In the healthcare industry, where costs are high and margins are thin, keeping the workflow smooth and efficient is essential to processes such as field inventory management. Organizations that manufacture and distribute medical and pharmaceutical products must comply with numerous internal and external regulations to ensure quality control, process efficiency, and records management. Data integrity is critical to regulatory compliance, and, as a result, mobile workers in the industry often face complex data collection and information management requirements. And yet, many of these healthcare and medical technologies organizations still rely on outdated processes that have a significant impact on productivity and cost.
The challenges with outdated systems:
- Difficulties tracking and verifying deliveries and signatures of key equipment.
- With paper systems, duplicate workloads since often the same data must be entered across multiple platforms to perform different metrics.
- Backlogged paperwork waiting to be entered into the system, or worse yet, lost entirely.
- Inaccurate inventory data leading to unnecessary purchases or, conversely, costly delays in purchasing depleted supplies.
Each of these problems becomes all the more pernicious when managing consignment inventory, for which change of ownership must be tracked across multiple customers and storerooms.
The solution: swapping outdated paper-based inventory management systems for mobile software systems compatible with all of today’s mobile devices, including tablets, smart phones and PDAs.
Why this works:
- Tracking and inventory data is automatically loaded into a central business system, where it is synced with other relevant supply chain data. This removes roadblocks in workflow, allowing every member in the production line to act as soon as data as has been received, rather than waiting for inventory notifications.
- Mobile inventory software automates changes in ownership and increases transparency, as every member of an organization can see where inventory is located and there is no “refresh” time as inventories are updated.
- Inventory data captured across platforms can be parsed for relevant intelligence, which is then integrated into the system for tracking and further analysis.
- Workflow data can be analyzed for inefficiencies using powerful reporting tools.
- Mobile applications streamline data capture, provide real-time data validation, and ensure data integrity, while securing all communications and underlying data.
Overall, going completely paperless with mobile software greatly enhances not only frontline productivity, but also the entire supply chain and workflow within an organization. Healthcare providers who adopt effective mobile software will benefit from improvements in productivity, efficiency and cost controls.
As @hand’s own VP of Products, Jason Lanier, discussed in this recent interview at Oracle OpenWorld, tablets have really energized the asset management community, which has come to view mobile devices as a central tenet of productivity. This shift, which holds true from the oil and gas industry to the healthcare community and beyond, is due in equal parts not just to improved experiences with form factors but also to the multi-faceted functionalities of mobile software.
While every organization uses tablets in their own unique way, there is one overarching commonality: tablets and mobile software align mobile workers with core business processes. For some organizations, this is simply better, more efficient alignment; for others, this is the first time mobile workers have ever been so seamlessly integrated into the larger workflow. Either way, the improvements to productivity are undeniable.
Why? Because alignment of mobile workers means integration of data. Tablet-based mobile applications capture and validate business-critical information such as work orders and inventory while intelligently communicating this data to central IT systems for reporting and analysis. In addition, mobile workers benefit from always-available access to high-value content, such as maps, schematics, or technical publications. Even a process such as inventory audits, once the domain of the rugged handheld device, presents a compelling use case for tablets with wireless barcode scanners.Perhaps most promising of all, the mobile software available on tablets today is powering the analysis of data formerly too difficult to capture – or so far ahead of the current models, no one knew it was there to capture in the first place. If, as the old saying goes, “you cannot manage what you cannot measure,” organizations that embrace a mobile strategy are managing better than ever before.
By now, it should be clear to most CIOs across industry bounds that technology consumerization is here to stay. Whether companies implement a strategic BYOD policy or employees adopt their own private, under-the-radar policies, the demand for mobile hardware and software has changed from, “would like to have” to an essential part of a potential employee’s assessment of a new company as a place to work. This is true both amongst traveling workers and those that work right in the office or warehouse, all of whom require instant access to data as well as to streamlined, easy to use systems that enable faster completion of tasks, better communication and increased productivity.
But having equipment reports, inventories and the like available at the tip of a finger wherever an employee goes isn’t just a matter of convenience. Rather, at the heart of this increased demand for mobility is something larger - demand for better and more accurate access to usable data. After all, along with the rise in mobility we’ve seen an unparalleled explosion in the type of data we can collect, necessitating better means of integration and analysis across department divides to power better analysis.
When handled strategically, mastery of data can in turn help companies better identify inefficiencies in their production lines, spot trends early, and fuel innovation. In fact, a University of Texas study found that a Fortune 1000 business could realize a $2 billion annual revenue increase by improving the usability of its data by just 10 percent.
The irony here of course is that when a company fears mobile strategies and leaves employees to create their own disparate systems, data becomes more decentralized as it straddles increasingly diverse devices and operating systems. In this adapt or be out-adapted environment, it is up to companies to embrace strategic mobile infrastructure right now so they can get a firm grip on the increasing flood of data streaming through their systems and better harness that data to their own benefit, rather than getting lost downstream. The data influx will only continue to increase, and companies will thrive or flounder on their ability to make that data both convenient and usable.
Mobility is significantly changing the game for utilities companies. If you're attending MUWG, be sure to visit our booth where we'd be happy to share insight about developing an enterprise-wide mobility strategy that enables you to win the mobility game. To learn more about our solutions for Maximo, click here.
We’ve all seen it: those scattered workplaces in which each department or even each worker has developed their own mobile “solution.” Perhaps it’s a BYOD policy gone awry, or perhaps it’s the fault of strong-willed department heads demanding complete control over technology purchasing decisions based on their perceived needs.
