There are almost 8.5 billion mobile connections globally and counting, up nearly 5% year-on-year, according to GSMA data. For enterprises, this represents a compelling opportunity: mobile maturity can lead to positive returns and more efficient business practices.
Many benefits can be reaped by companies taking a mobile-centric approach to workforce management (WFM), and especially for those companies with field employees across a range of roles – from sales and customer service to maintenance and production – which are increasingly reliant on modern mobile devices to remain productive.
Mobile applications on a smart device can unlock innovation in the field by creating new business models and helping to streamline field operations. Mobile apps offer organisations a better means of tracking fuel and labour costs, optimising delivery schedules and equipment availability, more easily communicating changes or site locations, and informing employees of the tools they will need for each job.
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With field workers able to perform tasks faster than before, businesses can not only better position themselves to maintain customer loyalty, but also can effectively service more customers in a day, with the potential to make an impact on sales and revenue.
But how can organisations maximise the benefits of mobility in WFM? Here are six practical tips to help organisations implement mobile technologies and mobilise WFM:
Identify users and their needs
Mobile is not a one-size-fits-all technology. The mobility needs of the salesforce will differ from those in field maintenance, and it is important that these tasks and needs are identified upfront.
Begin by identifying which field user profiles can benefit from mobile (e.g., sales, technical support, customer service) and prioritise one user group with a mobilisation effort that is tailored to their specific needs.
Engage users in the design process
Bring in end users and involve them in the early stages of developing the app. Enabling users to provide input early in the process can help keep the project on track to meet their expectations and needs, which in turn can ease adoption of the technology once it has been deployed.
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This collaboration between IT, the lines of business, and end users is essential. End users (i.e., the field workers using the mobile apps) should provide their input into design, specification of workflow and front-end functionality, with IT facilitating the technical aspects.
Don’t over-complicate it
Focus on solving the user’s needs and keeping the app simple. It can be easy to slide into complexity as the desire to implement apps that are able to perform multiple functions for WFM is tempting, but may not result in an effective app and may defeat the object of making the job at hand easier. Prioritise ways you can impact the business by streamlining field operations and improving the users’ working day. A good app should enable the user to perform tasks with two or three gestures.
Invest in modern technologies
Invest in modern infrastructure, platforms and architectures. Field workforce apps rely on the exchange of information captured on-the-go in combination with data from existing business systems.
Mobile apps can connect to these systems and their data using a cloud-based mobile backend as the abstraction layer. Back-end connectivity that is centralised, repeatable, and which keeps security top-of-mind can enable greater productivity and visibility across the app development lifecycle. This often requires flexible infrastructure and architecture that can respond quickly to demand.
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Consider the value of emerging technologies such as the Internet of Things (IoT), machine learning (ML), or other forms of artificial intelligence (AI), and how these technologies can be applied to field workflows to add increasing intelligence and automation.
A recent global survey conducted on behalf of Red Hat revealed how a combination of emerging and existing technologies can offer opportunities for innovative application solutions that can bring even greater productivity.
Additionally, modern cloud-based infrastructure, container-based platforms, and microservices architectures are being adopted in order to boost agility and innovation by enabling faster delivery and better management of today’s software applications. .
Prepare for continuous change
Be mindful that apps need to be easily adaptable for the field in the face of changing people, skills and processes. Being adaptable can help maximise a mobile investment over a longer term.
Platform technologies that incorporate cloud, application programming interfaces (APIs) and lightweight frameworks, combined with agile development and deployment approaches, can increase the flexibility of mobile apps to evolve with changing business requirements.
Determine what new or cumulative KPIs and metrics can be used to measure the success of mobilising WFM workflows as part of the business’ overall mobile app strategy. This helps the business understand where returns are tangible and quantifiable and where to prioritise efforts.
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Knowing an implementation is bringing value to the business and employees can also boost confidence in moving ahead with future mobile initiatives.
Mobile workforce management has the scope to improve workforce efficiency, to enhance the customer experience and ultimately benefit the business bottom line.
Mobile enables information to be created, captured and understood at faster rates in the field and in the back office. By thinking practically when implementing mobile apps, the potential of a connected, collaborative workforce can be fulfilled right across a business.
Sourced by Clare Grant, director, vertical market solutions, Red Hat