The previous part of this blog thread was about 2 cases….one about an enterprise app that screwed up things for pilots, co-pilots, passengers and an airline as a whole….and another, about an amazingly designed workforce application that is saving resource bandwidth across the globe.
We had promised you an extension of the piece, detailing out a little more of crucial knowledge about enterprise mobile solutions.
Before moving on to the remaining 5 points on what you should never do while building an enterprise mobile solution for your business, I would want to take you through another case of an enterprise mobility massacre. Irony is, established companies with amazing management, make these mistakes.
So, here is the case:
The industry we are talking about: Oil and gas
Why is it crucial?
Field data collection and transmission to central offices, is critical in oil and gas sector, specifically because field workers would generally work under extremely rugged conditions. Oil and gas fields are usually placed at locations that house dire climatic conditions and technological facilities. many of these places might just not have access to basic telecommunication network.
As such, most of the data gathering, feeding and documentation is done on paper. Paperwork is, as usual, manual…creating space for errors and faulty data reconciliation.
This creates a huge scope for mobility. However, that scope comes with a huge challenge — conventional enterprise mobility solutions would simply not work!
The case with this company
This particular oil and gas company in question, spent a fortune every year to get things done properly on paper. So much so, that additional costs were estimated to go up to $50,000, for each individual form. This cost included printing of forms, transporting them to fields, looking into their proper filing, storage of those files and finally, when the data got obsolete, destroying these forms manually.
Yet, these paper forms were seemingly the only way to get access to field data.
The paper protocol
These forms were printed at one designated printing house, from where, they were shipped to each extraction site.
Things went perfect till the point, these forms reached the field officers. Field officers were supposed to fill in these forms with data about the particular extraction field that they were working at. All these filled up forms were supposed to be transported back to head office at day end. Once back at
All these filled up forms were supposed to be transported back to head office at day end. Once back at office, data from these forms would be fed manually into a centralized digital system.
The problem with the paper protocol
- Field workers would stay busy with their stuff. Given the rugged and rough climatic conditions, the harsh working environment and the level of focus needed, it is obvious, not a lot of people would have the time to really feed in information with complete accuracy. As such, the forms filled, would have a lot of spelling errors, unreadable handwriting, abbreviations of larger phrases (used among workers for quick communication at oil rigs) and mistakes of the same sort.
- There was no way to have access to all the collected data, till the forms reached the head office. This meant, real time data access was impossible.
- While the filled forms were loaded for their return to the head office, a lot of them would be lost. Some would fly away, some would be soiled, some would get misplaced and yet some would get jumbled up with forms collected from other extraction sites. this led to a lot of data leakage.
- Once these forms reached the person who was responsible for feeding all that data into their digital platform, the most prominent problem arose — deciphering information. Given all the glitches made while filling in the forms, the one to enter data manually, faced this problem of decoding faulty language and spelling. Often, this would lead to wrong data entry. Let’s also, not forget, the mistakes that the data entry professional himself made while feeding data into the system.
- This led to wrong data analysis, which consequently led to wrong matrices presented to the management, and hence, wrong decisions being made.
The mobile solution thought out
A smartphone based model was devised out as an initial solution to the form-issue. Workers were handed smartphones. Instead of filling paper forms, they would now be required to send quick text messages to one designated person, who would then feed in all the information into the system.
Considering the surface view, it is an awesome solution.
But delve deep,
There are problems in the solution
- Rigs and oil sites often lack a functional mobile network, leave alone internet connectivity. Messages as such, stay in queue till the worker reaches an area of connectivity, which may be, at the end of a day or sometimes, even days later on. While previously, the delay was just till the point when the papers reached the office….now, it extended for more than 24 hours…making important data obsolete, till it reached its concerned users.
- The process of data entry for workers on site, did not change a lot. They still were in hurry, they still scribbled wrong spellings and they still used abbreviations.
- The problem for the data entry personnel at the head office aggravated further, because messages would arrive in bulk, often in tattered language. This led to piling up of data and consequently, frustration.
In a nutshell, a solution that was devised in the first place to make lessen an enterprise problem, only worsened the problem.