Whatever the causes, a disparate mobile solution really isn’t a solution at all. In fact, the more autonomy and choice CIOs give their leaders and employees to implement individual mobile solutions, the less data integration you’ll find. This leads to big headaches where cross-functional teams and managers have difficulty finding crucial information, tracking work flow, and analyzing business activity and trends for competitive weaknesses and advantages.
Having a unified mobile strategy doesn’t mean giving up autonomy and choice; rather, it means shifting the locus of that autonomy and choice away from determining the structure itself to operating as a condition of it.
Think of a unified mobile structure like the skeleton of a larger organism. Employees and managers will be much more likely to enjoy autonomy and choice when it means using the select tools provided by that core structure to create streamlined, fully integrated solutions that are right for their niche within the organization, rather than trying to sort through the noise of competing, disparate, nebulous solutions to find the one that’s right for them.
In other words, finding a skeleton that’s nice and sturdy is a prerequisite for creating autonomy and choice. It is within that clean, ordered, unified structure that true creativity, innovation and customization can happen.
There are many criteria by which to judge a mobile solutions company: the quality of the product, a growth-oriented mentality, price. But there’s something else that often gets lost in the fray: exceptional service. Sure, this should be a given when contracting with any kind of enterprise solutions provider, even the caterer a company hires for the yearly meeting, but it’s all the more so when working with a mobile solutions company, which must adjust and adapt as quickly as the markets.
Here are a few things to look for during the different phases of your relationship.
Mobile solutions underpin many of your business’ most important operations. Whether you’re just getting on to mobile platforms, you’re implementing a new BYOD policy, or you’re switching over from another system, it’s important that every member of your organization is fluent and on board with the new software. Look for a mobile software provider that will not only take the time to customize their system to fit your needs but that will also fully train employees on the new systems and provide support throughout the adoption phase.
All mobile solutions, no matter how well designed, will encounter a bump or two in the road. You should feel you have rapid access to your mobile solution provider, who will quickly deploy tech support to get things back up and running smoothly. Communication channels should be wide open at all times, with rapid and frequent follow-up. In fact, one of the benefits of having a good mobile solutions provider is the ability to outsource the handling of any issues to your provider, rather than overburdening and bottlenecking IT.
Today’s industries move with the pace of technology, and the pace of technology is breakneck. Your mobile solutions provider will keep right up, rolling out updates to keep your platforms sharp and making any new customizations accordingly. Exceptional service in this case means constantly looking out for innovations that will set your company ahead of the pack, again taking this burden off of IT.
When it comes to finding a great mobile solutions provider, service is a crucial factor to consider. Take a look at the whole picture before making your pick.
When it comes to data integrity in particular, precision is key. This is true throughout the development and adoption phases, as well as with continued use. For example, when a company first switches from a paper-based system for work orders, mobile software must centralize and categorize orders as they are uploaded and then effectively distribute that information back to techs in the field. It must also allow for relevant analysis within the system, so that employees and managers within other functional areas of the organization can make pertinent decisions regarding the allocation of resources. This cannot happen without precise data gathering, centralization and distribution to the proper sources.
As any given mobile software provider may work across many different industries, it’s important that they’re able to tweak that software to fit niche demands. While that can mean customization from the design phase up, a more cost and time-effective route is to choose a software development company that, having specialized within specific industries, has a base system designed specifically for an industry’s demands that can then be tweaked to accommodate any given company’s individual needs. This is essential, as out of the box software that only partially gets the job done will require that company to purchase extra software to fill in the gaps, leading to a costly, non-integrated, piecemeal system that will be frustrating for all involved. Companies will benefit from finding a mobile software provider that combines industry expertise and the willingness to do at least basic, company-specific customization.
AdaptabilityTechnology changes at a breakneck speed along with the demands of the marketplace, making it next to impossible for any one company’s IT department to keep pace across a company’s diverse device and software environment. An effective mobile software provider will take the pressure off IT, adapting your company’s software constantly to keep up with the pace of innovation. And, just as importantly, it will adapt software to fit a growing company’s changing needs, not just adding capacity for more users but also making crucial changes to infrastructure as needed, thus accommodating and fueling a company’s need to scale.
Having a precise, flexible, adaptable mobile software development company on your side will make your company precise, flexible, and adaptable, too – the kind of company that doesn't just manage its data and services but that also uses efficient, streamlined systems to create more time for innovation, creativity, and becoming an industry leader.
Few days go by without companies encountering vendors claiming their mobile software will herald a new age of better, more efficient working. But even when these technologies do represent some measure of solution, they generally only address a fraction of a business’ problems or needs, often creating in their limited view more problems than simply staying with the old technology. Incremental mobile strategies, after all, create incremental results, only delaying the moment when a company must rethink their entire mobile software approach and, in the meantime, creating a tangled mess that can often be cost, time and labor-intensive to undo.
Partial solutions create enormous headaches both for IT and companies as a whole. What does it matter if a company with a standard integration adopts a mobile solution if it can’t be tailored to fit a specific business need or expand beyond the initial set of integration points? What does it matter if the solution fits now, but can’t grow as the organization evolves? How can supervisors and managers be expected to make crucial decisions if there’s no dashboard that provides visibility into operations so that they can see the bigger picture?
The shifts driven by mobile sphere are monumental, and Bandaid solutions just won’t hold. That’s why CIOs should take a holistic, long-term view when selecting a mobile provider – one that considers every element, not just one small part of a greater whole. Call it mobile gestalt.