From The Editor | December 27, 2011

The Most Detrimental Mistake You Can Make With Your Mobile Deployment

By Sarah Howland, Editor In Chief, Field Technologies magazine

Happy New Year! You might expect me to use this column to discuss what I think the trends for 2012 will be, but I’m going to leave that up to the analysts this year. Instead, I’d like to use this column to revisit a topic that we’ve discussed many times — but one that somehow remains regularly ignored.

Let me share a quick story to illustrate the issue. This past week, while routinely visiting my doctor’s office, I had an interesting interaction with my nurse. The office recently switched over to electronic records, and instead of paper charts the nurses are now using laptops to gather and record all patient data. When the nurse came in and started talking with me, she was visibly frustrated with the laptop. While she refrained from venting her frustrations at first, she cut loose when I asked her about the laptop. She explained that she’s 65 years old, has been filling out paper charts for more than 40 years, doesn’t even have a computer at home, and didn’t receive much training at all on how to use the laptop.

Is her story a rarity? No. And that’s the problem. I can’t count the number of companies I’ve had conversations with that say if they could change one thing about their mobile deployment or offer one piece of advice to another company, it’d be getting user buy-in and properly preparing employees to use the mobile technology. It seems, though, that no matter how much we discuss this point there are still companies out there doing it the wrong way — purchasing mobile solutions to automate processes and increase efficiencies, but expecting to do nothing more than hand out the technology and wait for it to work miracles.

Success With Mobility Takes Effort
So what’s the lesson here? First, get your mobile workers involved early on. It’s imperative they understand the reason for the transition. Put yourself in their shoes, and think about how they’ve been doing the job and for how long. Be empathetic, and help them understand how they can benefit from the deployment. Also, they’re going to be the ones using the technology on a daily basis; they should have a say in what technology that is. Second, don’t expect the technology to do the work for you — you’re going to have to put in some effort. Plan for proper training, and take your time with it. Helping your workers feel prepared to use the technology will improve compliance. And get feedback from them along the way — don’t force them to bottle it up like the nurse I saw last week.