Going by the lessons, this oil and gas company learnt from its mistakes, here are the next 5 key points that you should never do while building an enterprise mobility solution for your business:
1. Never ignore the people, the solution is meant for
And by that, we mean everything about them — the physical and emotional states they work with, the climatic conditions they work under, the constraints they work under, the goal they work on, their grass-roots work culture, their way of dealing with mundane issues and the problems that they face while dealing with them. This company’s foremost fault was, they just considered the problem from their own point of view — increase in expenses. They did not consider further factors. It was basically a brainless solution.
This company’s foremost fault was, they just considered the problem from their own point of view — increase in expenses. They did not consider further factors. It was basically a brainless solution.
2. Don’t choose a technology path, just because you feel it is right.
Text messages??? Really?? You would ask, what else in a place where internet connectivity is zero?
The technological solution that was finally implemented to clear the mess
The enterprise mobile solution provider which had devised the final solution for these guys, came up with an innovative idea. They made digital versions of the printed forms, with drop down selection methods — no scribbling, no abbreviation, no spelling errors.
This form could be filled offline or online.
Whenever the smartphone could access internet connectivity, filled up forms would be directed to a central server at the head office.
Since data responses for all fields in the form were standardized, confusion relating to data was wiped out.
The central server compiled and analysed the data, thus minimizing the need for data entry professionals. This struck out possibilities of manual error.
It was possible to attach photographs of the site with particular forms. This solved the problem of important landscape pictures getting lost or ending up with unrelated forms.
The final solution took into consideration, the need of people and technological availability while thinking of a way out.
3. Don’t consider the cliche definition of User experience
UX is never just about design. It is about how a particular mobile screen can be made to lead users to a point, where they can identify with their goals easily and effectively.
The goal here was, getting field workers to fill in information correctly. It was an otherwise extensive process…workers didn’t have time to focus on the linguistic accuracy of the data being scribbled down.
Text messages could not have served the purpose.
A form with standardized entry values could have.
The crux is not in coming out with something out of the box or different every time. It is about figuring out, what would work the best. If convention with a bit of twist solves the purpose, that is the way it should be then!
4. Don’t forget the higher goal, while negotiating on expenditures
This is the mistake, this company made. They focused their attention to just one goal — bringing down the extra costs related to forms. They felt, messages are an easy way out. Handing smartphones to field workers does not make your solution, an enterprise mobility solution.
Handing smartphones to field workers does not make your solution, an enterprise mobility solution. The goal is to make things easy for people who work for you, so that they can focus more on improving themselves and their work environment and less on handling regular technical hiccups.
The goal is to make things easy for people who work for you, so that they can focus more on improving themselves and their work environment and less on handling regular technical hiccups.When your bring down system-related frustration, you would naturally be able to bring down costs.
When your bring down system-related frustration, you would naturally be able to bring down costs.
5. Always be Testing
Testing is not something that you do just before launch. In fact, testing should be an ongoing process. You should not stop at testing your apps on emulators. Go beyond it. Testing your app on as many devices as possible will allow you to dig deeper into issues, if you encounter any. Testing your app on a few devices and thinking you have covered both iOS & Android platforms is a recipe for disaster. Testing usability across devices including diverse screen sizes will give you insights to improve functionalities and overall user experience.
Also, testing security on a continuous basis is important. Just because your in-house team built it, does not mean its 100% secured. Think about worst-case scenarios. What will you do when you get hit by a malware? What to do in case of a total data wipe-out? Testing vulnerabilities and setting up security protocols to continuously monitor the quality of your app is crucial to enterprise success.
Enterprise apps have the power to turnaround the fortunes of your business only if you implement it the right way. Just building an app because your competitor has launched one does not make sense. There has to be an actual need to improve something or solve a problem when you are contemplating the enterprise route.
Even if you have discovered a problem and are sure that mobility will help overcome it, the real game starts how you approach and implement it. Businesses have seen their cost escalate instead of going down when they have implemented enterprise mobility. You do not want this to happen to your business. Enterprise mobility is there to solve problems and not create them. Follow the guidelines mentioned here and you shall be able to cruise your way with success.
Is there anything we have missed out? Feel free to discuss and provide your insights. If you have implemented enterprise mobility to improve your business, we invite you to share your learnings. And, if you are facing any difficulties implement one for your business or are stuck in between, get in touch with us.