Don’t make a mistake… – Part One

Don’t make a mistake… – Part One

Simon Morris
Simon Morris

Simon Morris, vice president of marketing at ClickSoftware, with the first five common mistakes to avoid when selecting and deploying a mobile solution.

Research firm IDC predicts that some 1.2 billion workers will be using mobile enterprise tools by 2011, representing roughly a third of the total global workforce (February 2010). Some of these people are almost exclusively mobile, whereas some will only occasionally use mobile enterprise tools.

Whatever the case, there are very few who would argue against the fact that investing in mobility has the potential to raise productivity, accessibility and visibility.

However, as many have already discovered, selecting and deploying a mobile solution is complex and brings many challenges and considerations.

Scalability, integration, device selection, wireless communications, security, working environments, and buy-in from the user are just some of the things that are involved in this area, and so the list goes on.


Along with the huge rewards it can bring, deploying a mobile solution can also involve many risks and potential pitfalls.  

Here are some common mistakes and tips to try and avoid them:


Neglecting the field users

It’s very easy to forget about the field employees. After all, they are mostly out of the office and we are all familiar with the saying, ‘out of sight, of mind’.

In many cases, the field users, the ones that will eventually be most affected by the solution, are excluded from the team that is responsible for evaluating and managing the mobile project.

Not only will they be the individuals most impacted by any mobile solution, but they are also the people who know all the details and can give the most constructive feedback on what is actually happening in the field.
Tip#1: When establishing the team, make sure you include a strong representation from the field (not only the top performers). Include a mixture of ages, experiences, personalities and people from different business units.


Being the first to try new technologies

Mobile technologies come and go like the seasons. Grandiose promises are often forgotten without making any real impact.

It’s very easy to fall into this trap, especially when technical experts are the ones actually pushing the trend.
But the fact is that a good mobile solution does not have to include all the latest and greatest technologies. It should include the technologies that fit the business needs, and therefore should be evaluated based on requirements.

Tip#2: Try and avoid being the first reference of a new technology, or else you may end up being the last…


Selecting the wrong mobile device

Mobile devices are not just a piece of hardware, such as a desktop. They are an integral part of the overall solution because they affect the way employees will use the system. Ffor example, PDA’s are much more portable than laptops and more likely to be closer to the user and constantly connected. However, laptops will allow more usability and more capabilities when using advanced applications.

Devices should be selected carefully by addressing three important questions:
1. The nature of the working environment
2. The nature of the business
3. The nature of the mobile software

Tip#3: Do not let IT executives dictate the device selection if those devices do not fit the business needs, and whatever you do, do NOT select the mobile devices before selecting the software; it may narrow down your alternatives in the future, or worse, it may not be optimal for your software.


Compromising on usability

Usability is an important aspect in any software application, but when it comes to mobility it is critical for the success of the project, because using a mobile device is different than using a desktop; users will often face a smaller keyboard or a device with no keyboard at all, plus a smaller screen, no mouse, limited connectivity and more.

In some cases the working environment will dictate uncomfortable places to work in, sunny or rainy weather that makes reading the screen extremely difficult and more.

Those are hostile conditions for mobile applications, and the users take no prisoners. If the software is not working properly, or if it’s not simple to use, they will simply not use it!

Remember that filling in forms, reporting ongoing statuses, and working hours are essentially administration and are considered a burden, which means doing them should take the minimum time and effort.

Tip#4: Whatever you do, do not compromise on usability. This tip is relevant for selecting the solution, planning the project, and implementation.  


Settling on a hardcoded, heavily customised solution

Every software engineer knows that hard-coding something means you pay less now but you will pay more in the future.

Many of the older mobile applications (or the ones that were built inhouse) have been designed specifically per client. Today those solutions are being replaced by much more generic and flexible platforms that allow companies to take control on the behaviour of the system, tune it when needed, modify the flows and even build new ones.

In today’s dynamic world, organisations must seek mobile applications that come with serious configuration tools allowing the solution to grow and progress with the organisation.

Companies that will fail to understand that need may select a customised solution with limited flexibility and will eventually find themselves replacing their mobile software sooner than planned.  

Tip#5: When selecting the mobile software, make sure you get a solution that not only includes an end user application, but also includes a set of administrative tools, configuration tools, and maintainable integration modules.

Part two of this feature with another five mistakes to avoid will be here next week! Watch this space!

ClickSoftware is a provider of automated workforce management and optimisation solutions for every size of field service business.

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