Mobile Technology Adoption in the Supply Chain

Mobile Technology Adoption in the Supply Chain

Bill Doolin (Auckland University of Technology, New Zealand) and Eman Ibrahim Al Haj Ali (United Arab Emirates University, UAE)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-910-6.ch007
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The increasing utilization of mobile commerce technologies in e-business raises the question of their use in supply chain integration and management. This chapter presents a multiple case study investigation of the adoption of mobile technology in the supply chain. A technology-organization-environment framework of the contextual influences on technological innovation adoption is used to inform an analysis of three companies’ adoption and use of mobile data solutions for sales automation, freight tracking and service support. Analysis of the three case studies found that the relative advantage of the technological innovation and the information intensity of the company were the most important factors influencing adoption. Other factors that appeared to influence adoption included the compatibility of the technology with the company’s business approach, the presence of top management support and the degree of organizational readiness. Environmental factors such as competition within the industry or business partner influence seemed less influential for these pioneers of mobile technology use in supply-side activities.
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Supply chain management (SCM) can be defined as “the process of managing relationships, information, and materials flow across enterprise borders to deliver enhanced customer service and economic value” (Mentzer et al., 2001, p. 10). Information technology (IT) is pervasive in SCM (Russell & Hoag, 2004), and with the development of electronic commerce it is playing an increasingly strategic role as supply chain activities are conducted, linked and integrated electronically (Bhatt & Emdad, 2001; Kalakota & Robinson, 2001). Companies are seeking to gain competitive advantage and create responsiveness to markets by adopting IT that enables them to utilize and manage information and knowledge within and across the extended enterprise (Lau et al., 2006; Porter & Millar, 1985). Of relevance to this chapter is the relatively recent but rapid development of mobile commerce (Kalakota & Robinson, 2002; Kumar & Zahn, 2003) and its application to SCM.

Mobile commerce is the conduct of electronic commerce through mobile or handheld computing devices (e.g. mobile phones, PDAs and tablet PCs), using wireless technologies and telecommunication networks (Siau et al., 2003). Such mobile technologies facilitate communication, Internet access, data exchange and transactional capabilities largely independent of time and location. The result is increased real-time interaction between companies, employees and supply chain partners, including customers (Kalakota & Robinson, 2002), enhancing operational efficiency and providing new opportunities for customer service (Kumar & Zahn, 2003; Shankar & O'Driscoll, 2002).

A number of studies have examined the potential for mobile commerce to be applied to SCM. Mobile technologies are envisaged to have the most impact in areas of SCM such as e-procurement, materials handling, warehousing, inventory management, logistics and fulfilment, asset tracking, sales and field force automation, and dispatch management (Alanen & Autio, 2003; Benou & Bitos, 2008; Kalakota & Robinson, 2002; Kalakota et al., 2003; Lau et al., 2006; Rangone & Renga, 2006; Ruhi & Turel, 2006; Shankar & O'Driscoll, 2002). For example, it has been argued that mobile applications integrated with a company’s enterprise systems can provide greater visibility into supply chain operations, leading to real-time order status information and more responsive service management (Kalakota et al., 2003). When deployed to mobile employees such as sales representatives or technical field service teams, mobile technologies can automate data collection, deliver necessary information to employees wherever their location, and reduce the time needed to update data from the field for the rest of the company, resulting in improved workforce productivity, process efficiency, data accuracy and service quality (Rangone & Renga, 2006).

The idea that mobile commerce can transform SCM is reflected in the development of concepts such as ‘untethered’ (Shankar & O'Driscoll, 2002), ‘adaptive’ (Kalakota et al., 2003) and ‘responsive’ (Lau et al., 2006) supply chains. However, there are few empirical studies that that focus on the adoption and implementation of mobile commerce in the supply chain activities of companies. Those that do have tended to report on financially modest or relatively simple applications that support mobile activities (operational mobility) rather than the mobile transmission of data (transmission mobility) (Rangone & Renga, 2006). In contrast, this chapter examines the adoption of more complex mobile applications that support transmission mobility as well as operational mobility, and that integrate with existing company information systems and have the potential to change operating procedures and activities.

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