Making it Simple: Optimising Investments in Mobile Technology

Niamh Madigan

Ananth Sundaram, Chief Architect of Distribution at Southern California Edison explains the organisation's current mobility initiatives of rolling out third generation mobile solutions to the field workforce as well as optimising investments in mobile technology.

He shares advice on getting business buy-in before implementing any technology and of his wish that the supplier community would adopt the Apple approach to make things simpler to help users drive value from their technology investments by adapting it at a cheaper cost.

Enterprise Mobility (EME): Ananth, can you just give us a quick overview of the mobility initiatives you currently have in place?

Ananth Sundaram: Edison, because of the smart grid and all the new initiatives that is going on within day-to-day industry, is investing quite a large sum of money into the mobility technology. Currently, we are rolling out third-generation mobile solutions to the field workforce. We're also looking into building a mobility solution for our customer service systems and we're building comprehensive mobile solutions for our customer-facing portals, where customers can pay using the mobile solutions. They can look at their usages and they can also do demand response. Basically, we can turn on, turn off their AC, pool system or even talk to their washing machine, dryers and refrigerators in the future, because, if you know, the whole smart grid initiative is to make sure that the whole ecosystem and the fabric all communicates to each other wirelessly.

EME: The key theme of your presentation was all around optimising investments in mobile technology. Could you tell us a little bit about how you've gone about this?

Ananth: The team that we support today was primarily about the second-generation and third-generation investments. Third-generation technology is moving up, even a conventional 3G EVD or all those things, into a 4G, LTE-based technology. All the different vendors and customers I talk to, they're all spending time in developing applications on the mobile solutions, whereas from a fundamental thought process I think that what's most important for us is to spend the money on the infrastructure first. Once the infrastructure is stable then you can always build applications into Apples or Androids or Samsung, whatever it is.

That customer-facing technology is changing every couple of years, so I feel that there is no point in spending too much on a fast changing technology. Instead, build a robust infrastructure that can support a mobile enterprise platform.

EME: And what have been your biggest obstacles throughout this process and what advice would you give other people who are about to start on this journey?

Ananth: One of the biggest obstacles is to get the business buy-in. My first and foremost advice is to get your business use cases properly documented and the business processes established before you embark on a mobility initiative. There is no point in building a solution with no users attached to it. That's money wasted. In this current capital climate where dollars are tight, it is imperative for all business people to come up with the very good use cases so that they can justify the dollars spent.

So one of my requests to all the future mobility users is to go to your drawing board, talk to your business, get your use cases, get your business process fully documented, that'll help you a long way.

EME: Ananth, what do you feel the supplier community could be doing to help mobility experts drive more value from their investments?

Ananth: The supplier environment and the vendors need to start looking into what brings an easy value to the customer. We don't want to complicate a technology. We are already in a world of complicated technology. Our kids have been bombarded with so much equipment, so many gadgets. The supplier needs to make it simple for us. There needs to be a simple approach; it is not a complicated development.

I want the vendors to adopt the Apple way. They want to come up with a simple solution, simple to use, that will be the biggest buy-in for that. And I hope all the vendors listen to this and come up with simpler solutions. We can adapt it and implement it at a cheaper cost.

EME: And finally, who is your hero and why?

Ananth: My all-time hero is Mahatma Ghandi. If you look back 50 or 100 years, India was a nation with no communication skills. Then, here comes a man who worked in South Africa who was a barrister from London, who comes to India and then changes the whole way that India's been looked upon by the western world. He brought us independence, with a simple manifesto. His message was no violence, do everything with non-violence, communicate, and then catapult all the uses. That's what I like in a simple human being. Make it simple, keep life simple.