Thursday, January 12, 2012

Enterprise Mobility and Institutional Memory

This tablet mentions the
Library at Alexandria
During the past year I consulted with many different utility companies around the world that all seemed to be facing the same challenge, recruiting and training a new generation of workers before their aging workforce retires.  Their biggest concerns were capturing institutional knowledge that resided only in the minds of their aging workforce, and passing it down to the next generation before it was lost forever.

The challenges faced by these utilities reminded me of the ancient Library at Alexandria (Egypt). It was the first known library of its kind with funding and a mandate to collect books from around the world for the purpose of aggregating the world's knowledge in one place.  It succeeded for a time, but during Julius Caesar's visit to Alexandria in 48 BC his forces "accidentally" burned down the library and its entire collection.

Every time I think about this disaster I cringe.  Just think about the volumes of history and knowledge that were lost in that ancient fire!

Now let's return to the challenges facing the utilities.  The knowledge they seek to collect and save, is often the unwritten knowledge.  Knowledge about the locations of assets, projects, job sites and the history behind each.  The lessons learned, experiences and knowledge about the most effective ways to accomplish various tasks.

Enterprise mobility solutions may not help solve their current problems, but it can help resolve this problem in the future.  Mobile devices and mobile apps can today be configured to automatically capture all kinds of digital data rather than just ink on paper.  It can capture date, time, location, photos, bar code, RFID, geo-tags, data from any bluetooth enabled data capture devices, audio files and videos.  All of these data capture tools are in addition to the standard mobile app data fields where data can be manually entered by the mobile worker.

PSION EP10 Durable PDA
This captured digital data can be stored in data warehouses, associated with a GPS coordinate and analyzed.  This data can be associated with physical locations, and when the next generation of workers (or next year's) need archived information about a location, job, project, customer, plan, infrastructure design, etc., real-time business intelligence systems will analyze the "big data" and provide this information in seconds to mobile devices.

Collecting and utilizing institutional knowledge has never been easier.  However, it must be part of your mobile strategy and enterprise mobility plan or this opportunity to capture institutional data will be missed yet again.

Kevin Benedict, Independent Mobile Industry Analyst, Consultant and SAP Mentor Volunteer
Follow me on Twitter @krbenedict
Full Disclosure: I am an independent mobility analyst, consultant and blogger. I work with and have worked with many of the companies mentioned in my articles.