Wireless in a Wired World
Every industry has been touched and moved forward by mobile technology in some way. Airlines, hotels, restaurants, gas stations, banks – they all discovered that leveraging mobility to approach old problems in new ways was satisfying in a number of ways. It improved companies’ brands, improved their bottom line, and often created a better experience for their customers. And the solutions are as varied as they are plentiful. There’s an article I saw recently, called “Best iPhone and iPad Apps for Jehovah’s Witnesses.” It is pretty clear that there is no shortage of mobility solutions out there for every interest.
That is the true problem – an abundance of “solutions” that the majority of us do not have time to adequately evaluate. In a vacuum, no problem. In the face of running a business, and in some cases, just surviving, it is a lot to take on alone.
A statistic that shows the kind of leverage we’re working with: “A five percent reduction in operating costs has the same impact to your P&L as a 30 percent increase in sales.” – Gartner Group Consulting
Mobile technology, in particular, has great leverage in the realm of operating costs. Why? By definition, the world of operations is a collection of moving parts. And in that world of moving parts, getting information, people and things to move more efficiently is the daily task. It also happens that this is mobile technology’s crowning achievement.
THE REAL WORLD, EXAMPLE #1
Tablets and Construction/Blueprint App in the field; mobilize new drawings
Result: Needed changes caught in time; avoided costly re-work.
A large part of my background is mobile technology. I wasn’t there at the dawn, but I was there as it has hit its stride; and it’s been a powerful, far-reaching stride.
To understand the real power of mobile technology, you must first understand the evolution of the personal computer. For many of us, it felt like we just woke up one day and computers were there. Everywhere. Greeting us in the same fashion as our morning cup of coffee and newspaper. Although, the newspaper may have had some legitimate gripes about this newer member joining the daily routine.
Personal computers, in their time, have become ubiquitous and they’ve proven to be a vital part of our everyday life. But why? It wasn’t always that way. Sure, falling prices helped usher in widespread adoption. And with that adoption, you found at your desk a powerful tool of creation. However, what made it truly vital wasn’t what you could create, but rather what you could share.
The “killer app” for the computer is – and always will be – interconnectivity. Spreadsheets and PowerPoints can only take you so far. What’s your effort really worth without the ability to share it? Welcome to the heart of the “data (sharing) age.” And you are just waking up – again.
Enter mobility. While the killer app for the computer is interconnectivity, the killer app for mobility is portable interconnectivity. Anytime, anywhere access to vital, business critical, actionable information.
Mobility isn’t just a smartphone, though. It can be a tablet. It can be a GPS plug-in unit for your fleet vehicles. It can be a watch. Whatever its form, it’s what allows you to either consume or create – often times both – the lifeblood of today’s business: meaningful data.
You might think larger businesses have a disproportionate stake in this game. After all, they’ve got resources devoted to cleverly dissecting data and turning it into big gains. But mobility is the great equalizer. Small businesses have just as much to lose or gain (if not more) by being quick to the punch.
THE REAL WORLD, EXAMPLE #2
GPS tracking using “geofencing” and an in-vehicle GPS device
Company uses GPS and site information with what’s called a geofence – think of it as a virtual boundary set up around a job site that can tell when a vehicle/worker crosses that boundary. This can be translated into an easy way to determine number of hours worked. As workers drive into work and cross that “geofence” it logs start and stop times more accurately. It can feed right into a payroll system.
Result: More accurate record of time reporting; avoided costly “bloated” time reporting
In some Matrix-inspired vision, you must see your business as a flow of information. That’s all it is. From marketing to sales leads to project bid and spec to project management/completion to invoicing and payments received. It’s one long information thread. One repetitive cycle. And it’s your job to tighten up that cycle.
The problem? Moving parts. Sometimes, it can be hard to see the big picture when you’re one of those moving parts. You need some objectivity, and you should not shy away from talking to someone outside of your company. It’s good to be able to take that step back to see the forest for the trees. Whether it’s talking with another member of IEC, a friend who also runs a business or a vendor, the experience you leverage will be well worth the time spent.
I have had a number of “day in the life” meetings with IEC members to help them draw out what their daily routine looks like. At a minimum, it’s a great touch point for them to take assessment. It also provides “room” to brainstorm, and I can get their thoughts on things they’ve been meaning to tackle (but lacked time for). It is often a chance for me to offer insight into what other members are doing with mobile technology to overcome similar challenges.
THE REAL WORLD, EXAMPLE #3
GPS tracking using in-vehicle tracking devices
A worker had shown up in the system (GPS Tracking Software) as traveling back to his house before starting a job; he said he’d forgotten something; but he’d also billed the company for the time he went back to his house; this was then addressed in a conversation with the employee as to what are acceptable “billable hours”
Result: Behavioral changes for the positive; reduction in labor costs
The other aspect of mobility worth mentioning is how – when taking the smartphone as the prime example – it has blurred the lines of a “tool” in the workplace. The device that wakes you up in the morning, gets you caught up on your friends’ “likes” and pontifications, delivers your timely spousal texts (right in the middle of a big job: “I can’t believe you <insert latest *does not meet expectations* event>”) is also the same device that takes you through your workday of emails, calls and “how do I get from the office/house to the next job site?”
To describe mobile technology’s impact, you can use any analogy you’d like – the railroads, the industrial revolution, the automobile, broadcast radio/television, but the power of mobility is unique because, while it borrows characteristics from many of these impactful things, it touches our lives with broad brushstrokes and tailored individual nuance. Both our personal lives and our work lives will never be the same.
It’s the one thing we cling to in a way without precedent, especially in the realm of technology. And while it doesn’t come without its – almost parental – criticism and some eerily familiar sentiments, it has undoubtedly raised our standard of living.
It can also raise your standard of working. You just need to take the first step. One small click for man. One giant leap for mankind.
Peter Carrozza is a National Account Manager for Sprint, an IEC National Bronze Industry Partner. For almost 15 years, he’s been introducing “what’s possible” with mobile technology to companies, large and small, across the country. Sprint provides a special pricing program and special offers for IEC member companies and their employees nationwide. Learn more by reaching out to Peter at (703) 592-3308 or firstname.lastname@example.org.