Mobile technology can undoubtedly give an enterprise more options as to how the company conducts its business, but does mobile functionality necessarily create greater efficiency? And does it truly create an easier route to optimization?

The promise of mobile is that things can be done faster, easier, and better. We hear that ‘almost anything’ can be adapted to a mobile device— and that employees will never be stuck behind desks ever again. Smartphones and tablets give us a great deal of freedom. But are they actually helping to deliver better business results?

We recently announced Process Director, with additional mobile BPM functionality. Like many of us, our customers’ needs have changed over time, so we have developed a way for them to create and manage workflows and processes in a mobile environment. This was not done to just check off “mobile” in the features list. Rather, we determined in conversations with  customers and partners, that companies can achieve a competitive advantage by enabling process participants (both inside and beyond the company firewall) to use mobile devices to interact with forms, view dashboards and reports, as well as attach images and GPS coordinates to forms. These are the things that are indeed useful and help the company run better (not just differently).

Processes and workflows require people to make decisions and add information at different points along the way. A process that is making use of all available data will need the input of people who may not necessarily be on-premise, or operating from the same type of device.

Consider a natural resources company which relies heavily on data from various locations, many of which are not traditional office settings. This organization may have scientists looking at soil samples, or excavation specialists reporting on conditions. It would be a waste of time to wait for them to wait to arrive at an office in order to contribute their findings into a process.

It’s easy to picture a scientist driving to a site to look at potential locations for a specific type of mineral. This is not a guy who wears Brooks Brothers suits or lives and dies by his MacBook. This guy literally wants to get his hands dirty, find the most logical location, then begin testing. The work he and his team do in the field will determine the next steps for major, capital-intensive projects. He’s going to need to initiate and contribute to a variety of processes: finance (approval and procurement for the drilling supplies), HR (there’s going to be a need to hire some very specialized staff), IT (a portal for internal and partner access will have to be developed), ERP (where will this fit into the budget and plans for the upcoming fiscal year), and a host of others. His company needs him in the field where he can contribute while the suits and PowerPoint jockeys back at the office wait to see his findings and act on them.

One can imagine how much easier this guy’s job will be when he can contribute location images into a form directly from his iPhone or Droid. Being able to pinpoint GPS coordinates based on a smartphone app means that all data can be added into the process with accurate geo-location information (which, perhaps, could be pulled from Google Maps). While he’s putting his scientific mind to work to find the best drilling and mining location, the next people in the decision flow of all these processes can keep the process active and help business operations move forward elegantly. What’s more, he can alert others, (and receive alerts himself) regarding workflow decision points; all of this is built into Process Director with SMS notifications.

There is no way this could be done if the collection of that data needed to either reside in this guy’s brain or on printed forms until he was back on-premise.  With Process Director, the intelligence gathered from outside the office activities like meeting clients, visiting remote sites, evaluating patients, or doing any number of things, can be added to normal business processes through mobile devices.
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