Six Sources of ROI from Digital Transformation
When considering Digital Transformation, the key question decision-makers focus on: can we quantify and track the ROI from these initiatives? When you digitize your processes, particularly those relating to maintenance, inspections & work management, the focus is typically on maximizing returns. But where do these returns and cost savings come from? In 2019, it was estimated that companies around the world spent over $2 trillion on digital transformation. That is how much organizations value their resources and the efficiency of their allocation – and this was well before the global pandemic further accelerated this shift. Indeed ROI is the difference between “nice to have” and “must absolutely have”.
The benefits from mobile apps for digital transformation in these applications are obvious to end-users – the techs, engineers, linemen and other front-line workers – but do the numbers justify the technology? The goal of this article is to outline the different benefits of digital fieldwork management that directly improve – or contribute to – ROI, starting with efficiency gains.
The foremost impact is on the most valuable commodity for any business – time. Digital transformation provides businesses with the tools to streamline their processes and eliminate zero value-added activities.
As an example, when field workers use clipboards and paper print-outs from their back-end systems to complete their work and then enter into a back-end system, errors come from incorrect data entry, often caused by illegible handwriting, or mandatory fields that were never filled out when doing the job. With a digital application like iMarq, managers can eliminate the time and resources lost from the manual-first-enter-later approach. This is because applications like iMarq make it easy for field workers to enter information as they complete their jobs – use drop-downs, bar-codes and toggles to enter data. And where data needs to be keyed in, common errors like the usual “o” vs. “0” issue or forgetting to insert a decimal point (which happens more frequently than most care to admit) are eliminated by an appropriate numeric or alpha-numeric keypad appearing for that field.
Analytics & Decision-making
Digital transformation apps can go one step further – data collected accurately and in real-time from the field can help with analytics and analytics-driven decision making, including even automating some of these decisions as processes mature.
For instance, the use of “hands-free” speech-to-text features goes beyond prioritizing the operator’s mobility and safety. Typically most field workers do not write detailed comments to capture their observations from the field – either because they want to move on to their next job or their lack of interest in spending more time entering these comments onto a system, or a simple dislike for writing. This results in a loss of valuable accumulated intelligence from the field.
Instead, with iMarq speech-to-text users are simply able to speak their comments into a report, and this data is now available for aggregation, future analytics and review. Rather than reading through hand-written data, a user could simply run a query like, “how many times did my crew find ‘corrosion’ when completing a Stage X (e.g. 10K mile, or 3 months) inspection on XYZ line of equipment that we deployed last year?” and get a result. As processes mature, these queries can even automate further action e.g. “if ‘corrosion’ was detected > Y times, then undertake action Z”.
Understanding that no one, especially crew members, enjoys writing or entering data into a terminal, functions like these can encourage employees to focus more on their work and less on their handwriting. And the ultimate end-result is a wealth of data from the field that converts to actionable intelligence.
Parts, Material, Inventory
By relying on a paper-based system, significant delays can occur between stock-outs and reorders. This is largely due to the gap between book and actual inventory in the field that plagues inventory systems and unexpected parts requests from shops. This is also largely avoidable (and somewhat inexcusable) since most jobs carry a standard list of parts and consumables required to complete those jobs. Leveraging the digital inventory framework of the iMarq, field workers know the parts required for a job, view inventory availability, request parts from the floor, and trigger reorders. Systems like these eliminate the chance of forgetting some key component(s) that are integral to a particular task or simply waiting for parts.
Compliance & Safety
Compliance is imperative, and often mandated, in businesses where safety and reliability are key aspects of running those businesses. It standardizes the processes and procedures that facilitate cost efficiency, safety, and effective time management. Digital transformation empowers managers to achieve internal compliance goals while also meeting regulatory requirements. At the simplest level, once digital, you can make certain fields mandatory, numeric only, etc. – further eliminating the possibility of any incorrect or missed out information. Similarly, the obstacles that normally inhibit regulatory audits are no longer an issue. Collating information for different systems, for example, becomes much easier because all of the information is digitally accessible and available on literally every keystroke. One could search for information using specific filters as well, such as asset type and date.
The more impressive compliance feature that Connixt’s enterprise apps provide is the ability to automate processes altogether – completely removing the possibility of human error. At the end of every inspection, for instance, formatted reports can be auto-created for digital filing and submission. More importantly, any alerts or exceptions can be trapped and escalated automatically.
From a safety perspective, a standard feature of mobile apps like speech-to-text allows the workers to have full access to their hands while still capturing key comments and observations without jeopardizing their current activities. The use of bar-codes and photos with annotations minimizes the amount of time they spend in the field. Access to work orders from the field, ready availability of online context-sensitive help and integrated video-call features for further assistance eliminates windshield time substantially.
Executive and Managerial Advantages
The ROI experienced from effectively integrated cloud-mobile applications and digital processes goes beyond just efficiency gains and compliance. Using real-time analytics and reporting across location, assets, brands, etc., leaders can accurately track the location and duration of active work orders as well as the parts or tools that need to be replaced or updated. Similarly, management can gain increased visibility of their consumption of inventory and parts based on jobs that are in the queue, completed, and upcoming.
It’s all down to Scalability
What maximizes the return on investment of these benefits is their scalability. Digital transformation, as outlined above, can grow as a business grows, or when customers demand greater savings or efficiencies. By going digital, executives and managers in the public transit sector can retain their efficiencies and compliance advantages without having to spend an arm-and-a-leg on overhead and infrastructure upgrades. When you desire to expand, consolidate, or recruit, you want a repeatable process that is also easy to deploy across your new workforce and your new assets. That is what digital transformation allows managers to do – to improve the ROI of their field workers and management systems.
As important as it is to understand the value of digital transformation, its execution is equally important to the degree of which your organization utilizes it. According to CIO, poor digitization can lead to negative stigma towards future digital transformations. To learn how you can maximize the ROI of your firm, download and read our whitepaper titled: The ROI of Digital Transformation: Connecting Business, Maintenance, and IT.