The workforce across the globe is showing a marked trend towards moving out of their office. This is leading to a change in the way software tools are being designed and new tech solutions will be a part of the natural flow of activities.
Strategy Analytics’ report “Global Mobile Workforce Forecast Update 2016-2022” states:
The global mobile workforce is set to increase from 1.45 billion in 2016, accounting for 38.8% of the global workforce, to 1.87 billion in 2022, accounting for 42.5% of the global workforce... Mobile devices and technology, that are better designed to meet the needs of mobile workers of all types and at reasonable price points, will enable a greater number of workers to become mobile.
When nearly half of the workforce is mobile, new needs are bound to rise.
- Making the organizational infrastructure available to the mobile workforce.
- Managing the mobile workforce in real-time.
- Ensuring that the organization captures the data from the remote workforce in real-time for decision-making.
So any new solution today has to cater to this trend.
Technology for the Mobile Workforce
Software architectures have mostly been systems of record (SOR). (A system of record captures the data of the organization.) The ERPs, the CRMs fall into this category. Some SaaS solutions such as Salesforce, NetSuite, Workday also belong here. These solutions capture the business data retroactively after the business is done and act as storehouses of the organizational data. However, these solutions do not facilitate mobility.
On the other hand, workflow apps based on the event-driven SaaS architecture:
- Update the database to trigger events such as the real-time reorganization of work, inform stakeholders and also generate reports.
- Blend the workflow with the work environment to enable the staff on the move. So, event driven SaaS models are the future of business applications.
The Advantages of Workflow Apps
The workflow apps enjoy all the advantages of a SaaS architecture:
A SaaS workflow application is easy to try and onboard. All it takes, many a time, is an email address to sign up a freemium app.
Scale as You Grow
SaaS solutions give you the room to grow when you need to grow through new sign-ups for the incoming staff.
Licensing fee and hardware and staff costs are minimized.
Software and hardware upgrade and maintenance are the responsibilities of the SaaS provider. Therefore, the need to maintain skilled staff is minimal, if not non-existent.
Gone are the days when an elaborate evaluation had to happen involving the IT department before an IT product could be bought. Today, employees can try and recommend a workflow app making the validation more authentic and approval a lot easier. The freedom to try and walk away from a solution gives space to the solution providers, to fortify the solution, and the solution seekers, to try another app. The freemium subscription model is one such tool that creates the space.
This is the way any software of the future is going to be designed and adopted.
Coexistence of Systems of Record with Workflow Applications
It is only reasonable to assume that the systems of record and workflow apps coexist in an organization. Integration is the key that makes these systems talk to use the data captured in the SORs or store data in SORs
There isn’t a single workflow app that can meet all the needs of an organization. If an organization chooses to use several SaaS applications to meet its technology needs, how should such apps talk and exchange data with one another? Platforms like Zapier have emerged precisely to address this challenge, that is to bring disparate apps together and automate the workflows.
Each SaaS application comes with its unique terms for subscription, renewals, security, and so on. How should the organization manage the diverse terms while running the software systems without service interruption?
How should an organization manage the required levels of security for its digital assets including data and IP?
The Path Forward
To ride the wave of the increasingly mobile workforce, organizations need to move towards:
- 1. An open architecture that integrates back office (systems of record) and the edge (the workflow apps) using APIs.
- 2. Redesign the business processes to suit the natural activity and workflows.
- 3. Use analytics to make data-driven decisions.
Use Case — Field Force Workflow
The field force presents a compelling use case for event-driven workflow solutions.
First, the workflow apps are built and used with a bottom-up approach. Therefore, their primary appeal of a workflow app is to the field employees who use the app to power up the back-office systems. Interestingly, a workflow app trial has to start with the field staff, and not the IT department. (On the contrary, when a field force solution is chosen using the top-down approach, the field force is rarely part of the evaluation. Therefore, the solution may not meet their needs. Consequently, the field force is not sufficiently vested in ensuring that the product succeeds.)
Second, the workflow apps are built to let the field force work in the field and when on the move, thereby increasing their productivity and keeping the data updated in real-time.
Third, the real-time use of the apps triggers events that update the systems of record and trigger further events that inform the users and the system components. The software components now respond to the events resulting in work reallocation for the field staff or real-time updates in management consoles. The impact: better informed and real-time decision making at all levels of the business.
Fourth, the workflow apps are highly critical to the field staff’s work life. The feedback that comes from the field staff is utterly useful and when implemented, makes the workflow apps robust in a short time.
Fifth, the workflow apps bring new insights by capturing the details about not only the business transactions but also about the how organizational resources are allotted to pursue each business transaction.
Use Case — Sales Activity Management
Sales activity management is another use case which fits well into an event-driven workflow and has two distinct needs:
- Consistent and productive selling behaviors are fundamental to steady growth. Almost all organizations face challenges around recording such selling behaviors. Many organizations are struggling to align their sales organization to a metric and data-driven approach. While a part of sales will always remain an art, the tangible elements need appropriate tools.
- OutWork, developed by Guild Technologies, enables sales teams to record consistent and productive selling behaviors using the event-driven workflow solution. Using OutWork, organizations can increase the customer interactions logged per representative and also know the quality of the sales calls.
OutWork, the mobile field force management solution with its intuitive mobile app as well as the comprehensive web console for the admin is one such solution. Sales teams with a singular focus on productivity are happily embracing OutWork.