You've Decided to Go Mobile... What's Next?

The most transformative force in technology since the advent of the PC is taking root and setting your employees free. How can you take advantage of it?

You’ve likely already had a conversation like this at your workplace… or will very soon: We’ve just bought 900 iPads for our sales team. Now what? Or: We’ve decided to let our employees bring in their own devices so they can use our network and apps on them. What should we do now?

You may have had little say in these decisions, but you will now have to serve the needs that arise because of them. Hopefully, these decisions were rooted in a strategy that was created to address some business needs, or perhaps to capitalize on a perceived opportunity in your market. The real-world truth, though, is that this is often not the case.

In a situation where nine, 90, 900 or even more devices have been procured by your organization, it may simply have been a response to demand for the newest devices on the market, or perhaps just to provide cool new toys to the workforce. In this BYOD (“bring your own device”) situation, it was probably a response to pressure that had already been brewing, fueled by the pervasive “consumerization” of information technology and electronics.

Worldwide media tablet sales are expected to total 118.9 million units in 2012, a 98-percent increase over 2011 sales, according to Gartner, a leading technology research firm. In March, Apple announced that with more than 15.4 million iPads sold in Q1 2012, it outsold PCs from each of the major vendors: HP (15.1 million), Lenovo (13 million), Dell (11.9 million) and Acer (9.8 million). The smartphone numbers are even more staggering. Overall cellphone sales slowed in Q3 2012, yet smartphones showed a 46.9-percent increase in sales over the same period last year, with 169.2 million devices flying off shelves and out of warehouses. There is no doubt that we are in the post-PC era.

With all this in mind, choosing to adopt mobile in an organization can be daunting. Once you get past the initial decision, the cold, harsh reality of what you have set out to do starts to set in, and questions begin to arise. What now? How will I do this? Should I just convert my existing content, platforms or applications to mobile? Is that even possible? Who on my team can help? What exactly am I going to produce for these new devices? When will we know we are ready to launch? How will this impact my business?

The questions go on and on. While you may have answers to some of them, it’s rare that an organization has the ability to answer most, let alone all, at the outset of implementing a comprehensive mobile strategy. In order to begin answering these questions, it’s crucial that you first affirm your understanding of the many uses of mobile and what it can do for your organization.

Consider, for a moment, your employees no longer tied to a desk or having to wait for a laptop to boot up to access that late-breaking recall notice. Think about the most pertinent safety concerns when your workers enter the job site. The very same device they use to call or send text messages could be the same one they use to access company resources or knowledge. All this can be done from a touchscreen or via text message (SMS) on a device you don’t have to think about taking with you. There is never the question, “Well, should I pack this device for the trip today or not?” You simply take it with you. It’s your phone, and you never leave home (or your office) without it.

In addition to mobility and ubiquity, other key aspects you should keep in mind include:

  • Accessibility. Easily access the data no matter where you are, and no matter what type of input—type, text, speech and gestures.
  • Connectivity. You’re always within a Google search of the information you need.
  • Context sensitivity. Understand where the users are, when they are accessing the information and why they need it.
  • Individuality. Personalize, tailor and curate the information for the user.

These considerations have never been as easy to leverage in your business as they are now, with the onset of the mobile revolution.

How Mobile Affects Your Business Strategy
Next, let’s examine some of the high-level business benefits you should be considering for your mobile initiative. Hopefully you made note of some of these when you first contemplated embarking on the journey. Perhaps they were whiteboarded with coworkers, scribbled on a napkin over a coffee or tea, or recorded in an Evernote notebook while in a meeting (one of my favorite productivity apps, by the way). If you haven’t made such a list yet, please do so.

6 THINGS TO PLAN FOR IN YOUR MOBILE STRATEGY
All great mobile strategies incorporate the Six “P”s:

  1. Your platform choice
  2. How you procure the devices
  3. Device provisioning
  4. Content publishing mechanisms
  5. Your policy stance on acceptable use
  6. The procedure on how these are rolled out to your employees.

Learn more about the Six “P”s at floatlearning.com.

Think soundly about how you could see mobile making a positive impact on your company. You’ll be surprised at just how universal it can be in your overall business goals. Here are a few benefits you can consider to get you started:

  • Increased productivity and sales
  • Increased accuracy
  • Increased connectivity
  • Improved communication
  • Improved attention to detail
  • Decreased mistakes and defects
  • Reduced accidents and safety incidents
  • Reduced risk
  • Reduced overall cost of training
  • Measurable ROI
  • Increase in overall activity levels by completing tasks on the go
  • Access to just-in-time information when needed
  • Easy access anywhere to colleagues and your personal working network.

This is quite a list. As someone who must account for the value of the content you bring to your organization, if you could only accomplish one-third of these benefits on any routine project, you would have no problem getting management to sign off. It’s plain to see that virtually all these factors lead directly to a measurable, bottom-line result. These are the kinds of things that you can print on a report and take to your management team, and they will get behind your plan. You’ll know you’ve succeeded because your users will have succeeded. This is powerful stuff.

Let’s take a look at the details for just a moment. First mentioned in the list was increased productivity. That’s an easy one to prove. If you can put the right information in the hands of the right person at the right time, wouldn’t you be virtually assured that productivity has increased? It’s possible to create situations where this occurs with proper design, content strategy, curation, deployment and measurement.

