Mobile opportunities for field workers in government
A few weeks ago, we ran a day-long enterprise mobile strategy session at a government agency client of ours. We’ve been helping them design their new intranet, and it was recognised that mobile would be a key part of this.
This agency has a substantial field workforce, who check compliance with their particular legislation. This involves a lot of time out of the office, collecting information, holding discussions, and sometime issuing notices and fines.
Some end-of-financial-year funds had already been spent on a number of iPads, with the intention of piloting them with selected staff. But what to deliver now, and in the medium term? That’s what we explored in this session.
By the end of the day, we’d clarified the audience, the business objectives, and the functionality required. We’d also identified some of the constraints, and sketched a rough idea of what a mobile interface could look like. All good fun.
In addition to this, the day highlighted a number of fundamental observations and principles about enterprise mobility for this type of organisation:
- It’s about freeing staff from their desks. Due to the huge load of paperwork that needs to be done, these “field workers” actually spend most of their time stuck at their desks. Providing them a mobile solution is about allowing them to get out of the office, and to spend more time actually in the field.
- Rethink where work gets done. Today, the field staff collect information in the field (often by handwriting notes), and the “real work” happens at a desk in the office. What came through strongly was the need to rethink this, so that the actual work happens in the field, with the client. That’s a hugely transformational change, and one that promises big productivity gains.
- Points of pain are obvious. In addition to business stakeholders, there were two field staff in the session. This kept discussions at a practical level, and the problems and needs quickly surfaced. These were all obvious and important needs, and they weren’t hard to uncover.
- Mobile solutions for field staff are distinctly different. While mobile solutions for staff can focus on simple productivity tools, field staff needs relate to their key business tasks and systems. Their needs are more intensive, and more directly tied to core business for the organisation.
- Benefits flow from the user experience. Existing enterprise systems do what staff need, at least in theory. In practice, they’re complex, hard to use, and only available when sitting at a desk. Instead of just providing Citrix access from iPads and laptops and hoping for the best, the real benefits come from providing a simpler and easier UX for staff that’s designed for the mobile environment.
- Escape current solutions and assumptions. It’s easy to come at these things with a set of assumptions at what’s needed, based on how things are done today. For many participants in the session, these assumptions were turned on their head by the end of the day (in a very positive way).
- Focus on the 6-8 things that staff need. We’ve talked about this before, and it provided a great context for participants at the session to focus on the most important needs.
- Early solutions are simple. While there are some ambitious longer-term objectives, the day identified a handful of easy solutions that will add a lot of value.
All in all, it was a productive day, and we’re looking forward to seeing this client through to delivering a great mobile solution.