Been a busy couple of weeks at EtQ! Product rollouts, office expansion and other things have kept me from hopping on the old blog for a rant. Busy is good, and I manage to keep up with my trusty iPhone and iPad. Some say it's a distraction (ask my wife and her Words with Friends obsession), but I think that mobile is a prime business tool. I can spend my mornings culling through emails before I even get in the office. I feel more productive once I've pushed the emails around. It got me thinking about the state of mobility in businesses today. Even just 18 months ago, the mobile landscape was completely different; now we are seeing more and more companies issuing iPads to their workforce. In fact, a Pew Research study was just released stating that over half of all Americans own a smartphone.
In the Quality Management and EHS Management world, the mobile dynamic is catching on. For the most part, we are seeing trends towards mobile apps that add functionality to an existing enterprise systems. The most logical first step toward mobile lies in Audit Management Software - it's probably one of most common processes that would benefit from mobility. Most audits take place in the field; they require agility and an iPad can easily replace the old clipboard. Having the right mobile app for Audit Management is important for maximizing business productivity. Here are four things to look for in a mobile auditing app:
1. User Interface - Simple yet Sophisticated: When we look at mobile apps, less is sometimes more. You have less "real estate" to work with on an iPad or iPhone, so it's time to strip the interface down to its base essentials. You can do away with excessive graphics and imagery - you want to be able to leverage the audit details as much as possible. Checklists need to be readily available, questions need to have enough space to formulate comprehensive answers, and you need to be able to conduct the audit with no distractions from the interface.
On the flip side, you need to have a level of sophistication in the mobile app. It has to have the same business logic you enjoy with the enterprise solution, just in a more bare-bones layout. Don't sacrifice form for function; you can have your cake and audit too.
2. Utilizes Native Mobile Functions: One of the nice things about mobile is some of the extras you get with the hardware. Tablets and smartphones come with plenty of common tools that could potentially be useful when on the field. A mobile Audit Management app should leverage these native functions to your advantage. For example, if you're on the floor conducting an Audit on your iPad, wouldn't it be nice to be able to take a picture with the camera function and automatically upload it to the audit record? This is a huge benefit to the mobile concept, and provides much more depth of explanation and detail than a clipboard ever could. These types of functions are extremely valuable, but often latent in the minds of the Auditor. Use the tools that the tablet gives you to your advantage.
3. Offline Auditing Support: This one is a big benefit, and almost a requirement in this day and age. While we may all have 3G and WiFi seeping out of every corner of our world, sometimes you just don't have connectivity. This should not stop your ability to conduct an audit. Having an offline capability in your audit management system will enable you to continue to conduct the audit, fill out questions, run through checklists, and save the data until you come back into a WiFi spot, or 3G area. You can then sync your audit findings with the main enterprise solution and continue to route the audit when you're back at your workstation.
4. Mobilization Platform versus Single Mobile Solution: Often, Mobile is limited to a single type of workflow, form, or process. This is because the platform is developed specifically for a single purpose. The different between a mobile application and a mobile platform is the ability to "mobilize" the many aspects of your enterprise solution. Having an enterprise system that allows you to take the forms, workflows and processes in your primary solution and mobilize anything is the difference here. You can essentially turn any application in your enterprise into a mobile app - this allows you to control what becomes a mobile app, versus being limited by the apps that are put in front of you. Having the ability to mobilize your enterprise Quality or EHS management system provides greater visibility and flexibility into how you deploy a mobile solution to the business.
Mobile applications and the mobile market is growing, and in the next year to 18 months we'll see a groundswell of innovation in the industry in terms of extending mobile to business operations such as Quality Management Software and EHS Software. The important thing is to find a solution that will make you productive while you are "mobile", and extend your Quality and EHS capabilities beyond your four walls.