Mobility in the Quality Management Solution - What you Really Need
Lately these days, I seem to be tethered to my phone. I initially resisted the whole smart phone trend, and only in the last few years did I finally capitulate to the allure of having information at my fingertips...and facebook. But it wasn't until I really started to use it as a business tool that it became productive for me. I was able to answer emails all day(and night) long, regardless of where I was. Some may think this is a detriment - an intrusion of the workplace into one's personal space - I think that with the right mix of application and efficiency, you can incorporate smart phone activities without impeding your life. It's a combination of self-control and value - don't overuse your phone and you'll keep your marriage, right?
One of the things about using mobile solutions for enterprise applications, such as Quality Management or EHS Management, is to provide real value over a comprehensive solution. Too often you see mobile solutions try to be more robust than they need to be, and the user is either frustrated by the mobile application or so stymied by the sheer volume of data, they are glued to their phone during Timmy's T-Ball game, or at Aunt Clara's wedding, or your own wedding (that would be bad). So here are the characteristics of a good Mobile QMS or EHS software system:
1. Simple and Logical Interface: The reality is that the primary consumer of mobility are management level employees. Quality Managers and Safety Managers who are mobile, are most likely "aware" of the operational ins and outs of their QMS or EHS system. What they are looking for is a simple way to access critical data "from the field" and make decisions on the go. This entails Reviews, Approvals and Reports. Very rarely is a manager going to be filling out Audit Reports, entering new records into Document Control or Conducting a CAPA analysis while at Timmy's T-Ball game. Chances are, while in a mobile environment, a Management level employee will receive a notification, need to review a record and then send it forward or backward - that's it. Creating a mobile application that fosters this level of interaction in a simple logical interface is an important characteristic of a successful mobile solution
2. Dashboards: We are visual people. We like to look in on things. Having a "window" into our Quality Management System or Environmental Health and Safety system while on the road is what helps to keep tabs on Quality and Safety in your organization. The ability to have Charts, KPIs and real-time data reports literally at your fingertips is an important part of staying connected. These need not be advanced three-dimensional statistical charts that drain your battery to just look at them - save those for the office. Mobile does not seek to replace the advanced business intelligence tools you need to run your QMS and EHS. Instead, mobile reporting is a way of getting a broad view of the state of your Quality. Gage charts, pie charts are great for this - see where the problem areas are. They should be simple and easily identifiable within a single glance.
3. Integrated to Email: The Enterprise Solution, in all its vast glory, is still tied to email. Email is still the primary means of communication in our world, and a true mobile solution needs to tie email to the QMS and EHS. More often that not, if you are on the road and there is an adverse event, the notification to you will be triggered by Email. The key is the seamless "transactions" that need to happen with the mobile solution:
- You get an email with a link to a Quality or Safety event
- By clicking (or tapping) on the event on your phone, you open up the mobile QMS or EHS
- You are able to address the event on your phone, and your resulting actions send another notification back through the system
- You go back to Timmy's T-ball game.
There are plenty of more things to consider in a mobile solution, but at its core you need to create a solution that coincides with the consumer of the data. Management level employees do not need an overly complicated mobile app that sucks battery life and causes them to spend more than a few minutes on their phone. Mobile applications are designed to address the critical Quality and EHS issues in their organization, make the best decisions, review the data, then move on with their day. If it is too simple, it's not valuable. If it is too complicated, then people reject it. The key is a simple yet effective window into your Quality Management or Environmental Health and Safety Management System.
Get in, Get out - Get on with your day.