Communicators: Get ready to start a communications mobility audit2012-06-21
A mobility audit is the first of three steps in a strategy to put the right mobile solutions in the hands of the right employees, according to a report The Altimeter Group issued earlier this month.
“It’s likely that most workers inside an organization are toting mobile devices,” the report says. “The question becomes what are the devices and who is using them.” Altimeter suggests a network analysis and determining the numbers and types of devices accessing company data.
In fact, a mobility audit should go far deeper. It’s not a task for one department or individual. As companies like IBM have found, a cross-functional task force is the best way to tackle the audit, and even then someone is likely to be left out. Input and insights are required from IT (systems and infrastructure), legal (risk and regulatory issues), Human Resources (policy), health and safety (safe practices, revisions to existing policies and opportunities to use mobile solutions to support health and safety efforts), and communications (we’ll get to that in a minute).
The audit needs to include a review of existing policies. For example, many companies have a no-photography rule in manufacturing facilities. With smartphones, workers can snap photos of malfunctioning equipment and send them instantly to the maintenance department, speeding repair and getting lines up and running faster than ever. To tap into that potential, policies need to be revised to specify what kinds of photography are acceptable.
Essentially, an enterprise mobility audit should be undertaken as a coordinated series of mini-audits. I am just wrapping up a communications mobility audit for a large consumer packaged goods company. We have not competed with the IT department’s efforts; in fact, the results of the communications research will have a strong influence on the recommendations that come out of the macro-level audit.
The communications mobility audit is designed to answer several questions:
- How are employees at all levels currently using mobile devices for work?—In this era of technology populism, employees at all levels are finding their own solutions rather than waiting for IT to deploy them. In a lot of cases, the solutions they’ve identified are brilliant. Factory workers and their supervisors staying in touch via text messaging, for example, means supervisors don’t have to go back to their offices in order to get their messages. The more time they can spend on the floor, the better. In addition to finding out what employees are already doing, ask what mobile solutions they’ve thought of; odds are, they have some great ideas you can throw into the hopper. Ultimately, identifying those that will have the greatest impact can help prioritize which employee roles to focus on as well as which technologies to work on first.
- How are employees using their mobile devices personally?—You can make assumptions from broad research freely available online, but every employee population is unique. In the audit I’m working on, we discovered some front-line employees using some fairly sophisticated technologies in their personal lives (and wondering why similar technologies aren’t available at work).
- How likely are employees to use their phones for company news and information?—The farther removed from headquarters, the less likely employees are to spend time with corporate-level communications. Particularly at front-line levels, employees have little access to computers and aren’t likely to use their time at home to read articles from the employee communications department. But if employees are already consuming news on their smartphones, they may be inclined to scroll through headlines during those periods of time that were previously unusable, like waiting for a bus or standing in line at the grocery store. We also found employees who were unlikely to pay close attention to safety videos during mandatory three-hour meetings were enthusiastic about being able to find and play just the right safety video on their phones, just before starting to use a new piece of equipment, for instance.
- How aware are employees of any existing mobile tools, resources and policies?—Getting an answer to this question will help you figure out what you need to communicate about mobility in the company, now and as policies and processes are finalized as a result of the primary audit.
- How ready are employees to adopt new technologies?—From QR codes and NFC chips to Augmented Reality, there are communication opportunities—as well as efficiency and productivity potential—in newer phones. How much effort will it take to get employees to adopt them? How soon should you start developing communications that use them?
- Assess employees’ appetite for contributing to mobile development—In their book, “Empowered,” Forrester Research’s Josh Bernoff and Ted Schadler propose a process that empowers employees to surface app ideas, find champions, establish a budget, and see them through to development. This will work better in some cultures than others. You can reality-check the viability of such a process in your research.
- What needs to be communicated to employees from other departments?—As mobile use becomes more prevalent in the organization, more safety reminders may be required (e.g., don’t text while walking on the factory floor; stop and stand to send your messages). Communication to ensure thorough understanding of new or revised policies around intellectual property, BYOD responsibilities, and other issues needs to be factored in to your communication planning.
And, of course, there’s more.
In the mobility communciations audit I’m just wrapping up, we conducted interviews with representatives of any department with an interest in mobility and how employees use it, focus groups with different levels of employees to surface qualitative information about attitudes and behaviors, and an employee survey to verify what we had uncovered and quantify such things as current ownership, use of personal mobile devices for work, and the degree to which employees in different roles already use their phones for various activities (e.g., taking pictures, reading news).
The results of your research shouldn’t remain in a vacuum, but rather need to be shared with other members of the macro audit task force. If there is no task force, it’s up to you as the communciator to figure out who would be on the task force if one existed and get the information into their hands.
With experience under our belts, I’m ready to undertake communication mobility audits for other organizations, so call if you’re interested. Is there any kind of mobility audit underway in your organization?