You’ve heard of the benefits of increasing efficiency, reducing costs, and better-serving customers that going mobile provides. You’ve decided to digitise your paper processes and make the switch.
But chances are you’re now wondering just how to make the switch. Where do you begin? What do you need to do? Is there a guide to follow for a successful transformation, and are there things to keep in mind and avoid? Read on for how to implement mobile technology well - things to think about, ideas to incorporate, and how to avoid pitfalls and problems.
Step 1: Initial evaluation of mobile engagement benefits and opportunities
So, you’re going to go mobile…
You might want to go mobile because you want real-time robust data without delays, the ability to instantly connect the office with field workers and team leaders, to eliminate paper handling and smooth out admin, and to ensure processes - like health and safety and inspections - are done correctly.
Going mobile certainly has many advantages - if done the right way. Do it wrong, however, and it’s a lot of time and money wasted. This is why it’s important to first evaluate the benefits and opportunities that mobile technology can bring to your business.
Mobile Technology for Civil Construction
A good example of an organisation that got things right is Schick Civil Construction who invested in mobile technology to gain access to real-time data, monitoring and reporting because they knew this could lead to a more efficient and cost-effective business model.
Schick is a major force in New Zealand’s civil construction market - building civil structures, roads, landscaping, drainage and more - they had a significant need to record hours worked at job sites across the country.
Using Tabral’s platform, the company built a timesheet app that replaces paper timesheets with an electronic form on employees’ phones or tablets. Easy to complete from anywhere, the form takes just a couple minutes to fill out, with the data then delivered to Schick’s systems. The app even works offline, with data stored offline and then uploaded once mobile service is available again.
“We integrated the apps with other technologies we use, such as GPS. The Tabral system is scalable, and forms are easy to configure, which means it’s simple for us to develop more custom forms and then deploy them within the same app. This negates the need for multiple apps, which is so common in today’s world of ‘app overload.’ We can see the opportunity to do a lot more in the future within the same app, and that is an exciting prospect.” Schick IT.
The key learning from Schick’s success is that it’s vital to first evaluate the opportunities and benefits of mobile technology for your business, as well as invest in a platform that is easily scalable and able to integrate with multiple use cases in your business.
By doing this, you can ensure that you get the most out of your mobile technology investment.
Step 2: Consider implementing a mobile platform
The advantages of mobile apps are many. There’s convenience, for one. There’s also easy communication with customers and the ability to use them from anywhere. Plus, all you need is a smartphone, which most people in your organisation will probably already have.
There are some disadvantages, like the difficulty and cost to digitise processes - if you don’t have the right platform. That’s the key: in fact, having the right mobile platform means the costs associated with making and supporting mobile processes are minimised.
Even more importantly, having the right mobile platform means you can share data easily with the people who need that data, such as truckers filling out digital logbooks accessible by other parts of the organisation.
Some other advantages of a mobile platform include:
- Making and modifying lots of apps using a single technology
- Giving the business flexibility and adaptability
- No dependency on “developers”
- Better ability to be competitive
- Greater return on investment than expensive, in-house development projects
Adaptability and ease of use can be especially advantageous for almost every organisation - just look at how a mobile platform helped NZ Farmers Livestock.
Mobile App Technology for NZ Farmers
With 50 agents arranging sales, managing auctions, and dispatching stock to abattoirs and farms all over New Zealand, keeping accurate records is one of the most important things for the business. However, agents were recording entries with paper forms, faxing, scanning, and emailing them to the office, which then required managers to piece together details of stock numbers and breeds to match them to the correct customer accounts.
It was a slow, inefficient process - until it was time for an upgrade and put the old system out to pasture for good.
“Our agents in the field already have iPhones,” says IT manager Mike Shaw.
“Tabral showed how we could start building apps to capture bookings and create accurate records, rather than relying on agents to ring the office or send text messages.”
The first app they made was an auction booking app called Booking In. Interfacing with the company’s data, it was easy to make with support from Tabral. It has drop-down menus for agents to enter data, which is then sent to regional offices where staff can see the information.
“Once we saw how easy it was to use the Booking In app, we created another one for agents to use when creating sale notes.”
