Companies can spend all the money in the world to put the latest technologies in place, hoping to streamline their operations and help the bottom line, but it quickly becomes useless if their employees can’t use it. Field Technologies Online takes a look at what it takes to design and implement a tech system that’s both easy to use and effective. Reprinted with permission.

Chances are good that if you’re reading this article, you are involved in a mobile initia- tive within your organization. You’ve probably read countless articles and analysts’
reports by now, and you’ve concluded as most organizations have that enterprise mobility is imperative to business innovation, growth, and profitability.

You have also probably gathered from multiple sources that the most common reason cited for struggling or failed mobile initiatives is lack of end user acceptance. The best technology in the world won’t do your organization any good if end users don’t use it, either because they don’t understand the value of changing their ways or because it’s too complex.

It’s obvious that one of the first steps in any IT project should be to involve the end users, but this step is even more critical for mobile applications. For mobile employees, especially field sales or service workers, time is money. Slow them down, and you’ll have a mutiny. Get them involved, and you’ll not only fail-safe your mobile application deployment, but create a vocal group of advocates for your initiative.

So what steps and considerations are critical to your mobile application development and deployment?

Complete Functional Solution

Early in the design process, take time to work with your end users. Understand where they experience pain points and bottlenecks in their workflows. Determine their data requirements, and make sure the solution provides everything they need to do their job. Don’t make the end user access a different application to read repair manuals when you could have that manual linked from their work-order screen. Don’t make the end user fill out a form or capture a signature from a customer when the device is fully capable of doing it. If you make the end user perform workarounds, you will have a problem.

Support For Multiple Devices

Historically, organizations have standardized on a few devices in an effort to control costs and manage IT resources. Even if you have been able to take a stance on one or two devices now, you will need to eventually strike a balance between what end users prefer and what your IT organization can adequately support. But remember this – giving users their choice of platforms greatly increases their adoption and uptake.

Native Interfaces And Commands

When designing your application, be sure to provide an appropriate interface. Don’t think that end users will be happy with a “Windows-ish” interface on their iPad or Android tablets or a Web interface on their Windows Mobile device. If you can use a single technology solution to allow yourself to write an application once and deploy to multiple platforms, you can create applications that “look and feel” native to the device, and you can save your IT staff a lot of work and grief.

Reliability Regardless Of Connectivity

We haven’t quite reached the utopia of ubiquitous networking yet, so plan for your field workers to need data in a disconnected state. Plan a solution that replicates necessary data to the device and allows work to continue if the connection is unavailable for any reason.

Integration Across Multiple Systems And Databases

Make sure the end user has one place to enter their data and complete transactions, regardless of how many back end systems are involved. A good technology platform should be able to consolidate multiple data sources and post back to multiple systems in the end. Your end user shouldn’t be burdened with finding or entering data in different places using different interfaces.

In summary, expanding use of mobility technologies is inevitable. But with up-front end user involvement and a flexible mobile development platform, you’ll be equipped to build and deploy applications that your end users are happy to adopt because it makes them more efficient and productive at their jobs.

Read more about mobile workforces on The SmartVan

ABOUT Field Technologies Online

Field Technologies Online provides is a resource for the optimization of field workers, service and assets. The publication's goal is to provide companies in the field service, transportation/distribution, government, public works and utilities industries with information on mobile technologies that can be used to improve productivity and drive efficiency.