D&B Goes Mobile With New Smartphone-Optimized Supply Risk Capability (Part 2)

In the first post in this series looking at D&B's recent smartphone-optimized browser capabilities, I provided an overview of D&B's new Supply Risk Management Mobile module. I'll continue by offering a quick analysis of some of the specific capabilities of the mobile risk site in this post. But I'll first begin by providing some insightful findings that D&B shared as part of their research into how they believe users will interact with the mobile capabilities of the tool. As part of the product development and launch plans for the new mobile toolset, D&B surveyed procurement practitioners through a variety of channels (with a decent sample size) and found that close to half of an organization's typical procurement staff are on the road "at least one day per week." Moreover, 22% spend 11-15+ days per month on the road (that's more than half their time).

The mobile phenomenon becomes even more interesting in that D&B's research suggests that nearly one-third of procurement team members spend "at least half their time on smartphones" because of their business travel and meeting schedules. Even though the survey was conducted before tablet computing really began to take off, I suspect this number will climb even higher as users tap additional, larger-format mobile devices. Based on my own anecdotal survey work of procurement users, I'd say there's a strong bifurcation between the types of people who live on their devices and those who still rely on notebooks/desktops as their primary interface both while on the road and in meetings. It's for this reason that I think the D&B Supply Risk Management Mobile tool will be so invaluable for the minority of D&B users who are as at home on their mobile smartphones as accessing information in a traditional browser environment.

D&B's survey results also found that 74% of procurement staff uses smartphones already (e.g., Blackberry, iPhone, Droid, etc.) and "over two-thirds (68%) communicate with suppliers using their smartphones today." I suspect in certain industries and geographies, this number is even higher. Given this, what conclusions can we draw from D&B's mobile survey? For one, there are a minority of power users within procurement that live on their mobile devices. But there's also strong potential for penetrating the rest of the organization as well. Moreover, most procurement team members are not discriminating about communicating with supplier via their desktop or office phones -- they're as open to smartphone data (e.g., e-mail, SMS) and voice communication as well.

When D&B developed the mobile client and browser-based capabilities, they intentionally focused on slimming down the amount of data presented to users to ensure rapid page loads as well as an intuitive navigation experience. When you search for suppliers today, the mobile application can return up to 25 different results on a single page, although the field detail for each supplier is less than it would be in the regular browser version. D&B shared with Spend Matters that they intentionally "trimmed down images" and did "Javascript and style sheet" tuning to keep bandwidth usage to a minimum. I can see how this would also be useful on an international travel basis, owning to the fact that many corporate plans do not necessarily provide for unlimited data roaming.

Bandwidth issues aside, D&B suggests that the application will load 50-60% faster than it would using a standard web browser on a mobile device. I think this is a conservative estimate based on our own usage. Moreover, given how the navigation is materially simplified on the mobile version after a page loads, I suspect the actual time it takes to research an alert or search for a supplier could be cut by 75% or more. In one of the more common usage scenarios D&B foresees (i.e., checking to see if an alert was sent, seeing if it is critical, deciding on whether or not to take action in the moment -- stepping out of a meeting, for example), I believe the speed and fine-tuning of the interface will surprise most users, even if D&B is not really providing a true "app" yet in the mobile sense. But more on that -- as well as what future "apps" will bring in a mobile setting -- in the final post in this series next week.

Jason Busch

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