If there was a subject that I should not be writing about now, it’s this one. Mobile applications and technology have advanced considerably. However, too many implementations struggle to rollout successfully because they underestimate the challenges that exist in getting drivers to use it correctly and consistently. This is becoming a critical issue, as Customer Facing Supply Chains rely on accurate and timely data from the mobile devices in the field to enhance the customer experience and make key supply chain decisions. Fortunately, there are proven steps to make mobile apps the business asset they can be.
6 Steps for Mobile App Deployment Success
Don’t let the app be the problem. Keep the application as simple as possible. The natural tendency is to cover every possible scenario and to collect as much data as possible. However, this approach leads to complex solutions which inhibit successful adoption and can hurt productivity. Use workflow where possible to ensure the process is followed correctly to drive consistent data collection and statuses.
Get it right and then roll it out. The damage caused by a half-baked or buggy app is much worse for drivers than inside-the-4 walls-users. It’s extremely hard to support drivers when they are in route and their confidence goes down much faster as they struggle to keep on time for deliveries, etc. Start with a single location that is one of your best operations and complete the fine tuning with a more mature and flexible work force. This will also help you understand your workforce’s capabilities and make appropriate adjustments to the app, training, etc.
Train, train, train and then certify. It’s not enough to assume that a training course, even a good one, will be enough. Drivers need to be competent with the app as there will be no one riding with them to help. Training is also critical to make sure they follow the right processes and timing. Mobile apps are extremely stateful – by this I mean that location, time and process steps are deeply intertwined to deliver the right results. If they fail to perform the right steps at the right time, the data will be garbage, or worse, provide misleading results. Drivers should be required to take competency tests initially and on a regular basis to ensure they can use the app correctly.
Provide drivers on-demand access to training. Because they spend so much time away from your facilities, drivers need to be able to get access anywhere to simple and short demos that show them the right way to use the app and solve problems. Think YouTube. Consider the biggest issues drivers face and develop 2 minute videos to help them.
Field management needs the same level of training and expectation setting. Most field organizations, unfortunately, have a wide range of performance in the field. This isn’t a driver problem, it’s a management problem. Consistent discipline to processes and procedures is critical to ensuring consistent results. A mobile app will expose sloppy local management immediately, as the results it captures will show the effects of loose procedures and lax enforcement to operating guidelines.
Measure and report performance. This is more than delivery performance. It includes data accuracy and timeliness. Plan versus actual performance analysis is critical to maintaining and improving operational performance and driver coaching. Increasingly, field data is being used by other organizations in the company, customers, and trading partners. Inconsistent data can cause poor decisions to be made and put customer relations in jeopardy because of it.
Tie driver use to compensation. Many folks reading this blog post but will balk at this idea. It’s not easy to do, but incredibly effective. In Logistics Viewpoints 5 years ago, I wrote about Mondelez (formerly known as Kraft Foods) and how they changed the compensation plan to enforce mobile app use. They have 1000s of drivers and many of them are part time. They do not have an adoption issue – even after 5 years, because drivers understand that they don’t get paid unless the data is correct.
More than ever, mobile applications are enabling enterprises to compete with their delivery capabilities and provide customers with the information that significantly improves the service they receive. Don’t let an underappreciation for the effort required to get your drivers to competently use your mobile solution your company of the opportunity to use that mobile information to enhance your customer experience. How are you successfully deploying mobile applications? Let me know.
As Executive Vice President, Marketing and Services, Chris Jones (CJones@descartes.com) is primarily responsible for Descartes marketing activities and implementation of Descartes’ solutions. Chris has over 30 years of experience in the supply chain market, including the last 10 years as a part of the Descartes leadership team. Prior to Descartes, he has held a variety of senior management positions in other organizations including: Senior Vice President at The Aberdeen Group’s Value Chain Research division, Executive Vice President of Marketing and Corporate Development for SynQuest and Vice President and Research Director for Enterprise Resource Planning Solutions at The Gartner Group and Associate Director Operations & Technology for Kraft Foods.