What about those increased sales? This is also easy to foresee and later measure. If your salespeople had a direct conduit to the latest competitive information right at their fingertips, or the most pertinent details from the company’s cavernous customer relationship management (CRM) system, or the very nuances of the objection a current customer is raising, wouldn’t you be able to sell just about anything to your audience?

What about increased accuracy? Check. No more guesses. A quick search of the company’s mobile-friendly wiki or knowledge management system makes your employee the smartest person in the room by knowing last quarter’s numbers or whatever other minute detail may be needed at that moment in time.

Also, please remember, these devices were made for having conversations with other people. The very reason for their existence hinges around the ability to connect people with the information and contacts needed at any given time. With around 1.2 billion 3G subscriptions globally as of October 2011, according to the International Telecommunications Union, and 4G coming on strong in many major markets, you are always just one swipe or click away from the information you need… so long as your content creators have made it available for mobile.

With connectivity comes communication. When there is no problem connecting with the content, and the device is in your hand to reach the source of that content or other subject matter experts in your network, why wouldn’t you—in the vein of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?—phone a friend? It makes perfect sense.

A McKinsey report from July 2012 sheds light on how social technologies in the enterprise can be a boon to productivity. In fact, these tools could potentially contribute up to $1.3 trillion in annual value across the consumer packaged goods, retail financial services, advanced manufacturing and professional services sectors. That could mean a big boost to the GDP. The takeaway: coworkers who talk together produce together.

Colocation and improved attention to detail become a big deal when working on highly technical, difficult work. Certainly, ahead-of-time training is important for this. But when your technician wants to access a manual for a piece of equipment without returning to the truck, or a coworker forgets the sequence for an intricate testing process on the scene, what are you to do? Without just-in-time delivery of this information, the work might go undone, or perhaps worse, it might be done incorrectly. A decrease in mistakes is almost certain with mobile technology used this way.

Imagine this scenario: Several months ago, one of your employees worked through some training that was provided to her. But how can that employee access the same material on a smartphone or a tablet in a time of need? With mobile-ready content, she can always go back and refer to the important points of that training without having to sit through an entire module again. Curate, repackage and deploy the content for your mobile workforce, and see the number of recalls and elevated tech calls plummet.

Decreased defects would be great, right? Who wants to return to a recent job simply to rework or replace a busted part or ruined piece? This sort of waste can be costly in terms of time, equipment and logistics. With tools such as augmented reality or QR codes, you can rest easy knowing that the right part is being used at the right time with near-certainty.

Realizing Other Benefits
Beyond hardware issues, there is a human factor at play here. When you get a call from a dissatisfied customer because something has gone wrong, your customer service reps often have to save face by either calling up a tech to fix things or shipping a replacement item. Reduce that wasted time, money and product by augmenting your pick-and-pack lines via mobile job aids, or help your delivery staff stop accidentally shipping the wrong part to the destination by having up-to-date information available for them.

If you ask any company with a mobile workforce what their number-one priority is, it will inevitably be safety, as accidents can result in loss of time on the job due to injury. All the cascading changes in people’s lives due to disability and its long-term effects—not to mention accidental death—can be avoided. Putting correct information in a person’s hand about changing job conditions, a safety breach or other severe danger may be the only way to prevent a catastrophe. Since mobile is so ubiquitous, it’s perfect for near-real-time updates and messaging.

Finally, with reduced safety issues and accidents, your company’s overall risk profile is reduced. This is a number any accountant, actuary or bean counter would love. It may be a trivial thing to fix, but it could also have a significant financial impact. Now, that is power!

Grasping the Scale of this Movement
Adoption in the consumer marketplace is certainly bustling, and so is enterprise growth and adoption. But you aren’t too late to the party.

While more than 90 percent of the Fortune 500 has been testing out the iPad, according to Apple, small business is a little behind the curve in allowing these new devices into the workplace. A 2012 Cisco Systems survey of 1,500 IT pros showed that while 48 percent of companies said they would not authorize employees to bring their own devices to work, 57 percent of IT managers acknowledged employees are using personal devices at work without consent. Mobile is here, and it’s in your company already.

Using Everett Rogers’ well-known “Diffusion of Innovation” model (see chart above), it’s pretty clear we’re past the Early Adopter phase, into the end of the Early Majority, and nearly ready to enter the Late Majority.

This has some serious implications for you as a business owner or manager. Technologies entering the Late Majority phase are often commoditized and inexpensive, stable and mature. The infrastructure around the technology has had enough time to grow so that you have a wealth of products, services and even holistic solutions at your disposal to leverage. You aren’t a guinea pig at this point—there are a lot of options available to you.

After all, it’s estimated that the only human technology more ubiquitous than a cell phone is a toothbrush... though even that statistic has been challenged (See “Are There REALLY More Mobile Phones Than Toothbrushes?” at 60secondmarketer.com.) Simply put, mobile is everywhere. It’s time to put it to work for you.

So, what will you do? Keep letting your employees use their mobile devices to play the latest installment of Angry Birds? Or, will you take the time and effort to investigate how your business can leverage mobile to achieve some of those benefits covered here? It’s clear that there is a huge upside waiting for you, and you are not alone in this journey. iBi

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