Frontline staff understand the value of enterprise mobility

I have an uncle who is now a semi-retired “postie” (Australian slang for the people who deliver the mail). He loves his job, and he’s been a postie for a very long time. He’s now dropped down from full-time to a handful of shifts in a week, as he slowly heads into retirement.

Over the break, the family gathered at our house for a traditional Australian Christmas BBQ. In conversation, he asked how my business was going, and what we were working on at the moment.

I talked about our work on mobile solutions for staff, and the potential they offer. I highlighted the potential uses for on-the-road staff such as himself, including checking his leave balance and managing his shifts.

His eyes lit up immediately. Straight away, he got very excited about how useful a mobile solution would be for him. He listed a bunch of paper processes that could be eliminated by filling in the details on the spot on a mobile.

Going beyond that, he jumped straight into what could be done because the phone knew where you were. Such as getting a automatic notification that a nearby house has a parcel to be delivered, in addition to the normal mail run. Over five minutes he rattled off a dozen ways that a mobile solution would be great.

Two things jumped out about this conversation:

Field staff aren’t fearful of change

My uncle is a long-serving staff member, a few years away from retirement. The Australian postal service is highly unionised, and has had to wrestle with the same disruptive changes as other postal services around the globe.

In head-office thinking, he’s exactly the sort of staff member that would be reluctant to change his practices. By default, he would be assumed to have a low level of technology literacy. “Don’t ask staff what they want, as they can’t see beyond what they do today” is the common refrain.

My uncle is no geek in his spare time, yet he could immediately take the idea of a mobile solution and run with it. Instead of being reluctant, he was enthusiastic. He was very conscious of current inefficiencies and the need for change.

As part of our work, we’ve spent time with front-line staff across many different types of organisations. In all cases, we see the same thing: these staff are passionate about what they do, understand the challenges of getting their job done, and have clear and practical ideas on how to make it better.

Drive mobility from the front line

In ten minutes, I could’ve written down a page of practical ideas on what to deliver to posties. Imagine what could come from getting a dozen posties into a room for a few hours to talk through what can and should be done. Add to that some in-the-field needs analysis, and vision and plan would be an easy result.

Organisations should engage with front-line and field staff from the outset, and take a “co-design” approach to uncovering needs and articulating solutions. Starting with simple functionality, enterprise mobility can steadily transform how these staff work.

It’s an exciting new world, and not just for posties.

James Robertson
James Robertson is the Managing Director of Step Two, the global thought leaders on intranets, headquartered in Sydney, Australia. James is the author of the best-selling books Essential intranets, Designing intranets and What every intranet team should know. He has keynoted conferences around the globe. (Follow him on Twitter or find him on Google+)