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Mobile Performance Support (PS): There’s an App for That!

Written by conrad

Originally published on the Performance Support Community website on 24 January 2013


These days it seems we don’t go anywhere without a mobile connection of some kind. Smartphones and now tablets are just part of our daily existence, allowing us to stay connected wherever we are.  No one who’s seriously gone mobile should be surprised to hear that the mobile workforce is growing. It’s huge! A recent IDC report says that this year, the number of mobile workers will total 1.3 billion around the world—an impressive 37.2% of the workforce. This is just the beginning!

According to renowned surgeon Atul Gawande, author of The Checklist Manifesto, we live in a time when, “The volume and complexity of what we know has exceeded our individual ability to deliver its benefits correctly, safely, or reliably.” He suggests, “We need a different strategy for overcoming failure, one that builds on experience and takes advantage of the knowledge people have but somehow also makes up for our inevitable human inadequacies.”  Mobile devices, like smartphones and tablets, can be the means for doing this by supporting our workforce anytime and anywhere. Those of us with the “there’s an app for that” mindset are already used to getting information quickly.  When I want turn-by-turn directions to somewhere I haven’t been, tips on how to care for the 38 different types of trees on our property, or even more serious things such as where to find the best sushi, I just pull out my smartphone. I can get help finding, or remembering, how to do things “wherever I am and whenever I need it.”

Sound familiar?

In our consumer life, we “get it.” We love our mobile phones and tablets. We don’t leave home without them. And now, we’re seeing workers take them into the ever-changing locations of their workplace and expecting the same capabilities. It’s a stupid business decision to not give it to them!

So why haven’t we? Although, as consumers and users, we’ve easily made the transition to “smart” devices in support of our private lives. But as practitioners, we’re still hung up on how to take learning to the 2.5″ screen. Go to any learning conference and you’ll find the primary focus is still on “mobile learning.” But in the real world, the pressing need is “mobile support.”  Take a hard look at most mobile apps and you’ll find that most are supporting performance (Moments New and More) rather than learning (Moments Apply, Change, and Solve).

This is not to say there is no place for mobile in formal learning. An article in USA Today this past December highlights the use of smart devices in the classroom. Teachers are leveraging apps to support their coursework, and students are accessing helpful information and exercises on a device they’re familiar with, and that is with them all the time.

Just to give you an idea, mobile performance support apps let workers access content such as helpful tips, checklists, tools, and other resources. At the same time, they can connect with, and get help from, other workers, either over the phone, via e-mail, or through texting—all from the same device. It doesn’t matter if the worker is at a client site or on the manufacturing floor; mobile performance support is there with them.

We had a great time helping office furniture maker Herman Miller set up mobile performance support for their 350 designers around the globe; designers who work onsite with clients to custom design offices. But with such a large number of products, it’s impossible to remember the details and proper messaging. The mobile PS solution provides sales support with product positioning, best practice suggestions, effective product combinations, and even up-selling.

Just another reason why 2013 is the year of performance support.  Has your organization embraced mobile performance support? We’d love to hear what you’re doing.

Written in Technology Matters

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