If You Want to Get Things Done, Don’t Let Innovation (or Tech) Become Disruptive (Part 1)

“Are you tired of innovating?”
That was the question posed by Field Technologies Online editor Sarah Nicastro in an editorial not too long ago. I was half intrigued about the root of the question and half concerned that there are business leaders who may be tapped out; tired of investing in new, more innovative ways of doing things only to be let down when their hard work fails to meet expectations.

Technology innovation shouldn’t be frustrating. It shouldn’t be a burden. And it certainly shouldn’t lead to the level of “fatigue” that some claim just comes with the territory of competitive business. Technology should be a tool; a means to an end. Based on 20+ years of experience, those that take a thoughtful approach to manage change have better results, more productivity and less stress. Innovation drives progress and solves problems. Innovation is how we find even better ways of doing things – smarter, more efficient, and even more cost-effective ways to achieve our goals.

But I can understand why some may be overwhelmed. Business schools, and even popular technology companies, advocate that their students, partners, and customers “embrace disruptive thinking.” They inundate you (as the person responsible for defining, deciding and delivering your organization’s field service tools) with advice such as, “Be bold, embrace change, and drive innovation...” They share stories about companies that found success via “disruptive” innovation. They talk about businesses like yours – perhaps even in your industry – that dramatically changed their processes and technologies, and now are better off for it. But, just like the news, only the most dramatic cases of “success” garner attention. Nobody writes a business case on how an organization with 2% profit growth per year increased it to 3%. And nobody writes a business case on the same 2% organization that tried for a dramatic change and is no longer in business.

Rugged Tablets for less innovation disruption

So, companies – perhaps even yours – feel pressured to take bold action. "Innovation is grueling, but it’s good to force yourself into it..." right? That seems to be the “gospel” according to business schools these days. But it shouldn’t be. Innovation should not equate to an unrealistic agenda of dramatic change. It need not be disruptive to be effective. In fact, the whole reason we innovate – at least when it comes to workforce mobility solutions within field service, manufacturing, and other industrial sectors – is to minimize disruptions, eliminate the risks and uncertainty that come with drastic change, and reduce downtime. So why would you feel compelled to act counter to logic? To those hoping for business process improvement from mobility solutions:

  • Seek to innovate with best-in-class, future-proof mobile computing technologies that have proven to deliver long term business process and workflow stability
  • Embrace highly adaptable technologies, such rugged tablets, that allow for more sustainable best practices long term – and avoid bundled solutions that appear to have all the right components in a neat package with a seemingly lower sticker price. Bundled solutions from a single tech supplier won’t lead to “best-in-class” operations and will more often than not lead to regret.
  • Don’t feel the need to shake things up with new mobile devices every year. In fact, your plan needs to actively avoid the need for frequent change. Closely evaluate how well you can integrate the “exciting” and “disruptive” technologies – such as IIoT, wearables, augmented reality, virtual reality, etc. – with your existing, and well optimized, data systems and mobile architectures. Having a stable base solution means that you can experiment with these newer technologies.

Now, I realize that the idea of innovating around rugged tablet solutions may not address the current buzzwords, as mentioned above. There are those (outside your business, and with their own angle to advance) who will say things like “Innovate or die”. But…

  • Do your workers need a “familiar consumer brand” to get their work done? Or do they need a reliable, designed-for-the-job device that will work exactly how and when they need it to work so they can do their jobs without frustration?
  • Will a “familiar consumer brand” effectively advance your business goals? Or will it just keep you behind the curve, always playing catch up to your competitors because you don’t have the right tools to fine tune your business processes or find new efficiencies?

It depends: Do you want to spend time “upgrading” your entire mobility system every year when the latest digital technologies – finally proven and ready for prime-time – need to be brought online? Are you comfortable with a throwaway device that may align with a couple of your TCO line items (i.e. budget) but can’t keep pace with your business’ IT requirements? Do you want to disrupt your workers’ productivity just for the sake of trying your hand with a “disruptive” technology?

Assuming the answer is no, you have more than enough ammo to justify your investment in rugged tablet-based mobility solutions to your boss – especially if they do want to have the flexibility to embrace the more advanced, up-and-coming technology innovations down the line. 

Blog Author: Bob Ashenbrenner
President of Durable Mobility Technologies, LLC.