Smarter Mobility: The Impact of Smart Devices in the Field Workforce

By | Oct 2, 2013
Topic: Mobile

It is without a doubt that smart devices (iOS/Android) have found their way into our hearts, minds and yes, even our businesses.  With Gartner estimating that more than 1.2B Smart Devices will be sold in 2013, a full 56% of Americans will own a smart phone and a full 1/3 a tablet. Gartner goes on to say that tablets will be the key accelerator to business mobility, estimating that tablet sales will more than triple by 2016, to reach 53 million units. So how does an asset intensive business take advantage of this growing phenomenon?

If you are in an asset intensive business, you know that a Computerized Maintenance Management System (CMMS), such as IBM Maximo Enterprise Asset Management, helps you to gain a comprehensive view of all your asset types, allowing you to align your organization's goals with the overall goals of your business. To gain even greater benefit and to realize continual ROI on your investments, taking that CMMS mobile is now a business imperative, resulting in such bottom line benefits as:

  • Reduction of Maintenance Costs
  • Increased Productivity
  • Decreased Backlog
  • Improved Safety

To make a smooth transition to mobile, however, you must adhere to the following three principles:

1)  Get Maintenance Worker Buy In

Just because it’s a good idea in the IT department, does not make it a good idea in the field.  Consider your workers perspective.  To gain user acceptance and avoid the misstep of ending up with shelfware, you need to ensure that you are giving your maintenance workers the application they need to do their job.  Consider walking with your maintenance staff and giving them an application that mirrors their known processes. Achieving worker buy-in from the start will lead to successful usability upon implementation.

2)  Choose the right device for the job

The multitude of smart devices is vast – ranging in attributes and price points.  The spectrum ranges from ruggedized tablets and smartphones to the ever-popular iOS choices (iPad/iPhone).  It’s important to note a few things when determining the device.  First, consider where the device will be used.  Oftentimes, it is not necessary to expend resources for a ruggedized tablet when a non-ruggedized version will do the job.  Second, determine how the job is being done.  For example, a worker climbing up a telephone pole might be better served by the slender silhouette of an iPhone or iPad.  Studies show that when technicians are using the devices they want, accidents to the devices are less likely to happen.  

3)  Go native

Both Android and iOS bring a number of native features that can benefit the field worker.  Using Native applications can deliver specific functionality to maximize their utility. Native applications can also provide interfaces that are optimized for screen size, device dimensions, and job performed.  Using the native device functions when building the application also provides an intrinsic benefit – users will immediately be comfortable with the application and require little to no training. Consider that in some user scenarios, limited connectivity will exist.  In those instances, it is important that the application be able to continue to work in disconnected mode with the ability to know when it is reconnected with the backend database – with no work being lost.  When disconnected, data should be stored on the device.  When the device becomes connected, using native push technology of the device (APNS or C2DM), data can be pushed directly into the CMMS providing for near real-time status updates.

Choosing the right partner

Taking these principles into account, choose your mobility partner carefully.  Choose a partner that has been accredited by IBM and has vast mobile experience.  A partner who can give your field workers (and thus your business) the exact application they require to do their job.  It is rare that field workers want to see Maximo on their mobile device.  Therefore, insist that your partner can provide a simple application that can take even any Maximo function or industry solution down to the mobile smart device.  The ultimate goal is a mobile application that your users want to use on a device they want to carry.

If you choose your partner wisely, you will be able to align your mobile applications with any Maximo workforce business or industry process -- making good business sense when extending your Maximo implementation to the field with mobility.


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