Making mobile work for your business

Posted on May 18, 2015

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I am often faced with the challenge of making a switch to mobile for my clients. So I’ll explain a little about how I go about this … but first a short bit of context.
They know that mobile is the way to go, but are not sure how to make mobile work for them.
At first they are thinking they can replace paper, make certain actions possible away from the desk/laptop,  but that’s about as far as their thinking goes,  and to be sure it’s a good start.

However there are other non-technical things to consider, and use as inspiration, so here are four:

How we remember things …

I’ve said this before, mobile and the internet are making our memory “transactive” that is we remember how to find things out rather than directly remember them.  A simple example is phone numbers, before mobiles you’d remember a lot of numbers,  whereas now you just look them up in your phone’s contacts.

This means that when we are re-inventing a process for mobile we should ensure that the information required, be that text, videos, or the ability to call/video call someone is available, and easy to find.  This also means that staff can be more flexible, because you can give them extra information to ensure that they have everything they need all to hand.

This can mean that you can upskill people because they can take on work they are not familiar with due to this hand holding.  It also means that for visit based work (field sales or engineers, support workers etc, you can use this kind of backup to reduce the number of trips required to fulfill a request, leading to greater efficiency.

In short don’t expect your staff to learn and retain all the information,  but rather feed them the information as and when, and make use of calls, instant messaging and video calling to bring experts to them, exactly when they need them most.

How we organize things:

organisation, can be the difference between success and failure, between happiness and embarrassment. However with the advent of always available communications between people the time horizon for organising has shrunk to almost zero.  Before mobiles, you had to factor in the communications lag, and have fall back plans so that things could work out.

Now, a lot of that has gone away,  folks will arrive off the plane in a new country without knowing where the hotel is, the client is etc,  and will work it out after picking up their bags.  We will arrange to meet after work for drinks, after work, on the way to the, hang on which bar is it again,  lets ask so and so,  ohh yes the dohdah bar.

So exploit the fact that workers are more flexible, are able to receive instructions at any time, and expect to be making arrangements last minute. This combined with the ability to provide all the data and information they need allows for flexible routing of work, or people and so increase responsiveness.  This can be true of paper processes too, not just field type operatives.

How we assess risk.

To counter the last two,  once you have all the worlds knowledge available in seconds, once you know you can just turn up and go, your perception of risk is lowered.  It’s not risky being lost, because your phone never is.  it’s ok to look up how to do something, because the how tos are always there.

BUT, and it’s a big but, for many things you have to protect your staff from putting themselves in danger, because they are over confident, or over estimate their abilities.  So balance the previous two enhancements with care, build in smart analytics that will asses and score a risk profile before making an assignment, and this leads me to the last for today …

How we communicate

I’ve alluded to it above, we now communicate far more frequently and in shorter amounts. Several texts rather than a 2 minute conversation.  A picture of something interesting rather than telling a story over dinner.

Provide your new mobile workforce with this ability to use ping – pong communications, in particular those new into work as they will expect nothing else.  Where possible avoid the use of voice calls, as there are legions of folks for whom voice calls are an anathema,  and will work out ways to avoid call centers for example,  because voice calling is so much more difficult than texting or emailing.

OK so what this means is that we should, when looking at a process, see how real time ping – pong communications can be used to improve the situation.  Extend this into dashboard reporting of data via graphs etc for example KPI’s, income trends, production volumes etc..  The key is easily assimilated rapid communications, that are designed to assist in decision making, or to make fluid the ability to share.

The role of mobile in decision support, across all layers of an organisation is a topic for another day.

In Summary

Look to the people,  how they behave, how they think and communicate, how they are motivated.  These are the ways into changing a process from being about the paper to about getting the task at hand completed, quickly, efficiently and safely.

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