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SOA & WOA: Article

The Roman Road and Enterprise Mobility

The way the Romans used the roads are very similar to how businesses today can utilize enterprise mobility solutions

I had the distinct privilege of walking along several different Roman roads this week. These roads have survived thousands of years worth of history and travel. They were built using a standard design, engineering and construction methodology that was extraordinarily durable. The paved roads of ancient Rome represent one of the most significant infrastructure and civil engineering feats in history. They permitted the Roman Empire to flourish for over 400 years!

The way the Romans used the roads, and the benefits they gained, are very similar to how businesses today can utilize enterprise mobility solutions.  I know this is a stretch, but not a big one.  Let me explain.

The Roman Empire was big and geographically dispersed.  This fact presented challenges for managing, controlling and governing.   The speed in which messages traveled was critical and roads were a key means of transporting them.  Commanders and governors needed to know what was going on hundreds and thousands of miles away.  Distant forts, outposts and cities needed to receive instructions.  This is a similar challenge faced by companies today with a mobile workforce and remote jobsites and plants.

Let's ponder the benefits of the Roman roads on the Roman economy.  The impact was huge, not unlike what the railways in the 19th century did for the West.  For the first time, products (among them tin, copper and salt) and services could be moved quickly and reliably transported during all seasons and weather conditions.  Today mobile apps and the Internet can help move digital products and services across the globe efficiently, while providing a means of payment, shipment tracking (for physical products) and order visibility.

The Roman roads and bridges enabled merchants to get to places that they had never been before. Places previously just too hard or expensive to get to.  Likewise, mobile apps and the Internet can instantly make products and services available across huge geographic areas that were just too hard to market and sell to before.

Today many companies have remote workers.  This presents a challenge to developing and sustaining the desired company culture.  In the Roman times, the roads they built served to help political and intellectual ideas spread quickly.  Scholars could easily travel, exchange ideas and collaborate.  Mobile apps and collaboration platforms can fill that void today.  By including even the most distant company outposts in discussions and collaboration activities, and involving them in new ideas and concepts, company culture can be developed, enhanced and expanded using mobile apps.

The Roman's didn't limit the messages sent along their roads to just military messages.  Yes, military messages were important for maintaining control of such a massive territory, but so were letters sent between commanders, the Senate, the Emperor, merchants and cities.  Likewise, businesses will not just develop a single mobile app.  They will find that mobile apps can be used for all kinds of data collection, business intelligence, queries and commerce.

The Romans ultimately had more than 29 great military highways that led away from the capital.   113 provinces were interconnected by 372 great road links.  The whole road system comprised more than 400,000 km of roads, of which over 80,500 km were stone-paved.  This enabled them to flourish as a civilization for over 400 years.  Likewise, I expect businesses to ultimately have every ERP, back-office system and data source of significance connected to mobile apps so they can also flourish.

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Kevin Benedict Senior Analyst, Digital Transformation Cognizant View my profile on LinkedIn Learn about mobile strategies at MobileEnterpriseStrategies.com Follow me on Twitter @krbenedict Browse the Mobile Solution Directory Join the Linkedin Group Strategic Enterprise Mobility

***Full Disclosure: These are my personal opinions. No company is silly enough to claim them. I am a mobility and digital transformation analyst, consultant and writer. I work with and have worked with many of the companies mentioned in my articles.

More Stories By Kevin Benedict

Kevin Benedict is the Senior Analyst for Digital Transformation at Cognizant, a writer, speaker and SAP Mentor Alumnus. Follow him on Twitter @krbenedict. He is a popular speaker around the world on the topic of digital transformation and enterprise mobility. He maintains a busy schedule researching, writing and speaking at events in North America, Asia and Europe. He has over 25 years of experience working in the enterprise IT solutions industry.

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