For government agencies, many of their employees work ‘out in the field’ – whether it’s on an infrastructure project, or meeting with community groups and members – so being able to work remotely is critical to business efficiency.
At the CeBIT trade show in Sydney, the CIOs of three agencies spoke about how they are using mobile devices and applications to improve efficiency in their organisations.
“Field officers didn’t want to come back into the office all the time and get every piece of information so we pushed forward in getting as much information out to them as possible,” said Logan City Council CIO, Jim Barclay.
“We have put our corporate email onto a mobile platform. We’ve also put our document management system onto a mobile platform, and we are putting in a new GIS system and that’s going on a mobile platform, as well.”
Alex Evans, CIO of the Department of Local Management in Western Australia, said there was a lot of time wasted in field workers travelling to and from local government agencies with “stacks of files” and having to come back to the office to input the information into a database.
“So it’s reducing a lot of time… and it’s also enabling a lot of information to be shared, enabling efficiencies that way. Documents can be annotated and shared amongst groups of people quite quickly,” she said.
“We are about to merge with another state government… the Department of Communities. They use mobility to… equip their staff that go out to provide support to community groups across regions and do inspections with iPads so that they can be efficient in the field as well. That’s been shown to reduce the amount of paper work by about 20 to 30 minutes for each inspection.”
Transport for NSW CIO Tim Catley agreed, saying that one of biggest benefits of providing field workers with mobile applications is that information can be updated or a service can be delivered faster and more accurately as it comes directly from the source.
“Whether they are working on assets or they are responding to a customer request it allows us to do it then and there to provide that service or to update that information.”
However, Barclay pointed out that putting specific business functions on a mobile platform can be “very, very expensive compared opening up your platform to mobile users”.
“We do the food/restaurant inspections to make sure it’s safe to eat there and we have those officers [working] through a mobile platform. I’ll give you a cost indication: for our 20 officers that can inspect restaurants that total would of cost probably around the $400,000 mark to get them all up and working properly in the field. The payback is much bigger than that of course or we wouldn’t have done it. But it is expensive to cater for officers in the field on a specific mobile platform, when you’re talking about specific apps.”