A business case for enterprise mobility (with real-life examples)
How do you capitalise on the true advantages of enterprise mobility? This is a very real challenge for businesses today, writes Geoff Graham.
Mobile technologies have driven remarkable changes in the way we work, create, collaborate and connect with people.
Whether we’re talking about BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) policies, mobile technologies or mobile workforces, just the concept of enterprise mobility is filled with the promise of greater productivity, improved efficiencies, and a stronger company culture.
But while many business leaders recognise its importance, few have managed to integrate mobility into day-to-day operations in a way that capitalises on it to the extent they would like.
The fact is, an aggressive ‘mobile first’ strategy doesn’t work for every company. Not every business challenge can (or should) be solved with mobile devices. So the challenge becomes how and where to implement enterprise mobility effectively to deliver the strongest return on investment.
In this article, we’ll explore some real-life examples that show the potential advantages of enterprise mobility.
But first, what is enterprise mobility?
When we talk about mobility today, we’re talking about a lot more than using mobile devices or enabling your workforce in the field with mobile devices.
Mobility also refers to the distribution of data.
Therefore, implementing an enterprise mobility strategy requires you to rethink the way data works in organisations and how people access that data.
For example, we talk about the ability for employees to do their work anywhere, anytime. But this is not just about managing the devices or apps; it’s about managing the data employees have access to, and how their data will be communicated back to a central system.
The more you understand about what’s possible with an enterprise mobility solution, the more likely you’ll find a solution that addresses the unique needs of your business and provides a strong Return on Investment (ROI).
Here are four real-life examples that show the potential of enterprise mobility.
Mobility advantage #1: Creating efficiencies in business workflows
Efficiency is a key value driver of mobility, as a large crane company in Western Australia demonstrates. One of the business workflows they wanted to rethink was the approval of purchase orders by managers.
Managers were on the road most of the time but purchase orders could only be approved when they were back in the office, which held up the entire billing and payment process.
As a solution, the company invested in an app that enables managers to see and approve purchase orders on their mobile phones. Within the app, the user can see a list of purchase orders needing approval, open the Purchase Order (PO), review details, and approve or comment. Any actions are then automatically updated in the central Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system.
READ: What is ERP?
The biggest advantage of the app is improved efficiency. Because managers can now approve POs on the go, without having to be physically in the office, days and even weeks have been taken off the business workflow.
Another example of how mobility transforms workflows is with timesheets.
For a company with hundreds of contract staff working on construction or mine sites, managing timesheets is a huge administrative task. Individual employees need to provide a summary of their daily work.
Traditionally, this was a sheet of paper on which they would write the time worked, out of pocket expenses, different equipment used, and more. This docket was then signed by the client or supervisor before being reconciled to the employee’s timesheet (also a paper-based process). Finally, this would go to the accounts team to create an invoice for the client.
This was not only a time-consuming and cumbersome process – it was also error-prone. If dockets did not go missing, accounts staff would spend valuable time trying to decipher handwriting or read through coffees stains.
For one contracting company, this whole workflow has been replaced with a single app. Employees can create a docket on the app and obtain a digital signature from their supervisor, while the app automatically creates a timesheet in the background. The timesheet is attached to the job for automated invoicing.
Using an app removes at least eight manual processes, not to mention the time and effort saved by the accounts team trying to manage the dockets.
Mobility advantage #2: Keep field staff connected and safe
Staff engagement is an ongoing challenge for companies with field teams, especially if those teams are working in remote parts of Australia.
The Western Australian crane company saw an opportunity to use mobility to help address this.
Western Australia is famously vast and diverse, so the company wanted to use a mobile app to communicate to its staff in different geographic locations.
An app was developed which notifies staff of cyclone warnings or extreme heat, reminds them to drink more water, and so on. This helps them fulfil their duty of care as an employer and proves to clients that they are proactively managing employee safety – a requirement for many companies in mining and construction.
Importantly, it also means remote staff feel more connected and engaged with the company culture, which can help improve retention and mental health when working in remote locations.
Mobility advantage #3: Free up head office resources to focus on value-adding activities
Savings in human resources is another key element in the payback calculation for mobility.
Mobile workforces typically have a small office footprint; they might have 100 people in the field supported by just three employees in head office.
With paper-based processes, the volume of work generated by those in field cannot be handled by head office. This creates major inefficiencies and delays in payments, both salaries and invoices.
However, mobility addresses this challenge by allowing field employees to raise POs and keep on top of their timesheet with only a phone in their pocket. So, head office staff can focus on value-adding tasks.
Mobility advantage #4: Empower employees to access real-time information
Equipping employees with access to real-time information can transform how they work.
For example, a surveying company sends surveyors to sites across the country. But with so much time on the road, the surveyors were not able to spend enough time on paper-based admin tasks between their office visits.
As a solution, the company provides surveyors with a mobile app, where they can see valuable up-to-date information on each job:
- Exact location
- Site contact
- Steps to take while on site
Users can also take a photo using their mobile and add it to the record as evidence they completed the job. They can directly enter information in the field, avoiding duplication of data and accuracy issues. Productivity is vastly improved.
Another important aspect to this app is its offline capabilities. Many of the surveying jobs are in remote places with no mobile reception. However, the offline capability means they can still record the job and the app automatically synchronises with the central system when they are back online.
An essential checklist for mobility:
- Put the users at the core
- Design your app with users first. Make sure it can be used by every person in the field, no matter their qualifications or education.
- Test out the app on a small user group first before rolling it out to all staff. This will help you both iron out any issues before deployment and work out the best way to train staff.
- Stay compliant
- Some companies still need to comply with industry regulations. For example, different states require a manual piece of paper in the cab with the driver, while others allow electronic records.
- Make sure your app developer is working with the relevant industry associations to ensure you are compliant in different regions.
- Aim for one, centralised business management system
- Design your app so it talks to your ERP and the ERP talks back. Your ultimate goal is to have a centralised business management system to which all the information is communicated. This provides one-source of truth and reduces double-entry.
- Ensure seamless transitions between devices
- Analyst firm Gartner finds employees today use an average of three different devices in their working day. They also move between devices to complete a single task – for example, from a smartphone to a laptop and back. So, it’s critical that your app enables seamless transitions between devices.
Enterprise mobility in summary
To recap, the advantages of enterprise mobility include:
- Increased productivity: Mobility empowers employees to find more productive ways of working, as they have the convenience of being able to access data and work processes anywhere, any time.
- Better engagement: The ability to work more productively and communicate more effectively leads to higher employee engagement, and therefore better staff retention.
- Data accuracy: Employees have access to the most relevant, real-time data at their fingertips, which leads to better work outcomes.
- Reduced costs: Better data accuracy and less reliance of paper-based processes means processes are more efficient, which leads to cost savings.
Any business that’s serious about improving efficiencies, managing workflows, enhancing productivity and engaging their workforce needs to adopt some form of enterprise mobility management strategy in the coming years. It’s no longer a want; it’s a need.