Enterprises are thinking twice about investing in wireless data applications, slowing down the sales cycle as they try to justify the investment and examine their needs.
That extra scrutiny is forcing providers of wireless data solutions, such as Xora, to find a niche and attract customers from specialty industry segments.
Xoras middleware platform enables remote wireless access to enterprise applications. Its target market includes companies with mobile sales and field service workers, as well as large, industrial enterprises. For example, Intuitive Surgical, a maker of robotic surgical equipment, recently launched a beta test of Xoras system that should allow its mobile sales and service workers to access and contribute to corporate databases.
Intuitive already has a Clarify customer relationship management database, but accessing it remotely is difficult because sales and service workers must lug laptops and find Internet connections — always an iffy prospect.
"What we wanted to do was make using the system as easy as possible," says Steve Lucchesi, Intuitives director of information systems. Intuitives salespeople already use personal digital assistants, so the company looked for a way to use them to access the database and found it in Xora.
The new capability will allow Intuitives salespeople to check customer records before they make site visits, so they are aware of any issues that may need to be addressed. Intuitive will also be able to track inventory from afar as field service workers log what gear they install, as its installed.
Xora Platform 3.0 is easy for in-house tech experts to develop for because they can use their existing infrastructure and experience, rather than being forced to learn new tools and processes.
Xora is also compatible with many of the major databases. That flexibility is particularly important to Intuitive, because the company may want to make its manufacturing data available to mobile workers. Intuitives manufacturing center uses a different database than the corporate database.
Xora believes that the ability to work with many database vendors will separate it from competitors. "To do what were doing, you have to understand the wireless world and the device world, but you also have to have a good understanding of enterprise software in the back office," says Steve Peck, Xoras director of marketing.
Creating a reputation for understanding back-end systems may help a company such as Xora stay afloat. "The space, in general, is a very busy one," says Stephen Drake, IDCs research manager. "What they need to show is some value and differentiation between them."
Most companies are tightening their belts during this market downturn, and looking for vendors that already have customers and can prove they are going to stay in business.
While some enterprises rolled out wireless apps last year because it was a hot new technology, they are now weighing their options more carefully. Drake says certain industry sectors — finance, transportation and utilities — are more likely to invest in wireless, because they can often clearly envision a return on investment. "In the enterprise, its not considered as much a priority," he says.