NFC: An expensive proposition – Is it?

Some things come at a huge price…the price of not tapping them early enough.


The word ‘right-brain’ is suddenly a phenomenon everyone wants to boast of, to show off or suggest as an handicap. Creative folks, lazy copywriters, wandering painters, sweet-talking HR managers, quirky film makers and their other breeds have finally got the perfect allegation to stain their counterparts with.

If you are from the CFO’s team or an investment banker or a data scientist, be prepared to be abused with the ultimate expletive – Oh! You are so –left-brained!

That kind of explains why I was so surprised when the two opposite forces of the universe miraculously hugged each other on that weird day. I was scheduled to meet a client who were into staffing services and had their employees work for their clients. They had challenges not just around employee tracking ( as they are spread across clients/ geographies ) but also had to face employee billing disparities and collections from their clients. ( I work for an enterprise solution firm and handle sales function for our HCM suite of products )

I was all prepared to present the idea of a breakthrough NFC (Near Field Communication) capability and GPS features inside our HCM suites to a client who already houses a pretty sleek HR Software. I enter the room and was almost blinded to see the VP, HR and the CTO at the same desk, ready to listen in on the same meeting. May be someone had drugged my coffee that morning. But there was no time to pin it down to someone, especially with so many options already flashing before my eyes – my wife, our pesky canteen guy, that wicked intern from USA, my not so obedient robot?

Anyways, time was ticking by and the two executives minced no expressions when they glanced impatiently at their Rolex time-keepers for the umpteenth time.

I started filling them in on the latest advances in machine to machine communications, the frenzy called Internet of Things and how GPS etc were trends aligning fast to IT and many new applications.

But as I should have anticipated, I was interrupted rather curtly at the fourth slide itself.

The HR guy gave me a pleading look and initiated the debate, “Cut the upload. I know all about NFC. In fact, I have been after this geek freak for almost a month now. It’s THE thing and I want it in my hands A.S.A.P. How difficult is for you to grasp that sentence!”

The CTO lost no time and dived into the battle. “It’s not a toy that you can just pick from the shelf and indulge in. There has to be a rationale behind it, traction of proof and the right compatibility with the IT engines I run here. Why do you need NFC so urgently anyway?”

“Because its become increasingly difficult to track and monitor our guys with those irritatingly-clunky systems of attendance. Every month we go through the hassles of timesheets and billing disparities that we are not able to mutually agree to. . And the funny thing that gets my goat is that our arch-competitor has already rolled it all over in full scale. NFC solves all my attendance and HR tracking issues without making these employees feel stalked or bossed all the time. What else can I wish for? And all you want to stall this for is for some damn pilot or a for-the-sake-of-it business case!”

I tried to help him here. “He is right actually. One of our international clients is using NFC on their factory floors in auto manufacturing areas. They are much happier tracking employees around risky machines and big assembly layouts with a friendly, smooth, almost-invisible technology. You can do the same for keeping a tab on your service personnel and sales staff.”

“But you have to wire any new technology intervention properly. It’s not a make-up that you can just brush and swab over. Does it sync in easily with your HCM modules?”

I answered a confident ‘Yes’ that kept echoing.

“Do you have proven capabilities with NFC in this industry already?”

The ‘Yes’ was easy with every next question.

“Can it be plugged in without much sweat and maintained easily by my team?”

“Of course.”

“What about the phones, tablets etc that our employees use? They may not be the high-end NFC smartphones you see!”

“That’s a good question! Infact, your employees don’t need to have NFC phones et all. If they are at a client site, all they need to do is to tap their phone on their supervisor’s NFC enabled smartphone!!” I appreciated the questions and was glad we had ironed every bit out before stepping into the market with NFC.

I continued as I saw the CTO pause and mull over the imminent decision. “This is absolutely affordable, socially-friendly, user-wise easy, accessible and compatible – the way you want. Plus, employee tracking is just the vanilla part of NFC. You can tap it for predictive analytics, and integrates seamlessly for billing and payroll.”

I turned my attention to the HR VP here. “Yes you are right. It can be the new portable, nimble attendance kiosk you have dreamt of. You can spread workloads on dashboards with our HCM and can work out on-the-move strategies for better work results.”

In all fairness, I added, there is that thing called interoperability. “The trend is catching up but only at the pace where it can sort out issues like transmission distances, field strength issues, POS terminals dominance with cards, incompatible platforms, eavesdropping issues and the other concerns around NFC. But we are working progressively on compatibility of platforms and devices, ecosystem maturity, evolution of standards etc. And then someone has to be brave enough to at least test the waters with one toe! Early-mover advantage is something that will separate the boys from the men, as always. That’s all I can say. It is a breakthrough that comes with a price tag. The price is – being left behind before others steal a lead.”

Both the guys looked at one another and for the first time in my career, I saw a whole-brained halo. The typical left-brained ‘suit’ and the quintessential right-brained ‘rebel’ were for once, shaking hands and ideas together.

I got many more meetings with this magical duo in future. Brains may have boundaries but great minds are always, well –Open.

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