…is a complete no-brainer. Yet, so often and easily-ignored by the IT team.
The key is: ensure that mobile deployments, like any IT project, are true partnerships between the business teams that will use the technology, and the IT departments building it.
It’s so simple. Yet, it’s the natural tendency of IT to go it alone and take the attitude of “Build it and they will come (and like it).”
I’m not blaming IT here and saying it’s because they are a bunch of asocial Aspergers-afflicted oddballs, as shows such as The Big Bang Theory or The IT Crowd depict.
I mean, that’s probably true some of the time. But I’ve found in my working life that the tendency towards prideful secretiveness, lazy non-communication and treating other departments as enemies rather than colleagues is pretty dang universal. Doesn’t matter what department you’re in or whether your department is full of introverts or social butterflies.
Ted Johnson, IT manager for mobility support at Chicago-area energy firm, Exelon, said that talking to his business peers was key to discovering that many of the utility repairmen who were due to get ruggedized laptops had “never used a mouse before.”
Learning about that early on gave Johnson’s 18-person team time to develop computer-based training that addressed that issue.
“If IT leads too much, you WILL miss business requirements,” he said during a presentation this morning at the Enterprise Mobility Exchange in Las Vegas. “It was so critical to have business involved.”
Starting in 2006, Exelon rolled out 2,300 ruggedized Panasonic laptops to its utility repairmen in an effort to automate work orders and speed up the time to fix electrical outages.
The success of that project, he says, was also due in part to the creation of three levels of committees with the business-side managers. These included a steering committee comprised of direct supervisors and lower-level managers of the repairmen; a governance committee of senior managers; and an executive committee of C-level types.
This proved key when Johnson began measuring the results of the laptop rollout and discovered that some drivers were actively resisting the technology. Johnson smartly gave the executives a dashboard showing usage of the tool to the executive committee members.
Once they discovered the problem, they “drove it down to their managers to get on their people” to use the laptops, he said.
Similarly, Onyeka Nchege, CIO of Coca-Cola Bottling Co. Consolidated, also created a high-level Enterprise Mobility Advisory Group (EMAG) of executives for his deployment.
That may seem contradictory: Nchege’s goal at the time was moving IT at Coca-Cola from its traditional role as “order-takers” to business.
“Our service was absolutely there: tell us what you want, and we could get it done, and get it done for you quick,” he said during a presentation on Wednesday at the Exchange.
So wouldn’t you want to get less advice and less feedback from the know-nothing business guys? Not says Nchege.
“We proactively sought feedback even while we took ownership,” he said. “By getting feedback from our business partner, we got instant credibility. ‘Man, you asked me what I thought.’ They understood that we’re building this for you and building it for us.”
Nchege even took the step of accompanying one of the field sales rep managers to a visit with a restaurant owner to better understand their challenges simply trying to get the attention of a busy potential customer.
Nchege had a hunch – maybe arming the field salesguys with then-new iPads could help break the ice with restaurant owners in places like Mobile, Alabama? So he rolled out the Apple tablets to them. His hunch proved correct.
“We had an uptick in sales and on-premises business as a result of putting iPads out there,” he said. Nchege recognizes that the uptick won’t last forever. He says getting the iPads out in the hands of salespeople was a quick, momentum-building win.
But Nchege says that simple step helped him immensely bridge the gap between business and IT. There must be similar steps you can also take, no matter how busy you are.
“You may think you’re the only one running 100 miles per hour, but guess what? Everyone else is like that,” he said.