Much has been made recently about how smartphones, tablet PC s and other mobile devices are redefining the ways
that workers access and use an organization’s content -- and it’s all true. In the span of less than a decade, mobile devices have gone from high-priced novelty to mainstream commodity enabling mobile content management. Smartphones, especially, have been outpacing traditional PC sales by wide margins. They are putting into our pockets more information than existed even a generation ago.
People today routinely surf the Web and log onto their corporate systems from anywhere at any time. From the standpoint of information management, that means your content can propagate as never before. Assuming all the proper compliance and security Is are dotted and Ts are crossed, it opens the door to new levels of business performance as you implement mobile enterprise content management.
The first step toward achieving these potential gains is to understand that there’s nothing magical about mobile technology and that the business processes you are trying to improve are the same as they always were. For example, if one of your tasks is to sign for packages as they come in the door, remember that this didn’t change when the paper pad on which you affixed your signature was replaced by a digital device.
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This is also how it is with information capture, processing and use. The fact that much of it can be done on a smartphone or tablet doesn’t change anything about the work. It’s important to emphasize this because there is a real risk of chasing after the latest shiny technologies simply because they are shiny. Don’t lose sight of what you are actually trying to accomplish.
Fundamental pluses: Saving time, avoiding errors
Most executives will say that they are embarking on the technology trail to save money, drive costs out of the business and do more with less. But what happens in practice is that organizations end up finding better ways to work, and while that might decrease expenditures, the real benefits accrue in terms of the greater efficiencies, saved time and reduced error rates that new technologies often enable.
This is another point worth emphasizing because the ultimate goal in mobile content management must be to work better, and to work better together -- a long-time Holly Group mantra that applies to any technology in your stack. But mobile technology is especially well-suited to make this happen because, by definition, it goes everywhere your users do.
Here are just a handful of real-world examples to fire your imagination:
- A business traveler captures images of receipts with a smartphone camera and uses the phone’s built-in messaging capabilities to submit the receipts for processing and approval.
- A manufacturing director uses mobile ERP software on a tablet PC to check the status of inventory or report on production from the shop floor.
- An architect or contractor uses a tablet to make changes to building plans and input a signature authorizing them in real time at a construction site.
- An IT project manager uses a mobile device to access a shared workspace and collaborate with colleagues in other locations.
- An operations director leverages the GPS capabilities built into a smartphone so employees on the road can be redirected during pickup and delivery routes.
Though these applications involve different kinds of personnel, they share the same potential to speed up business processes and cut down on opportunities to introduce errors (such as might occur, say, when a project manager has to listen to someone read a document on a conference call instead of viewing it online). That’s what it’s all about.
Baby steps vs. giant leaps
The business gains made possible by mobile devices typically are pursued in one of two ways: by taking baby steps to ease the way into the new mobile environment, or by taking giant leaps right from the get-go. A lot of people will tell you that one way is better than the other, but in fact, either can be an effective route to follow toward enabling business information use on mobile devices. The trick is to match the approach to your corporate culture and comfort level. If change in general can be challenging to promote and manage, changes involving an asset as fundamental your organization’s content might prove particularly difficult.
The primary difference between the two approaches is the scale of the initial work. Generally speaking, starting small and working outward is a good idea so that fallout from lessons learned can be contained to a more limited area of the business.
Either way, here are some rules of thumb that are worth paying some mind:
- Be sure to take stock of your IT and content management infrastructures before you actually begin building anything to ensure that content can be readily repurposed for viewing and use on different platforms and in different formats.
- Take the measure of your corporate culture to ensure that the idea of embracing untethered users doesn’t alarm any senior managers who are constitutionally opposed to doing anything that smacks of dissipating organizational control of content.
- Study use cases in your industry so you can learn from the mistakes of others before you make them yourself.
- Consider mandating the use of a particular mobile device or platform, and perhaps even supplying users with the equipment, to make sure that your IT department can provide support in the manner to which business users have become accustomed.
By following some simple guidelines, your business can be on the forefront of the mobile revolution and make sure organizational content is used to improve both workforce and business performance.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Steve Weissman provides guidance and professional training on content, process and information management. Weissman is president of the AIIM New England Chapter and principal consultant at Holly Group. He can be reached at email@example.com.