In the last few decades, almost every somewhat successful business has implemented digital technology into their business processes. We've adopted ERP and CRM systems, implemented document and order management capabilities, handled accounting, project management and many other issues that generations before were carried out manually by “staff” in their respective “departments.” But today as it has always been, regardless of the technology applied, CIOs hear the same question: “What do we do to drive growth?”
At present, going mobile has become the key strategy – especially when it comes to employee productivity improvement. Indeed, mobile devices have become game changers. There's no longer the need to gather all information into one physical database or input data upon returning to the office: any connected worker can instantly access and relay up-to-the-minute information as fast as the data connection will allow.
Some ‘going mobile do’s & dont's’ we've learned along the way:
- Deploy for mission-critical field use in real-time – Be able to keep track of and transfer data to and from anywhere in the world.
- Remain flexible – In today’s reality many employees want or even need to work from wherever they can connect to the internet. While working in multiple office and client locations, the right mobile tools allow your employee to work anywhere, anytime.
- Reduce office space – As a result of going mobile, many of employees will no longer need any personal office space, so it's a good opportunity to reduce the costs of running a physical office.
- Invest in less expensive mobile devices – Even if you don't practice BYOD, mobile devices are in general cheaper than laptops or PCs with OSs, so the overall cost of investment is much lower.
- Self-provision your app products – You don't need the help of an IT team: users can download and install your apps all by themselves from the App Store, Google Play or from your corporate server.
- Communicate and stay involved – Since workers can be constantly connected, they're always able to communicate and access real-time data. This can sometimes lead to continuing work during “off-hours” -– which brings up another discussion entirely. Whether or not it’s considered an improvement in productivity, it definitely has an effect on the level of involvement required on a project – or at least on the timing of that involvement.
- Practice BYOD – This topic has been widely discussed in recent years, so I will illustrate only one fact: Employees are more motivated if they get to choose their own hardware.
- Consider ease of device mobility – Smartphones are definitely much lighter than laptops, which leads to endless differences in usage scenarios that must be designed for.
“Employees report saving an average of 57 minutes a day using mobile devices — that’s nearly an hour of productivity gained each day by simply providing a different way to work. Think of the productivity benefits you could gain by scaling this flexibility across your entire organization, ultimately reducing the cost of doing business.”
Intel IT Center
- Use too small of a screen for the task – For many needs, this can be a critical point, and you need to be sure to choose an appropriate size among a variety of devices on the market. Moreover mobile screen resolution is sometimes even better than on laptops, which is great news for client-oriented needs like those of sales representatives or inventory control specialists.
- Go heavy on data entry – When you need to input a lot of data, the traditional smartphone can make the process cumbersome. Fortunately, device manufacturers started to produce 2-in-1 devices which can be tablets or laptops when needed, and these are a better choice when requiring more sophisticated data entry.
- Keep creating and maintaining app versions – Writing different versions of applications for multiple devices and platforms, as well as supporting apps with OS updates, can get really expensive and become not so easy to manage.
To be specific, I’ve gathered some examples of projects illustrating all the boring stuff I’ve mentioned above. So, here’s how it works:
Among the typical solutions for remote workers I’ve picked a mobile product suite for remote workers’ control and safety. During work hours, an app running in the background gathers all phone usage statistics (location, SMS, calls, WiFi, battery level, etc.). Based on this data, a team manager gets an extensive report on each employee/department and access to a web-based real-time location map. If ever a dangerous situation occurs, employees can trigger an alert that will notify emergency services as well as the team leader immediately. The solution was developed natively on several platforms.
In this case, an app that comes to mind is one from the insurance industry. The company specializes in claim settlements, mainly representing municipalities in cases of vehicle damage caused by poor road conditions or city-owned property, etc. When a damage issue is detected, inspectors just need to grab their Android device, take a picture, fill in the form with the details and tag the location. Based on these reports, the insurance company estimates the scale of the problem and dispatches the appropriate claim.
In order to enable the function of remote business processes, mobile communications software that could be scaled across desktop, web, and mobile platforms was developed. This solution allows for the setting up of various business partnerships and assigns different roles to users: the client, the service provider, and the arbitrator who mediates in any necessary instances between the client and the service provider. Both in and out of the office, users can access all the digital necessities such as data exchange, messaging and video conferencing.
One health care institution uses the mobile platform to analyze direct patient feedback and correlate the information to prescription medication programs. Doctors can manage registrations, update prescriptions and dosages and track correlation between patient health and the health system’s input. Patients can receive alerts on prescription renewals and automatically order renewals, and receive current news specific to their health conditions.
A leading healthcare company implemented a medical handbook that is widely used and praised by doctors and other medical industry practitioners. In just a few clicks, doctors can access the most current and up-to-date information and research from their field of specialization as well as gain instant access to a comprehensive reference library on diseases and symptoms.
Corporate Travel Planning
A business travel company created a solution that allows clients to stay updated on all of their upcoming travel plans with the help of one mobile app including travel dates & schedules, tickets, hotel reservations, transportation bookings and other important information. Clients can send an inquiry or request for assistance to any company involved in the travel plans right from within this one single app.
One of the leading energy companies provided a good example of how the use of mobile technology can simplify the lives of many people. It implemented a mobile solution to collect energy meter readings. Customers use the app to submit their monthly readings quickly and easily, thus saving the company significant time and money.
As technologies continue to reach new levels, business will continue implementing the most productive and efficient automation solutions available at the moment. Moving ahead today provides an organization with the opportunity of being stable tomorrow. Mobility is a frontier, and to realize all of its potential benefits, CIOs along with technology partners should unite their efforts to ensure that the delivery of a secure and reliable solution is fully available to the enterprise environment.