10 advantages of focusing enterprise mobility on frontline workers

April 8, 2014 by

Synopsis: Enterprise mobility is still at an early stage of maturity in most organizations, but interest is accelerating. There are ten core advantages of mobility, including portability and the ability to capture data in real time, which help unlock value for frontline workers.

Enterprise mobile for frontline workers - Digital Workplace Group DWG
Download a free executive summary of DWG’s new research report
Success with enterprise mobile: how tools for frontline employees drive value.

In our recent blog post we highlighted how DWG’s new research into enterprise mobility shows how tools for frontline employees can empower the “digitally disenfranchised” by 1) driving efficiency; 2) creating new business models; and 3) forming a new basis for engagement. In this second post, we’re going to look in more detail at the characteristics of mobile devices and the associated benefits.

A growing interest

Over the past few months we’ve noticed a definite upturn in interest about enterprise mobility among intranet and digital workplace managers. For example, this was reflected in the popularity of DWG’s member visit to Barclays Bank, who demonstrated their highly regarded MyZone mobile intranet environment.

It has also been shown in surveys like Jane McConnell’s Digital Workplace Trends, which predicts that between 30% and 40% of organizations will be providing mobile services for the workforce by the end of 2014.

Early days

However, despite this trend, most organizations are still at an early stage of mobile development. Many are only at what might be politely termed the “vague investigation” stage and, in many cases, frontline workers are not even the priority area for access.

This is despite many organizations recognizing that reaching out to frontline workers is critical. In fact, the survey we carried out to accompany our research suggested that 86% of respondents feel that frontline access to the digital workplace is key to empowerment and engagement, with 61% responding that it was a strategic priority for their firm over the next five years.

The benefits of the mobile device

One of the reasons enterprise mobility has the potential to be so powerful for frontline workers is because the characteristics of the device allow it to be used in many different situations, usually in the context of an employee’s normal activities. For example, a retail worker can access product information in real time to help customers, or a factory worker can report an issue with a piece of machinery at the point of discovery.

Many of these are to do with the portability and availability of the device but also native features, such as the in-built camera, can be valuable. Another advantage is the fact that an individual may own their device.

We have identified ten specific advantages of mobile devices which contribute to value for frontline employees.

  1. Portability
The ability to use the device anywhereUse the device on a factory floor or when on the goExtend digital communication and capability to all employees, leading to engagement and enablement
  1. Availability
The ability to use the device at any timeUse the device to view content while in transit; receive updates instantlyBetter productivity: employee choice about when to view content; critical operational information delivered and read in real time
  1. Sharing
Ability to share the device screen easily with othersSharing a tablet screen with a customer; sharing a tablet screen with colleaguesEnhanced customer service; knowledge transfer and learning
  1. Access data in context
Ability to access relevant data and content at point of needAccess specific data relating to a machine on the factory floor or about a product when talking to a customerBetter productivity; better customer service; access to critical knowledge for safety and upskilling
  1. Capture data in real time
Ability to capture and upload data to systems at the point of recordingRecord factory or machine inspection data in real time direct to systems rather than having to enter the data later as a separate process via the desktopImproved accuracy of data; better productivity through process improvement; business intelligence in real time
  1. Improved user experience
Streamlined and improved user experience compared to the desktop equivalentA simpler interface for basic processes and transactions such as submitting holiday requestsHigher adoption; better engagement
  1. Personal ownership of devices
Enabling access to corporate systems through employees’ own mobile devicesIntroduction of BYOD policies so staff use their own tablets or smartphonesReduced costs; higher adoption; better engagement
  1. System independence
Ability to deliver functionality without affecting other systemsDelivering enterprise functionality quicker than a desktop equivalentProcess efficiency; reduced costs
  1. Geolocation
Ability to log position of device and usersUse of interactive maps or the recording / logging of location-specific dataProcess improvement; better productivity
  1. In-built camera
Use of the device’s in-built cameraScanning data such as QR codes in order to upload data into systems; recording of video and photos for knowledge sharingProcess improvement; better productivity

Looking to the future

Many of the above advantages are based on a definition of mobile devices as smartphones and tablets. Of course, the landscape is likely to evolve rapidly. Wearable tech on the horizon, such as Google Glass, looks set to create even more opportunities for frontline employees to access the digital workplace.

Given the fluidity of enterprise mobility, as well as the many current associated benefits, we believe that opening up digital channels through enterprise mobility should be high on the agenda for any organization which has a significant proportion of its workforce not sitting in offices.

Acting now not only means building a competitive advantage, but also preparing for the future where every worker, whether they sit at a desk or not, will be digitally enabled.

Related research

Success with enterprise mobile – how tools for frontline employees drive value

Success with enterprise mobileEnterprise mobility can be a game-changer for large organizations. But the focus thus far has been on tools that office-based knowledge workers can take on the go.

The detailed case studies and analysis in this report show that true value lies in tools for frontline workers on the factory floor, in retail outlets or out in the field.

Download the free executive summary »

DWG members can download the full report on the DWG member extranet.

Categorised in: Collaboration, Digital workplace, Internal communications, Mobile sites & apps, Research reports, ROI & Business Case

Steve Bynghall

Steve Bynghall is a freelance consultant, researcher and writer specializing in the digital workplace, intranets, knowledge management, collaboration and other digital themes. He is DWG’s Research and Knowledge Lead, a benchmark evaluator and research analyst for DWG.

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