Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Cloud vs. SaaS WMS: A Level Productivity Playing Field

by Dan Villanueva

What’s great about the Cloud-SaaS debate is that innovation provides greater opportunity for a level productivity playing field. The small to mid-size companies with a smaller mobile workforce can adopt evolving distribution technology, benefit from faster, more accurate distribution, without ‘breaking the bank’. The one constant continues to be change. WMS customer-demand is driving it. Innovation delivers it.

Chad Collins, VP of Marketing and Strategy for HighJump Software makes a great case for extending WMS capabilities through the cloud. Specifically, the distinctions between cloud, SaaS and Hosted services, and the criteria for successful adoption. His point is that its not just about lower costs, its also about the level of customization that even the small and medium size warehouse operations need. He’s right, ‘one-size’ seldom fits all, neither does one price. Any warehouse professional, advocating for any size warehouse operation will assess business requirements and risk with affordability, cost-justification and return on investment.

The attraction of a cloud based/subscription costing model for WMS applications has to be tugging at warehouse management professionals. The ability to walk away from hardware maintenance, upgrades, software costs would be freeing for these overworked folks; problem is that the applications are generic in nature; not focusing on core business differentiators that the staffs have taken years to perfect providing substantive process improvements, productivity gains and exploiting multi modal approaches to very complex WMS needs.

If you’re a proponent of the WMS SaaS model, you're likely to suggest that cost, customization and flexibility can be addressed by process models and business rules.

Regardless of which side of the SaaS vs.Cloud fence one might sit on, the reality is that after a two year economic down turn, all of a sudden HighJump and a handful of its competitors will fight over a WMS market CAGR of 8.2 percent (TechNavio), through 2014…a substantial portion of the anticipated market growth will from small and medium business sector.

A Level Playing Field for Voice Productivity
We assessed the same business dynamics, when developing our voice productivity solution for warehouse, field services and other mobile workforce solutions. We saw the limitations and substantial integration costs of existing server-based, server-dependent voice solutions, the costly integration, upgrades and maintenance placed voice productivity out-of-reach for many companies, large or small. Research underscored that only a fraction of the total WMS market could afford the expensive voice pioneering technologies, for voice picking, receiving and inventory management, nor would they risk the change to their business processes to adopt it.

So we built a voice productivity solution completely and seamlessly delivered from the mobile computer… circumventing the server as the point of application voice integration. Integration with the WMS or other SCM application is achieved completely on and from, the mobile device, allowing customized voice functionality to support the specific needs of the customer. By design, we eliminated the substantial acquisition and maintenance costs associated with server-based solutions, and provided maximum customization and enabling voice productivity for any size business.

Like cloud and SaaS customer options, innovation created a level playing field for voice productivity… for any size business operation, for any mobile SCM application, at a cost-justifiable price. Whether the customer’s WMS is on-premise, or delivered via cloud, SaaS, ASP or other hosted systems, the customer wins.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Apple's Siri and the Star Trek Syndrome

by Bob Bova

There is so much hype, spin, and dare I say manufactured excitement  about SIRI voice, and before that with  Google Voice. And again, after a closer examination, Siri is nowhere near ready for prime time.   Voice will continue to be heavily covered in the consumer space because analysts and bloggers have what our late, great Director of Engineering, David Seifert, used to call Star Trek syndrome. You should speak and the door should open.  Cool, yes, but really…what’s voice good for, if you’re not providing a  legitimate alternative for getting real work done…faster.

Voice:  The Cool Factor Vs. Real Work
Most mobile enterprise IT professionals know that the performance bar is much higher for enterprise mobile solutions supporting mobile workforces.  They know that the ‘cool factor’  has it’s fascination for speech enabled devices that surf the web, find the closest Starbucks, dial their phone and attempt to dictate an email message.  Whether it’s Siri or Google Voice, both still have a long way to go.   Better  noise cancellation capabilities, for one, without it, forget the ‘voice  anywhere’ option. Then there’s the network and server dependency. Siri and Google Voice are storing and processing millions of usage and voice patterns, of course doing some “thinking” via artificial intelligence.  The Cloud Server Farms must be the size of Australia.  That’s why there’s latency, and it will impact the user experience.  As long as the voice processing occurs OUT THERE, you’re going to wait. And for the enterprise professional none of this matters unless you can easily integrate this technology with their existing COTS or custom-built mobile workforce apps. Which you can’t.

It’s OK for consumers playing with their SIRI on their IPhones, but completely unusable for the mobile voice market serving industry-grade and corporate applications designed for ‘ WORK’.

That’s right, WORK.  The new four letter word for the consumer market. While analysts and bloggers  trumpet the latest and greatest way to open your garage door by using your voice on your IPhone,  today’s U.S and International companies strive to provide the next level of mobile workforce productivity,  worker safety, and training. They examine voice and other technologies that will stretch their workforce’s performance. They are employing voice to speed  warehouse management, mobile inspections, field mobility, mobile maintenance and repairdispatch, delivery and dozens of other industry grade applications. These voice-powered applications work on very sophisticated handheld devices including bar code scanners, RFiD readers, Smartphones, custom hardware and tablets….with 99% accuracy…… its user independent…..and it’s been available for years.   Voice technology has already reached beyond the warehouse and call center,  to mobile enterprise applications and devices supporting mobile workforces with 24/7, anywhere, anytime voice productivity.  It has been, and continues to deliver an unbelievable ROI for those companies. 

We voice enable our  customer’s mobile applications and devices to stimulate real work productivity, with  a reliable interactive voice option to keyboard and touch screen.  Its  already performing today, in prime time, to get real work done, faster.