He adds they also created apps to capture expenses for Fringe Benefit Tax and process annual leave applications.
The mobile apps were enthusiastically adopted by agents in the field, resulting in quick, reliable capture of essential business data.
“The attitude now is that, if it’s a paper process, it can be pushed to an app,” says Shaw.
“The support from Tabral was really good. I was able to use their tools to create the livestock booking app our business needed, and we’ve gone on to create many more.”
This shows that mobile apps can easily be created with the right technology and guidance to improve business processes.
Investing in a platform like Tabral and getting support to develop bespoke mobile apps can ensure your business processes are streamlined and efficient. And with the right app integration, you can look forward to better decision-making based on real-time data.
Step 3: Plan ahead for known challenges
What are the challenges with using mobiles?
Of course, mobiles do present a few challenges. For one, cell tower networks can be vulnerable - they can be taken offline if something such as a cyclone hits, or their range can be limited. As we all know, despite satellite-driven improvements, phone service isn’t available everywhere, especially in rural environs - this is why offline functionality is needed.
Devices also need to be charged, be it at a power point or in a car - it’s rather hard to use apps when your phone’s dead, and apps can use up a fair bit of battery life. Devices can also be easy to use - unfortunately, many of us know this all too well.
It’s also important to think about what would happen if someone discovered an unlocked device with data from your organisation in it. What are your data security policies? Password policies to prevent unauthorised people from accessing data on devices?
Having policies can help with all this and is something you should plan for - just like you should plan for potential downtime for maintenance or developing apps in the first place and breaking them in, as people get used to using the apps compared to old paper forms. Chances are, there will be a transition period.
Mobile technology for rural contractors
Ashburton Contracting Ltd (ACL) is one organisation that managed to overcome these challenges. The 130-strong team monitors three sewage treatment plants and 13 water treatment plants in the vast, wide-open Canterbury region - a place where mobile service can sometimes be spotty and there can be large distances between communities and plants.
The company’s technicians would jot down information on bits of paper, then return to the office, where the information on paper would be entered into spreadsheets. It was a complicated, time-consuming process.
“Then someone suggested we look at Tabral,” says IT manager Grant Boniface.
An app was created, making monitoring performance and capturing data easier than ever - all technicians must do when they visit a plant is to reach for their mobile tablets, open the Tabral app, enter readings, and press send. Even better, if coverage is poor, the app waits until there is a stronger signal to send the data.
ACL was able to create another app with Tabral, too, working with Nimbus enterprise software to compile checks, assessments, photos and site data from areas where a pipeline might be built, into a simple, one-step process that can easily be accessed and understood.
Empowering users is important, too. You can teach users more about how their mobile device works so they can troubleshoot on their own - and not overload already overworked IT teams, saving time and money.
You can also teach users how to check for connectivity and how to conserve power to maintain power throughout the day - that way, the job can be done quickly and efficiently (and again saving you and your organisation time and money).
Remember, too, that each device is like a company computer. This means they should have similar processes for usage and policies like you have for other pieces of company technology.
According to Harvard Business Review, there are five crucial elements that are needed to carry out a successful digital transformation in a business.
- People - Consumers, staff and clients
- Data - Records of customer, employee, and client interactions that are easily available and retrievable
- Insights - A trustworthy model or framework that enables you to interpret the data and give meaning to it.
- Actions - Insights-based adjustments to behaviour, decisions, and strategy
- Results - Measuring the effectiveness, impact, and usefulness of the acts.
In other words, “transformation” rather than “digital” is the crucial component of digital transformation. And with the right tool and support, you can easily make it happen. Mobile technology can be the starting point to unlock new opportunities in your business and achieve true transformation.
“The Tabral and Nimbus people made it all possible,” says Boniface.
“They understood what we wanted and ensured the app worked the way we envisaged.”
Step 4: Implement mobile technology changes
If you’re all ready to get going with mobile technology, there are a few more things to keep in mind before you dive right in.
For starters, consider IT best practices and having a test group first. Start with a single business unit. What do they like about the app you’re hoping to roll out? What would they like to see different about it, or improved? Their feedback could prove incredibly valuable before large-scale deployment, potentially allowing you to work out any issues or bugs.
