(Touch Tablets and Smart Phones takeover the workforce)

Last year the number of smart mobile devices overtook the number of PCs sold. In March 2012, Apple CEO, Tim Cook, in launching the iPad3 announced: we are now into the post-PC era and the USA price for the iPad2 dropped into subUS$500 price-point.

In a recent LinkedIn post this week from BI Business Insider, on the Future of Mobile, some startling comments caught my attention:

  • Tablet sales will pass PC sales within 2 years
  • Within 3 years mobile internet accessing devices will exceed1 trillion (dwarfing PC sales)
  • Apps are a $10 billion market, growing @100% pa
  • Global internet users will double in 3 years and most will be mobile device users

And, this is just the beginning … the huge “dumb-phone” market is set to follow. Africa has now overtaken Latin America to become the second largest mobile market after Asia, and the move to smart phones is coupled with cloud network growth.

IDC Research predicts global revenues from cloud innovation could reach 1.1 trillion per year within the next 36 months. Frank Gens, chief analyst at IDC, says the ICT industry is in the midst of a ‘once every 20 to 25 years’ shift to a new technology platform for growth and innovation. IDC calls it the ’3rd platform’, and it is one that is built on:

  • mobile devices and applications,
  • cloud services and
  • social technologies.

Current big players such as Google and Facebook were born based on the 3rd platform, and have had considerable influence over a new style of user interface.

User expectations have also been set: by Google, in terms of speed of information access,and by Apple in terms of “cool-ness” of usability and design for software Apps.

Gens also notes that the number of mobile App downloads will rise from 26.8 billion in 2011 to 137 billion by 2016.

TechNet, a consortium of tech business leaders recently estimated that the “App Economy” in creating Apps for smart phones and tablets has already created half a million jobs in this entrepreneurial cloud leveraged area in the USA.

New Mobile “Apps” (software programs for Smart Phones and Tablets) are merging into more and more business usage areas and are the catalyst in revolutionising how users expect to communicate and interact with this new tactile model of application delivery and user interface.

When you want to push the user interface (UI) out into fieldworker realms it’s critical that the UI isas easy to use as possible. As the affordability threshold is overcome and technological network performance and reliability emerges for communications to and from field-workers, some software suppliers simply try to move their older text input screens to the devices or push a blob of text out there for a yes/no answer without thought on focus and arrangement of key content items.

In our experience over the last year,we have discovered that you get the best results if you redesign the user interface on the mobile device for ease of finger touch / scroll ability, but ensure the user can focus on clear, well organisedcontent.

The more an App is focused on “typical” business workflow, and brings together “mash-ups” to enable collaboration and connectedness between Apps for maps and calendars and cameras or barcode scanners etc, the more WOW factor you’ll get from the users and the higher your adoption rate will be. Apps that take advantage of the one thumb slide or scroll, and tap to drill down or double tap to zoom and move through these functions keeps it simple and intuitive to follow.

Uses for Tablets in Waste

Tablets are popping up rapidly in several waste company field-staff segments already:

Sales Reps – for prospect data capture, linked to meeting schedules and follow up remindercalendars and incorporating sign-on-screen electronic service agreements, and multi-media company presentations

Commercial Drivers – for paperless regular run sheets integrated with route maps, linked to Navigation guides and able to send GPS trails

Construction/Demolition Drivers – for ad-hoc pickup/delivery/exchange job lists that can track and show where bins are and shortest travel suggestions

Residential complaints field inspectors who need to inspect damaged bins or check-out illegal dumping sites to log exact size and location of problems

Curbside council collection teams where work-list addresses change daily and camera integration can capture excess waste evidence

With each of these system areas,they need to be linked to your internal systems through cloud connections (web services).There’s also a whole lot of decisions to be made as to how much data you’ll allow a rep to have access to, as well aswhat will you allow to be stored on the device versus simply displayed from a web browser view of data linked or filtered and mirrored from your corporate server. For example – do you allow a rep to see where all your customers are in any area on the map so they can look at run-filling sparse areas or use such info for a “cluster selling” approach (ie: mention to a new prospect some of the other businesses in his area that also get similar pickups on a Friday?). They may even have a social network connection to these businesses.

Peer to peer referrals in the same locality carry more weight than “trust me” from your sales rep. This is sometimes referred as WOMBAT selling (Word of Mouth Buy And Tell) (- there’s even a book about that!)

