Organisations are throwing mobile technology at problems without fully considering the underlying business processes or the working conditions of the end-user. This is the key finding of a multi-country report across the healthcare and finance sectors from industry analysts Quocirca. It was commissioned by Anoto, the inventor of Digital Pen and Paper technology.
Nearly two-thirds of those questioned agreed that technology solutions should be kept simple, but 40% lamented the complexity of the technology they were using. More than 70% were unsure of the ongoing cost of device failures. Yet, the high cost of mobile devices, along with their proneness to theft, loss and damage, were identified as major barriers to their effective use by more than half the respondents.
The report, entitled Light touch, firm impression, reveals how the use of mobile technologies to automate traditionally paper-based processes can result in unnecessary complexity. Instead of boosting productivity, this frequently leads to increased – unforeseen – costs and can reduce the effectiveness of the organisation.
As mobile technologies have become cheaper and offer greater functionality, organisations tend to over standardise and adopt products that are too complicated, says Rob Bamforth, Principal Analyst, the author of the study. Mobile technology needs to be simple and fit closely with the business task in hand and the needs of the user. It’s people, process and technology – in that order.
The report is based on a survey of 300 respondents – including business and IT managers as well as end users of mobile technology – in healthcare and financial services in the UK, Germany, France and the US.
Mobile devices are often not fit for purpose. 60% of those questioned for the study wanted simple solutions, yet 40% of respondents found their devices complicated to use on the job. This was most pronounced in the healthcare sector (47%; finance: 33%). Issues cited included being tricky to write on single-handedly or whilst standing up, and being difficult to clean. Mobile devices’ vulnerability to theft, loss and breaking also caused problems.
The study suggests that for front line staff like doctors, technology is a supporting tool; when it is more complex than necessary, it can get in the way of effective use. Furthermore, complicated technology deployments often fail in challenging environments like healthcare and that poor training can reduce, rather than enhance, productivity.
Running costs for mobile devices are underestimated. In spite of the total cost of ownership concept, IT decision-making is still dominated by upfront cost issues while the ongoing expenditure for mobile devices is widely under-estimated. More than 70% of respondents were ‘unsure’ or had ‘no idea’ about the ongoing cost of failures, yet the cost of devices was one of the major stumbling blocks to effective use of mobile technology (15.3%).
Mobile devices are mainly given to management – not frontline staff. Only 30% of respondents stated that mobile devices were used by frontline staff, yet this is often where most business efficiencies can be realised. Management and IT are most likely to be given mobile technology, with 98% and 80% of organisations respectively admitting to this. Managers tend to be early adopters, not because the benefits justify the return, but because these are the people who decide on the cost investment/justification.
75% of respondents said that they were still largely using paper-based processes, underscoring the importance of – and trust in – paper in spite of continued calls for the paperless office.
Petter Ericsson, Chief Science Officer at Anoto and co-inventor of Digital Pen and Paper technology, said of the findings: It’s ironic that mobile technologies which are designed to make workers’ lives more productive are, in some cases, having the opposite effect.
Organisations often don’t consider that a technology stands and falls with its users. Ideally, the solution they select should not require dramatic changes to existing processes, be intuitive with little or no training needed and capable of truly making staff more efficient.
Digital Pen and Paper technology automatically captures handwritten information in forms, eliminating the need to type up notes electronically. The digital pen looks like a ballpoint pen. A tiny infrared camera at its tip tracks its movements relative to a grey dot pattern printed on the form, recording and storing what is being written. Stored data is synchronised with backend systems via a USB link or a mobile phone.
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