Can Mobile Applications Endanger Productivity?
Mobile solutions are designed to increase productivity of the field users, and many successful implementations have proven this to be right. However, bad management decisions can jeopardize the productivity increase. Here is how and why.
How many times have you tried to arrange your daily tasks with a detailed “to-do” software, just to find out it’s over complicated and you better stick with basic Tasks and Emails, or even paper notes?
How many times have you started designing an excel sheet masterpiece with all the details you thought you will need, just to realize half of the columns you added can actually be removed?
Powerful software tools increase our appetite to do more than what we originally needed to, or planned to. It’s human nature, I guess. In enterprise mobility, executives often fall into this trap; they use the mobile tools to generate more and more data which they can later monitor and analyze. In theory it sounds like a good thing, right? You use powerful tools to not only better execute, but also to better measure yourself and improve. In practice, you need to be cautious, and stay away from overloading your field users with procedures and forms just to try and swallow more reports than you could ever digest.
A few weeks ago I visited a customer of ours using ClickMobile Advanced, running on Panasonic ToughBooks. During the visit, I met with a group of users who complained about the fact that they now need to fill-in a lot more information than they used to. They noted that they could actually do a lot more if they could just skip some of the procedures dictated by the software.
Funny as it sounds, they actually complained about having to do a lot more paper work in a paperless mobile environment…
As I don’t like being accused of ruining the happiness of our end users, I decided to drill into the details. You see, ClickMobile forms are so flexible and configurable (using the Visual Forms Editor); I knew it couldn’t be a software problem. Maybe something was simply configured badly?
I went over their forms and found that they were actually doing everything right: they used some dynamic form capabilities to highlight the important stuff based on the context, they implemented automatic fields population to minimize typing, they used smart validations to reduce errors, context sensitive filters to hide redundant information, and more.
They did most of the things right, except one: they created an impossible amount of fields to be entered by the field users. Data that takes too long to capture.
In fact, after checking some more, I found that the management added so many new steps to the jobs execution procedures that users actually worked longer than in the past, despite the intelligence of the new system. Or, as one of the users stated: “they force us to fill so many new fields just so that one person will be able to produce another report”.
Not taking any sides in this debate, I couldn’t help thinking about my “to-do” applications, or over-detailed excel sheets, and how I always end up minimizing them, turning them to be more practical by simplifying them.
Take Alliance Inspection Management (AIM), who has been using ClickMobile for the company’s 500 highly experienced vehicle inspectors. AIM managed to increase their productivity 100% (!), by doubling the number of appointments performed each day from 6 to 12 (read more about AIM/ClickMobile implementation in here). They managed to do so by keeping things simple for their field inspectors, turning manual/paper-based activities into automatic/semi-automatic actions.
The equation, therefore, is simple: Mobilizing your business means you can potentially do a lot more. Overloading data and procedures, (or should I call it: “paperwork”), means you will eventually do less.
My tip to you is to ensure the balance between the two is kept. This can be done by defining what you really need and keeping things simple. Compromising is not always a bad idea…