Floor-field workforce: the forgotten people?

October 15, 2013

“Enabling the floor-field workforce” was in the bottom 10 priority topics, ranked 15th out of 20 in the pre-survey 2014 Digital Workplace Quick Poll. Yet some enterprises were leading the game, many years ago.

John Deere was connecting to the farmer in the field – 20 years ago


 I co-authored a “best seller” in the French business-techno world: “L’avantage internet pour l’entreprise” published by Dunod in 1996. It was the first book in French that talked about internet and intranet from a non-technical perspective.

The John Deere case illustrated the salesmen taking their portables out to the farmers in the field to show them photos of the parts they could order for their John Deere tractors.

I’m sure my grandfather, who bought the first John Deere tractor in his part of Nebraska many years may have met one of these salespeople! The agricultural sector was advanced in using technology for their work, and I don’t mean the big companies only. My uncle, also a farmer in Nebraska, was the first person to show me how you can see the prices of grain online from his computer.

The John Deere example was not based on real-time connectivity, but today, 20 years later, there are still a lot of sales people who are not able access the information they need when they are on client sites.

Mobile for the floor-field – strategic and led by Communication

Connecting the whole workforce is a strategic objective for some organizations. Data from 2012 (published in Digital Workplace Trends 2013) showed that 31% of the floor-field organizations had included the digital workplace in their strategic objectives compared to 18% of desk-office organizations. This difference can be interpreted by saying that the desk-office population is already ahead of the floor-field population. Perhaps so, but it looks like the latter may be catching up.

We also saw that in most companies IT is leading the mobile initiatives. However, in floor-field organizations, it is more likely to be lead by communicators.

The goals for mobile are different depending on the dominant type of workforce:

  • Floor-field organizations emphasize “better informing workers” and “increasing employee engagement”.
  • Desk-office organizations see mobile services more as a means of “increasing collaboration and teamwork” and “facilitating access to experts”.

We’ll see what progress has been made when we analyze the data from this year’s survey. My guess is that progress has been made. I hope I’m not too optimistic.

What are your thoughts and experience on mobile for the floor-field workforce?









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