide a superior customer experience.
Striking a Chord
Ensuring success required a sound strategy and a well-defined plan. The foundation for the system, Pischke says, is a series of APIs that connect back-end mainframes and servers with Pocket PC phones, Palm devices and various BlackBerry smartphones. Avnet uses a mobility server running XML and open-source applications to convert data to the appropriate format. The SOA and an Enterprise Service Bus running on a middle tier allow Avnet to deploy applications and services through the firewall two to three times faster.
One of the biggest challenges, however, was making sure that users could access applets and data using various devices. “It’s very different to make data available on a 2-and-a-half-inch screen versus a 19-inch monitor,” Pischke says. “The interface is crucial.”
Another consideration was to train workers to use the system effectively. IT provided an initial round of training—as well as a PowerPoint presentation that account managers could view from their desktops—so users could understand the wrinkles and nuances of the system. Finally, a steering committee that meets monthly keeps the initiative on track by mapping out requirements, prioritizing enhancements and spearheading new mobility offerings.
Remarkably, Avnet built the wireless platform using only two senior application architects and developers.
Overall, about two dozen IT and business staff members provided peripheral support, including assistance with connecting ERP and other enterprise systems to the APIs.
The overall return on investment from the project, Avnet estimates, is more than tenfold. In addition, Pischke says that the cost savings is now more than $2.5 million. Of course, it’s impossible to measure the intangible gains that have derived through improved customer loyalty and sales.
The bottom line? Accessing data is now as simple as tapping an icon and opening an applet. It’s a world far-removed from phones, faxes and ongoing e-mail messages. It’s an environment that allows business to flow at digital speed.
“Wireless technology gives our work force a competitive advantage because we’re offering real-time information, driving productivity and reduced cycle times, and providing a superior customer experience,” Pischke concludes.
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