Friday, December 19, 2008

Apps Driving Value

I've been thinking quite a bit lately about how applications, ERP and otherwise, can drive business value. Of course, that's always the's just that the promise is not always fulfilled. I've been wondering about that. A few days ago, I had an experience that really made the point for me.

As many of you know, I ride a commuter train to the office. It works pretty well most of the time, but there are some glitches from time to time. One of those glitches popped up earlier this week when a freight train running several miles in front of the train I was riding home hit a car at a railroad crossing. As a result, my train stopped at a station about 30 miles from home and the conductor announced we would be waiting at that station for quite some time.

Rather than sitting on a stopped train and stewing about the time I was wasting, I had a software application that I'd obtained specifically for a situation just like this. I pulled out my trusty iPhone and fired up an application named "Call A Cab". This app determines your location and generates a list of cab companies (with phone numbers) sorted by distance from you. Turns out there was a cab company less than a mile from where I was sitting. I called the company, made arrangements for a pickup in 10 minutes, then stood up in the train and loudly asked if anyone would like to split cab fare to the next train station (which was the station closest to my house). Two people jumped at the chance. 30 minutes later, I was home. I learned later that my train was delayed over two hours before it got underway again. The time I saved by using "Call A Cab" represents substantial, easily measured value to me: I spent two hours with family rather than growing frustrated on a train stuck 30 miles from home. In that situation, that app drove value. BTW, "Call A Cab" is a free app from the iTunes store.

My experience with the delayed train and "Call A Cab" really shed some light for me on how apps can drive value. In the business world, I've had some similar experiences as well. An app that gave locations of a building's gas shut-off valves after the Whittier earthquake comes immediately to mind. I know at least one Oracle customer controlling their manufacturing volume and managing their cash flow (and thus their business afloat) by using a Portal-based dashboard to track their book-to-bill ratio in real-time. I see all these examples as instances of apps driving value.

How about you? Any first-hand examples of applications really driving value? Share your story in the comments.

1 comment:

Noons said...

Not so much a single application, but I'd be lost without my little Palm PDA: in various models, it's been with me for over 10 years and its apps have evolved into a second "brain".

Still have to be converted to the iphone, but I'll get there eventually...