Mobile Devices Are Changing Operations Management

Information systems collect, manage and redistribute information. Applications (software programs) enable that process and provide the benefit of combining data from various sources into information that helps management see what’s happening throughout the business and make better management decisions based on what they know and what they can expect. Modeling and simulation allow decision makers to see the impact of various strategies before committing to them.

The benefits and impact of information systems have always been limited by inconveniences of access and distribution of outputs. In the early days, all input and output were handled by a technical staff, working in the glass-walled room with raised floors and aggressive air conditioning, and all output was on paper. Later, distributed terminals and departmental printers put access in the hands of the users and much of the information became available on-screen. Pundits gleefully declared the dawning of the paperless office which, alas, has yet to come to fruition.

Next on the evolutionary trail came local networks and personal computers replacing dedicated terminals. This is significant because it brought considerable computing power into the hands of the users with the centralized systems (now called servers) taking a subordinate role. But we were still tethered to those servers through the network cabling.

Today, while local hard-wired networks are still the mainstay of corporate computing, wireless access is readily available on most systems. Combined with Internet connectivity and wireless Internet access (both cellular and “hot spots”), users can access just about anything on any computer anywhere in the world (with the right authorization, of course). Now add today’s plethora of mobile devices — smartphones and tablets — and access is no longer a limitation for enterprise systems, corporate functions and all that valuable information that our corporate systems have been gathering and analyzing for all these years.

Most systems today support mobile device access and most system suppliers are working hard on new “apps” and reformatted outputs to take better advantage of the capabilities and limitations (primarily screen size) of phones and tablets. While it will likely never be completely paperless, the office is sure to become more “paper-less” as a result.

The widespread and flexible access supplied by mobile devices is both a blessing and a curse for busy managers and executives. They can now see up-to-date status and respond to the needs of the business from virtually anywhere at virtually any time, so the business can benefit from their decisions whenever needed. From a personal and human resources viewpoint, mobile access essentially erases the dividing line between work life and home life, and that can be either a good thing (perhaps less time in the office while still accessible for critical decisions) or a bad one (your “off” time is no longer entirely your own).

Welcome to the business reality of the 21st century.

Reprinted from Portsmouth Herald / Seacoastonline.com  – July 02, 2012

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