Synopsis: While large companies have struggled for several years with advanced use of smartphones and tablets, digital workplace frontrunners are seeing huge value from enterprise mobile tools designed for frontline workers.
One of the genuinely revolutionary aspects of enterprise mobility is the new opportunities it provides to open up digital channels to frontline workers. Those employees who work in factories, serve customers in retail or leisure environments, or who are out in the field have traditionally been a lower priority for digital services when compared to deskbound knowledge workers with easy access to a terminal.
Although home-access to systems has had some success and kiosks or workstation points have been provided, there has been little opportunity to use “digital” to improve the way people work.
Mobile empowering the “digitally disenfranchised”
Our new research report for DWG members, Success with enterprise mobile: how tools for frontline employees drive value, shows how this is changing. Forward-thinking organizations are leveraging the power of mobile to transform the relationship they have with their frontline employees.
Although this is still early days, the digitally-denied, many of who have previously not even had email addresses, are now becoming the digitally-enabled, accessing systems through both corporate and privately-owned smartphones and tablets.
This is important because frontline and mobile employees are a vital section of the workforce, and in some industries, such as airlines and manufacturing, may make up the majority. They also may be customer-facing and drive fundamental productivity.
The report finds that the changes from this new trend are being felt across three main areas:
- Efficiency: improving work processes, both for the individual and for the organization
- Innovation: forming new business processes and services
- Engagement: engaging frontline staff through communication and work improvements.
Driving frontline efficiency
Enterprise mobility provides an opportunity to access digital services easily at the point of work, for example on the factory floor, rather than from a separate office. This means digital tools can be embedded into core processes far more easily.
The report concludes that process improvement tends to be delivered in three different ways:
- Distributing content: by the delivery of data and knowledge, usually in context.
- Data input: by the direct input of data into systems at the point it is being recorded and in real time.
- Simplifying the user experience: improving the interface for access to content and completion of tasks.
Creating new business models and processes
Providing a two-way channel for frontline workers so they can input data and collaborate also opens up the possibility of working in new ways.
There are exciting opportunities for innovation through:
- Re-engineering processes to create new possibilities, leading to new services and business models.
- Providing a channel to crowdsource ideas and insights from groups close to both customers and core processes, which can be used to drive innovation.
A new basis for engagement
The logistical difficulty of reaching frontline workers digitally has in the past tempered internal communications’ efforts to truly engage this audience. Enterprise mobility has now removed many of these constraints, allowing early adopters to set up two-way channels with these employees and achieve very positive results.
Opportunities for organizations to improve engagement of frontline employees present themselves in five different ways:
- Levelling the playing field: creating equal access to digital services for frontline and office-based workers.
- Extending digital communications: opening up a digital channel for internal communications and engagement initiatives.
- Engagement through enablement: making people’s day-to-day work easier through enablement and better productivity.
- Appealing to Generation Y: engaging younger employees who are immersed in a mobile culture.
- Giving employees a voice: establishing a channel for dialogue with senior management so that employees feel they are listened to and that their views are important.
A seismic shift?
This trend is a particularly exciting one because it has the potential to bring the influence of frontline workers to the fore and fundamentally change the relationship between the office-based HQ and the manufacturing plant or the retail unit.
- Can at last give frontline employees a louder voice regarding management decisions.
- Leverage expertise, skills and knowledge which were previously hard to tap.
- Utilize new data “at the coalface” which was impossible to capture before.
Although many organizations are not very far down this road, it may just prove to be one of the most transformational aspects of the digital workplace over the next decade. If your organization is not actively planning changes in this area, it should start considering its options today.
See more of this research report
DWG members can download the full report on the DWG member extranet.