You can also pair up more experienced mobile users with those who are less experienced. This buddy system can help bring more people in your organisation up to speed with how to use apps you’re hoping to roll-out, and hopefully train others.
You can also learn from this: what parts of the app are users struggling with? What features do they find most beneficial?
“The beauty of the Tabral system is that we don’t have to hire software developers at $200 an hour to code each app,” Dean Currie, SGS says.
“If there’s a business process I want to turn into a mobile tool, I can create a new app in 30 minutes. I could have it up and running within hours, available for our guys to use on their smartphones.”
He adds: “Having the ability to create our own apps has helped us ensure safety, drive efficiency and provide a better service to our customers every day.”
Step 5: Choose a compatible device
What’s best for your business: Android or Apple? Does it even matter anymore?
Both Apple and Android have their devoted fans - to the point they’ll often tell you they’ll never use any other type of device.
But which you decide to use for your organisation’s mobile apps - or if you decide to use both, which you most certainly can do - comes down to a few factors that would be good to take into account when making your decisions.
Price is a big one. What’s the cost per individual device? What is your overall budget? Are these devices that your organisation will be purchasing, or will you expect staff to have their own devices? If you have 100 staff and each device costs $1,000, then the costs can add up very quickly.
Of course, not all phones are created equal. Each has different features - and you’ll need to know which ones you’ll want. Does the device need a good camera to easily upload photos from site inspections to the safety and compliance app you create? Have you considered asking staff what features they like in a device that helps them do their jobs better?
Security is also important. Like a computer, you might want to invest in security software for your devices. As discussed earlier too, this also includes what your policies are around data security, two-factor authentication, passwords, and even who can access devices.
The elephant in the room is personal preference. Some people love Apple products. Some people don’t. The same goes for Android.
You might have a preference, but which do your staff prefer? If you have to choose only one (again, many organisations use both), then it could be a good idea to ask staff or have a poll, since they’ll be the ones using the apps created.
- Ongoing service/repair costs need to be factored in, also. Many Apple devices can only be repaired at authorised dealers. But they also often offer a very high level of support if something goes wrong or needs to be fixed. Plus, they top the list of the best business smartphones due to features that are great for productivity and always-on functionality.
Once you’ve decided which devices to use, you can start improving processes, particularly with apps.
Mobile technology in Healthcare
Taranaki DHB is one organisation that can attest to the benefits.
“We have integrated Tabral into our existing systems and created an end-to-end view,” said IT project manager John Moodie.
“This is a big deal for us. Once you have captured data on the mobile device, it can be routed to multiple endpoints both within the Taranaki DHB and with partner organisations who need to be aware of events that affect patients in common.”
Working with mobile apps has also meant nurses can spend more time with patients - and even more importantly, provide better care.
“We see Tabral as a real positive for public health nurses and our patients,” explained Taranaki DHB public health nurse Kelly Iremonger.
“Electronic form filling has many benefits, the most valuable being that it gives us more time with patients. Furthermore, we have a complete patient history to hand and one that is more confidential because it is encrypted and held electronically. And the health benefits of not having to lift heavy bags of patient files is also a huge benefit.”
Mobile technology For Stats And Surveys
Statistics New Zealand are also using mobile technology to great effect - in their case, getting data in real time that had been collected with pen and paper for 100 years.
The solution created allows Consumer Price Index data collectors to visit shops around the country and enter the prices they find on their tablets, with the information sent straight back to Statistics New Zealand. They previously had to write down the price of 31 different fruits and vegetables on paper, and have the information sent back to offices in Wellington.
“I hope it gives confidence to all the other government departments to implement our mobile data gathering solution because it has the potential to save the taxpayer millions of dollars each year.”
With the rise of mobile technology, there is no excuse for any business not to take full advantage of it. The five steps laid out in this article are a good place to start when deciding how to implement mobile technology into your own business: an initial evaluation of its benefits and opportunities, consideration of a platform, policies to address challenges, implementing changes and finally, choosing the right device.
If you feel implementing custom mobile technologies can help your organisation work smarter, become more efficient and save money, then Tabral can help. Get in touch with us today - helping organisations do things better is what we’re passionate about.