Efficiency gains from enterprise mobility

By Jonathan Nally
Monday, 06 June, 2016

Efficiency gains from enterprise mobility

Enterprise mobility solutions are transforming life for members of the workforce, and for their customers and clients.

Many aspects of information technology have the potential to transform the way enterprises do business, by improving efficiency, providing better customer service, giving more visibility into business processes and, ultimately, helping the bottom line. Such technologies include networking, cloud computing and storage, virtualisation and big data analytics — all of which are vitally important but do their work in the background.

The technology which provides arguably the most visible difference to the way business works in this day and age is enterprise mobility. Having data in the palm of your hands, through one kind of device or another, is the most tangible example of how things have changed — both for the members of the workforce, and for the customers and clients with whom they are interacting.

Survey after survey has shown that most people these days prefer to access information via portable devices. In fact, younger members of the workforce consider it almost a basic human right, and they are often astounded when joining a company that doesn’t use them. Sales and field service staff would be lost without them.

So it’s no surprise that companies have recognised this and that enterprise mobility, in terms of both hardware and software, is booming. According to a 2015 Ovum report on enterprise mobility management (EMM) software, the global EMM software market will grow nearly fourfold by 2019.

“While security concerns around bring your own device (BYOD) have so far driven this still-immature market, the opportunity for mobile enterprise apps to transform business processes is transforming this relatively niche market into a widely adopted, mainstream IT proposition,” said Ovum’s Richard Absalom, principal analyst and author of the report.

“As enterprise mobility management strategies mature, enterprise IT departments think less in terms of basic device management and security and more about how usage of these mobile devices can transform business processes,” Absalom added. “This inevitably drives them toward mobile app adoption.”

We spoke to senior managers from three very different kinds of enterprises to find out how mobility is helping them along that transformation road.

Going beyond

Hirotec is a family-owned national business specialising in the maintenance and engineering of integrated technical solutions in the fields of mechanical, electrical, fire and energy services. It has 200 employees and approximately 500 customers across Australia, and has recently deployed a mobility solution from Pronto.

“When choosing a business management software system, we wanted to ensure we were increasing mobility, efficiency, productivity and customer service,” said Paul Sicari, the company’s Executive Director.

“We wanted to transition all of our technicians onto mobile devices,” he added. “All technicians in the field were to use mobile field devices, moving away from written paperwork. There weren’t very many vendors that were capable of doing that, and Pronto was prepared to work with us on getting something like that out into the market.”

Hirotec has recently adopted iPad Minis; previously it had used Motorola devices. Sicari said that since the company rolled out the ability for staff to use Pronto Xi via mobile devices, there has been an increase in productivity.

“With the advancement of tablets and technology in the field, the amount of data that we send down to the team enables them to achieve a lot more,” he said. “We’re capturing a lot more information. So not only is productivity improved, but the amount of information we’re capturing that we’re able to deliver to clients — and the time frame in which it is delivered to them — is significantly better than you could do on the old paper-based system.”

Going down the mobile device path started as a product improvement project, but “now it’s gone beyond that”, said Sicari. “It’s about how we utilise the information that we capture in the field to more effectively improve our service delivery and our customer experience.

“We’ve been able to reduce admin time by at least 35% since implementing Pronto,” he said. “Staff who were doing very basic monotonous functions can now redirect their time to delivering customer value as opposed to just basic administration functions.

“Implementing Pronto has also generated significant cost savings for the company by reducing the invoice cycle for customers,” said Sicari. “It used to take a long time from the completion of work for a client to the date they were invoiced. We’ve been able to reduce this by 20%.”

Workforce management

Cara, the Community Accommodation and Respite Agency, provides support services across South Australia for individuals with significant and complex disabilities. It supports more than 680 people, along with their families and carers, across more than 50 sites and employs more than 700 people.

“We needed a way to manage information about our mobile staff and develop rosters that match support staff to clients based on availability, skills, abilities, interests and preferences,” said Todd Williams, the agency’s Executive Manager for Respite and Client Services. “This would ensure a more fulfilling work–life balance for employees and a better customer experience. The ideal solution was one that would improve the employee experience as well as reduce the time and cost associated with managing rosters.

“We chose to partner with WFS Australia to implement the EmpLive solution,” said Williams. “We chose WFS because their cloud-based system solution supports our mobile workforce across metropolitan and regional South Australia. For example, our Cara employees can now suggest rostering changes and accept or reject shifts remotely from their smartphones.

“The solution is cloud based, so system management, integration and upgrades are all externally managed, saving resources and money.”

Williams said that a key benefit is the ability to use the solution without assistance. “This means the team can create ad hoc reports when needed, for example, saving time and eliminating having to pay for modifications,” he said.

“We have seen cost savings thanks to reduced numbers of staff required to manage systems,” said Williams. “For example, in the past we needed extra staff on payday and to manage rosters. Now, these extra employees can be deployed elsewhere, where they can add value to our customers rather than managing internal processes.

“Our workforce management has also been centralised so team leaders can spend more time on the ground with the people they support, rather than drawing up schedules.”

Handling the data flood

Hamilton City Council in New Zealand is responsible for supplying clean, fresh drinking water to residents, and also for operating the wastewater treatment plant. To improve visibility into the operation’s performance, the council has deployed Rockwell Automation’s FactoryTalk software suite, which collects, stores and enables viewing of the data from all levels of the organisation, and provides secure access to the organisation’s system by managing contractor use and changes to the system.

A key result of the upgrade has been the flexibility it has provided for personnel operating the system at the wastewater treatment plant.

“The FactoryTalk software suite has enabled our team to be more flexible with their time, as we are now able to edit or update reports as we go. We now simply store our data directly into Historian and the data spreads directly from the PAC (programmable automation controller) to a human interface,” said Gary Pitcaithly, Hamilton City Council’s Automation and Electrical Manager.

“The flexibility extends to the ability of system users to remotely access the software from tablet computers or smartphones,” he added. “The team has tablets and smartphones that can access FactoryTalk View from anywhere in the world — if they are out of the office or on call, the system can be easily accessed and key changes made.

“The software [also] allows us to develop reports at will, whether it is for compliance to water standards or for other needs,” said Pitcaithly. “These can then be published as web-based reports that are available for anyone authorised to view them.”

Image courtesy NEC under CC BY 2.0

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