Throwing mobile technologies at the business without fully considering the underlying business processes, or the working conditions of the end user, can end up doing more harm than good, according to analyst firm Quocirca.
A recent multi-country survey across the healthcare and finance sectors, commissioned by digital pen and paper firm Anoto, found that mobile technologies can be a great tool to help make businesses more agile and increase productivity. But the complexity of many of these systems can end up costing the business more than it saves.
Quocirca's Light Touch, Firm Impression report warned that technology solutions should be kept simple, and that the high cost of mobile devices, and their proneness to theft, loss and damage, can be major barriers to their effective use.
"As mobile technologies have become cheaper and offer greater functionality, organisations tend to over standardise and adopt products that are too complicated," said Rob Bamforth, principal analyst at Quocirca and author of the study.
"Mobile technology needs to be simple and to fit closely with the business task in hand and the needs of the user. It is people, process and technology - in that order."
Bamforth explained that mobile devices are often not fit for purpose. The form factor of most mobiles makes them tricky to write on single-handedly or while standing up, and can be difficult to clean, both of which are major issues in the health sector. The vulnerability to theft, loss and breaking also causes problems.
The study suggests that technology should be a supporting tool for front-line staff like doctors. When it is more complex than necessary, it can get in the way of effective use and can reduce rather than enhance productivity, especially in instances when training has been poor.
Another issue highlighted by the report was cost. Mobile technologies can save time, money and waste by reducing the time spent transcribing information from paper to digital, and can speed up business processes. But the ongoing cost of failures, and the implementation of budget mobile units which lack the full set of features required, can often mean that total cost of ownership outweighs the upfront savings.
"It's ironic that mobile technologies designed to make workers' lives more productive are, in some cases, having the opposite effect," added Petter Ericsson, chief science officer at Anoto.
"Organisations often don't consider that a technology stands and falls with its users. Ideally, the solution they select should not require dramatic changes to existing processes, be intuitive with little or no training needed, and capable of truly making staff more efficient."
The report concludes that businesses considering implementing mobile technologies should not necessarily abandon the idea, but must fully consider the real needs of the business process or the working conditions.