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Opinion: CRM on the move

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6th Mar 2007
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By John Salter, Pervasic

More and more companies are facing increasing customer demands at the same time as needing to increase the efficiency of their mobile workforce - and they are turning to real time mobility solutions to achieve them.

Delivering mobile solutions is different – mobility touches every aspect of the critical business processes and having a huge impact of the working lives of both managers and engineers. To be successful, mobility projects must be viewed as a business change process not simply as an IT project. The technology works; user acceptance is the key to realising business benefit.

The first step to success is selecting the right mobilisation partner – for mobility is an ongoing process as underlying technology changes and businesses extend mobile solutions across ever more of their activities. Key factors considered in the selection process should include:

• Does the mobile partner use a platform technology that lets the business mobilise different parts of the business while insulating running applications from technology change?

• Does the partner offer a managed service delivering end to end solutions that are proactively monitored to minimise the ongoing demands on internal resources?

• Does the partner have a flexible, responsive and speedy approach to mobile development – a 'can do' attitude that fits solutions to the customer and the users not the other way around?

• Is the partner referencable – what is the quality of their customer base, have they successfully delivered large scale mobile deployments, a key comfort factor in de-risking what can be complex business critical projects?

Having selected an appropriate mobilisation partner, the next thing to consider is how to deliver a successful project. There are a number of factors in play here but time and time again two emerge.

The first is not to underestimate the impact of mobility on the business as a whole. Successful projects are ones that take the time to re-examine existing business processes, both to streamline for business benefit but also to positively improve the working life of the user. Be aware of the internal resource requirements and make them available – no mobilisation partner can do it alone.

The second is to consult your workforce – at all levels – business managers and sponsors, IT, security, trade unions, but above all the users. User acceptance is essential - without it the project will fail. Users have an innate understanding of how the business works and their input can only add to the solution both for the business and themselves.

Mobilisation should be a win-win-win, for the customers in increased service levels, for the business in efficiency gains and management control and for the users in a better work experience.

There are many potential benefits for the user, but as well as selling mobilisation on these it is important to address the one overriding concern of workforces everywhere – is it ‘Big Brother’? Will the mobile device be used for tracking them and monitoring what they are doing all day?

Key enabler

Different businesses have different approaches to the issue. Some give their workers an undertaking not to use the devices to track their movements while others emphasise the positive aspects of being able to identify where a worker is from a lone worker or personal security risk perspective.

Businesses have even been able to defend accident claims involving workers by proving they weren’t in the vicinity when the accident happened. Usually the improvements in the user’s daily working life far outweigh any big brother worries. Consider a typical before and after scenario of a normal day and some of the ways an engineer’s daily life changes.

The first big change is at the start of the day – the engineer no longer has to collect the day’s jobs, usually done by driving to a depot or supervisor’s office. The jobs are there on his PDA when he turns it on in the morning, potentially allowing him to prioritorise his work – maybe start his first job early, finish it in time for the school run and then go straight to the next job. The ability to offer an element of flexible working and move to an output related not time spent culture can be a key enabler for the user and the business.

The second is the promise of no paperwork. The on-device workflow in effect completes both the job paperwork and the engineer’s timesheet at the same time. Bulky engineering manuals are made available on the device or by punching out to the company's intra or even extranet. Online ordering not only streamlines the business process and eliminates mistakes but can alert stores or suppliers to have the items ready for pick up or delivery at a time specified by the engineer to fit his schedule or let him complete a job while he’s still on site.

In fact, we recommend that companies run parallel paperwork systems over the early life of the project especially timesheets – the most sensitive area and the one where users must have complete comfort that the electronic version is not only right but because it’s more accurate reduces the queries raised and can help them be paid more quickly. Users in a bonus scheme also enjoy the fact that their PDA can keep a running total of their earnings so they can see exactly where they are & effectively manage their own hours.

Something not to be overlooked is the increased ownership of and pride in the level of customer satisfaction that a mobile solution can help the user offer – things like being more likely to arrive on time or if not being able to let the customer know, having the right parts to complete the job first time around, capturing certificates or customer ratings on the device not to mention being seen to represent a business interested in supplying their workforce with the best tools foe the job.

Mobilisation involves so much more than just the technology – throwing technology at the issue is not the answer. The answer is in working with a mobilisation partner that understands the business issues involved and works with the company at the multiple levels needed for success as well as providing the comfort their referencable expertise brings in de-risking what will be a major undertaking.

John Salter is CEO of Pervasic - www.pervasic.com

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