Turf Magazine - July, 2014

FEATURES

Breaking Down the Barriers

Tips to streamline the adoption of mobile technology
By Anne Bonaparte

Some habits in the workplace are hard to break, whether it's a giant white board where managers track completed assignments, handwritten timesheets from multiple jobs that must be turned in at the end of each day, or constant emails to inform employees of their next job.

With more smartphones and tablets in use at home and in the workplace, there is a great opportunity to leverage mobile workforce management solutions that can eliminate antiquated methods of communications. Mobile tools can help you and your employees simplify time management, eliminate paper processes, improve productivity and provide greater visibility into your operations. Sometimes it's challenging for people to change their work habits and move to mobile apps because they are used to the current processes, and may be uncomfortable with new technologies.

Because of the change associated with these new mobile apps and processes, you need to take the proper steps to ensure that your planned deployment will be successful. Here is a four-step process that will help break down the barriers and ease the adoption of mobile workforce management tools for daily routines.

1. Evaluate the proposed project

There are many different tasks that mobile workforce management solutions can enable you to do, from time tracking to identifying which employees are closest to the next job location to having real-time visibility into mileage and routes driven. In many cases, it's best to start small, with one stated goal, whether it's to reduce paperwork or to get better data from the field. A best practice is to introduce one step at a time.

For example, Minnesota-based Lawn Ranger, an outdoor services firm that does landscaping and snowplowing, among other tasks, deployed a mobile workforce management solution to dispatch and track its 250 employees who were responsible for snow removal. By leveraging employees' mobile phones and their GPS capabilities, Lawn Ranger managers can see if and when projects have been done, and mobilize employees to locations that still need attention in order to meet the deadlines of having snow cleared by 7 a.m. each day. The company also deployed the mobile workforce management solution to reduce back office paperwork, by adding an app that enables employees to track their time from their mobile devices.



Service vehicle management is more efficient with a mobile work management tool that provides real-time visibility into mileage and routes driven.

By clearly stating your objectives for implementing a mobile solution, and outlining the ways the new app or mobile workforce management solution can simplify routine tasks, your management team and employees will better understand how their jobs will be made easier.

2. Identify the appropriate technologies and vendors

The functionality and ease-of-use of different mobile devices and apps, combined with the support offered by a mobile workforce management vendor, will play a significant role in the adoption of new processes and the return on investment you can achieve as a result.

If you have employees who are not tech savvy, or whom you anticipate will be hesitant to change habits, you want to make sure that your solution offers a simple interface that will not require significant training to use. And, it also needs to work on the devices with which they are most familiar, whether it's a feature phone, a smartphone or a tablet.

For managers or those in the back office, you'll want to make sure that the system is easy to configure and maintain. Cloud-based mobile workforce management solutions offer a number of benefits. For one, you won't have to configure or update the software because that is the vendor's responsibility. And, because it's cloud-based, you should be able to access the management platform from any Web-enabled device, no matter where you are.



Lawn Ranger workers use a workforce management app to track their time in the Twin Cities market.
Photos courtesy of Lawn Ranger.

3. Budget for the best solutions to meet your needs

In many cases, you may think that the least-expensive mobile phone is the best one to give your employees because you'll save money on device itself and, perhaps, the service plan.

By providing your employees with smartphones or tablets, they may be able to do more with it than they could with a simple feature phone, such as capture photos and customer signatures or quickly fill out mobile forms to document completed work. Yes, the data plan associated with smartphones and tablets may add to your monthly expenses, but the return on that investment may be greater as your employees become more productive.

For this reason, you should closely evaluate the total cost of ownership before deciding on a specific workforce management solution and the mobile devices your employees will be using to leverage its apps. In many cases, I've seen that once a company addresses its first objective, they'll see additional ways that field workers can leverage the system and they'll want the right tool - a smartphone or tablet - to complete those tasks.



This past winter, Lawn Ranger used a mobile workforce management tool to dispatch and track the 250 employees responsible for its snow removal services.

4. Offer training to showcase the benefits of new mobile tools

Training and education are perhaps the key to changing employees' behaviors and smoothing the transition to a new mobile workforce management solution. By providing hands-on training and offering other resources to answer questions, employees will become more comfortable with the device and how the app works.

More important than showing them what buttons to push is to explain how the change in processes can help them do their job more efficiently, make their daily routine easier and enable them to be more productive throughout their shift. By sharing the goals of the mobile workforce management deployment at the outset, you can ease the transition to a new platform and encourage them to embrace technology to break the old workplace habits.

Anne Bonaparte is president and CEO of Xora (http://www.xora.com), a leader in mobile workforce management.