At a global business services company like Rentokil Initial, bridging this mobile-experience gap presents a big challenge - but it’s one that Mark Purcell, CIO of the company’s Rentokil division, is determined to crack.
Around 7,000 of the company’s 32,000-strong workforce are mobile technicians who travel between customer sites, delivering a range of services from pest control to washroom management. For the most part, he says, they’re forced to rely on clunky apps running on elderly ruggedised PDAs. They’re not happy about that - and neither is the IT team, he says:
The application we offer is very much one size fits all, quite inflexible, and hard to roll out in new markets. Implementing upgrades, offering new features and functions - that’s a slow and painful process. It’s something we can only really manage once or twice a year. Technicians are pushing us to offer the same kind of experience they have with Facebook on their smartphones, and we’re just not there today.
But, he adds, the issue is very much in hand, with the deployment of a mobile application development platform from Kony. This, Purcell explains, will enable Rentokil Initial to roll out a wider range of more specialised apps, running on newer devices, to technicians in different company divisions and markets.
The Kony platform can be deployed on-premise, in a hosted private cloud or in the public cloud. Within the product set, the Kony Visualization Cloud provides design tools that allow developers to capture requirements and preview proposed new apps.
The Kony Development Cloud, meanwhile, provides the tools they need to actually build the apps and integrate them with back-end systems. The Kony Management Cloud, meanwhile, provides a range of mobile device management tools that enable IT teams to configure new users, for example, and remotely wipe lost or stolen devices.
It’s still early days for this deployment, but initial findings are encouraging, according to Anthony Meadows, enterprise delivery director at Rentokil Initial:
Having a central platform for mobile app development is just a much more efficient way to work. Using the same underlying infrastructure and code, we can now take a ‘write once, deploy many times’ approach. That’s going to help us not only be more responsive to the demands of technicians in different divisions and markets, but also to changes and upgrades to mobile operating systems.
There’s a real emphasis now on reuse of code across operating systems and devices so, in effect, we have a set of building blocks to work with. This is helping us design apps that have the same look and feel across devices and deliver a more consumer-like experience. And we can be more precise in terms of delivering an appropriate level of technology for particular roles and markets.
In particular, he adds, the visualization tools have proved useful in enabling the IT team to work closely with end users at the earliest planning stages for new apps:
Technicians can sit down with us and tell us, face-to-face, what they actually want and need from mobile in their day-to-day working lives. And we can map out for them, on screen, what that app might look like and get their comments, even before a single line of code has been written.
Above all, Purcell adds, using Kony has injected Rentokil Initial’s mobile apps strategy with a much-needed dose of ‘future-proofing’:
Devices will change, mobile operating systems will change, but user expectations and demands will only go in one direction - upwards. Whatever happens, we have more confidence now that we’ll be able to adapt to whatever changes in mobile technologies and mobile usage come along.