Every day, the smartphones in our palms become more like the computers and notebooks on our desks back at the office. That fact presents every business in every industry with an opportunity to tap into these devices for true productivity on the go — rather than using them as mere high-end email inboxes.
Take the healthcare sector, for instance, where I’ve worked on several mobility projects, helping hospitals and other healthcare facilities improve their use of smartphones on the frontlines. Many healthcare providers now deploy Apple iPhones with clinical toolsets or apps to let practitioners instantly access patient information and to allow real-time communications among doctors, nurses and specialists. In some facilities, a nurse can walk into a patient’s room and from her iPhone access critical lab information, clinical notes or alerts about the patient. Additionally, health practitioners can communicate securely with clinical peers — doctor to doctor, nurse to nurse, specialist to specialist — via their smartphones.
So how do other industries move the needle beyond email to take advantage of more advanced smartphone capabilities? How can IT teams help employees collaborate more effectively as well as access more sophisticated workloads from these devices?
A Mindset Shift
The first step is simply to look at smartphones from a different perspective.
Currently, many organizations’ management teams view employee smartphones as carrier-based, cellular-connected devices that their telecom carriers provide. The telecom provider subsidizes the cost of the phone by, say, giving its customers a two-year data plan. That’s the traditional transaction model. But really, you have to start looking at smartphones more as an IT investment and part of the technology infrastructure.
Think about how some airlines now use these devices in flight — there’s no cellular plan. Flight attendants use those smartphones as point-of-sale devices to handle beer or wine orders, for instance. Or they might look at the seat map as passengers board the plane and make adjustments so a mom can sit with her child.
There are opportunities for other industries to use these devices without cellular plans too.
At CDW, we have a whole suite of Android phones available without cellular contracts, which we call Unlock (My colleague, Preston Harris, blogged about this earlier). The Unlock option frees up an organization so that it need not be restricted to the network of a specific mobile carrier for all its smartphone users. The benefits include greater flexibility in choosing carrier plans, easily swappable SIM cards, plan-free Wi-Fi options and phones that arrive on Day 1 without a lot of preinstalled apps.
Getting Down to Business
Once you take this route, the real challenge comes in figuring out what apps your users truly need on their smartphones to do their jobs (and, with training, to do them better, smarter and faster).
Leading software companies and smartphone providers have begun building mobile apps for specific industries. Of course, like all software development, not all of these mobile apps have taken off. But some are great, and there are increasingly mobile versions of legacy applications available as well.
For instance, line-of-business workers in manufacturing can deploy mobile apps for functions such as quality control and quality assurance on the manufacturing line. Manufacturing companies are already looking into ways to move pen-and-paper tasks and really arduous data entry to mobile apps on smartphones that connect over wireless.
In some plants, inspectors now use mobile apps to perform quality checks of goods, plant safety and compliance with regulations imposed by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Such apps can increase the accuracy of the data collected as well as provide assurance that locations and shipments have been thoroughly inspected.
Business and IT leaders need to start thinking about which workers would benefit most from mobile apps on their smartphones and look for opportunities to move workloads that are unique to their industries to these apps. The shift has begun — it’s time to get ahead of your competition.
Want to learn more about how to set a new mobile strategy and identify the right apps for your employees’ smartphones? Visit CDW Mobility Solutions.