Mobile tech is not a panacea for workforce productivity

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Gene Marks over at Forbes Tech is talking about why companies should consider waiting to deploy iPads to staff. Good article, and what I found most interesting were his suggestions on how to improve productivity without buying mobile technologies. His list included things like investing in integrations, configuring automated reports, and creating key workflows.

Gene's suggestions will play out differently depending on the type of company. For example, deploying iPads to a salesforce is meant to solve a different problem than deploying iPads to field engineers. However his main point remains: mobile technology is not productivity panacea.

I'm not denying how handy it is to have mobile tech, but I'm a power user. I have thrown away more smartphones and premium apps than most people will ever purchase. I sometimes try a dozen similar apps to see which one works best for me, and I only keep an app if it meets at least one of the following criteria:

  • It fits nicely into a workflow
  • It meets a legitimate need
  • It is zombie related (I am the BOSS of Zombie Highway)

iPads and phablets and smartphones, much like laptops and netbooks before them, are just toys if there's no design for how those devices will be used. I once worked for a business that deployed laptops as a surprise to their mobile staff. Well guess what? Not one of those staffers used their laptops for work applications. Most of those laptops were used like company supported family computers. Ever have to extract a jelly covered Spiderman disc that's stuck in a laptop DVD player? Sticky!

Anywaaaay…. Gene makes a ton of good points in his article, and I just have a few to add:

  • Don't ‘surprise' the staff with mobile technology. Some people don't want to carry more “stuff.” Some people are creatures of habit and won't use mobile tech anyway. And some will let their kids play with it and drive your tech support costs up. It's a lose-lose.
  • Get input on what type of devices will work best. Sometimes employees have great insight as to what they need. Even if they don't know what they need, invest some time in asking them about their work. Will an iPad with mobile apps make things better, or do they just need something like a VPN for their field laptop or home computer?
  • Don't underestimate the need for training and ongoing professional development. Showing someone how to use a device may not be enough. You may need to plan for instruction on how to integrate the device and applications into workflow and into the network.
  • Remember your policies. How will the devices be supported and protected? How much access will they have to the network? Don't forget to be proactive.

What are your experiences with this type of deployment? Have you had clients using these devices as toys? Let us know us on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter or Google +.

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