Customer facing, Location Aware Systems

Customer facing apps and situational and location awareness capability will also introduce new ways to speed up and connect businesses with their customers. As well as turning the screen around to let the prospect sign on screen or the yard foreman to sign for a bin delivery on a mobile device with his finger, these mobile devices can also tell your staff’s locationvia in-built GPS chips. The Taxi industry provides some interesting Apps that demonstrate this new functionality:

  • mTaxi- lets you make a booking from your exact GPS location for drivers to find and get a TXT alert on approach (that functionality would help with bin placement and getting the gate open and the bin out just before your driver gets there!)
  • goCatch- another taxi booking app that can show you nearest cabs to your location who have their available flag set in their mobile app – who needs a booking service? (a waste application for this might be “remember where your bins are” or enable residential drivers to see where their neighbouring team members are up to on nearby / shared run areas when covering for sick drivers or trucks)
  • Paypal are about to release an iPhone card-swipe device in May in Australia that would allow drivers to process credit cards on their iPhone out on location.
  • We can expect to see more location aware opportunities emerge with such technology


Managing the Spread and Usage of Devices

MDM – Mobile Device (and Deployment) Management is a topic high on IT departments’ list for ensuring they can efficiently manage not only any data encryption and security, but also control the rollout of software Apps and upgrades over wireless downloads rather than need to physically connect and load each device.

Provisioning of profiles on mobile devices is also important to control permissions of what a mobile worker is allowed to use on the device. Like a “Net Nanny”to restrict drivers form roaming the internet in their lunch breaks, or allowing the playing of YouTube movies for sales rep corporate demos.,etc

In larger companies today, the enclaves of regulatory IT departments are grappling with the emergence of multiple mobile hardware and operating system “platforms” and struggling to constrain what corporate data ends up where. At the same time efficiency starved workers are now able to afford and bring their own iPhones or iPads to meetings (BYOD – Bring Your Own Device)and extend their own business-social communications community through the likes of LinkedIn, Facebook and Skype.

Are your corporate ears burning? (Do you even have your ears on?)

Todays mobile user population who’ve been raised on social networks from school days have no fear of chatting electronically about all experiences they have. If they go to a restaurant and don’t like the service, a Facebook status update or tweet complaining to their networks about a particular poor service can echo far and wide to have severe business impact. So much so that corporations like Airlines, Car Rental Companies and other service providers are now investing in social media monitoring and engagement tools (egfrom simple Google Alerts toHootsuite, to the Enterprise-levelRadian6). If somebody has had a bad service experience with your business, if you are not strategically equipped to engage and address any issues, you could suffer from this electronic kangaroo court without a leg to stand on or even any right of appeal.

Generation Y (born between 1980 and 2000) are already well into workforce management and they use mobiles for almost everything online: from seeking jobs & services, sifting online auctions and rentals, magazines, books (even Britannica is now ‘online’) and they use social media extensively to search for referrals and comment on services provided.

But social media is not just a Generation”Y“fad,according toTéa Smith, Social Media Strategist at Schematiq.Generation X & Baby Boomers are taking up social media at rates roughly equal to Gen Y, with Facebook having well over 50% penetration across all demographic groups.

If you are like most businesses, your staff may be responding to social chatterwithout any organisational support orguidance and without any corporate Social Media Strategy or Criticism Response Action Plan.This is tremendously risky, and you may find yourself in hot water legally as one waste company in Melbourne found out when their young staff unwittingly slagged the opposition on social media.

It is crucial that your business go through the process of formulating a strategy, and know how to manage and support staff on the firing line.

Apart from being aware of what’s happening out there in this realm, some businesses are starting to use social media to market, build their contacts, or for crowd sourcing (to test the market for comment). Many businesses are seeking social media strategists to coach them through this new minefield.

Seth Godin, in his book on Viral Marketing, suggested that if you are interested in marketing through these new mediums, you should seek out “sneezers” in your domain who, as advocates, can infect exponentially more prospects through their peer-to-peer connections. Klout.com is one of the popular tools on the market to help you measure the “true reach” of your connections and what amplification or resonance you get from your posts.So get connected  … but remember :

In the glass house of business-social networking, don’t stand up in the bath till you’re covered by a strategy on how best to deal with thrown stones (or cast aspersions)!

Terry Daley, CEO Wastedge.com