May 11, 2016
Being an early technology adopter is no easy feat. Oftentimes, customers have incredible amounts of interest and enthusiasm for new products and projects, but are not always sure how to harness their momentum and apply it to moving a project forward to deployment.
Wearable technology fuels a particularly high level of excitement and passion because it involves cool new hardware, has the ability to address long-standing but high-pain problems, and sparks the imagination of where big digital transformations can take us. However, despite the excitement that surrounds this type of project, rollouts require a managed, business-driven approach to see them through. Companies need to make sure all boosters are firing and in working order before they shoot for the moon. From our five years of experience in the market, we have found that these three key qualifications are vital to enterprise wearable deployments:
Root the scenario in business reality
When customers begin to consider how they can use wearables across their businesses, there is often an early research and evaluation phase: getting devices in-house and playing with them, building a rough demo, and just understanding how they work. APX did research in June last year and we found that 71% of companies were already engaged in some work around smartwatches, smart glasses or both. However, experimenting with a new device alone doesn’t show you a path toward creating a solution that can derive business value. The companies who are making the most progress with enterprise wearables are those that established a clear rationale for their use. Innovation and research isn’t a rationale that is strong enough to pull you forward.
The key is to create a solution to a long-standing business problem, and there are two areas in particular where it might be useful to start: manual processes where productivity gains have been hard to come by, and in operations where errors and downtime are very expensive. Another possibility is to adopt wearable tech as a pillar in a broader digital transformation. Wearables can be the end-user dimension in a bigger IOT and operational analytics strategy. These are the paths toward identifying and articulating business value, and that is a pre-requisite for real deployment success.
Identify a scenario that yields measurable results
Thankfully, wearables can create clear and direct economic impact. We investigated how to quantify that statement in depth and published a white paper that describes the sources of value you can tap into, with examples of how other companies did it. And while wearables are flexible enough to support a range of use cases across industries, the key is to find the places that are ripe for these benefits first.
As you start, you should be thinking about measuring the business impact. Simple, repetitive, and relatively low-cost tasks generally are going to be harder to justify that those that are complex and more costly. Instead, environments with a high-churn or rapidly aging workforce, high-compliance requirements, and high downtime or ancillary costs (like travel and scrap) are best suited for initial deployments. In our experience, these high-yield environments are most pronounced in manufacturing, field service, maintenance, inspection and other industrial operations.
Playing it safe is not playing it smart
Now that the scenario and process have been identified, it’s time to put the product through its paces on the floor. Deploy the pilot in a true environment to get a real sense of what it can do. Focus test the product early with a cross-section of your hands-on workers to gain their valuable, first-hand feedback and support. Include remote video capability and step-by-step guidance to give them a sense of what the project can truly do. The lessons learned will be valuable going forward and result in a smooth transition to deployment.
Incorporating wearables into the work environment is revolutionizing the hands-on workforce. By starting projects under the right conditions, it proves that technology isn’t the ends users’ burden or competition; instead, it’s their most valuable tool. It will save time and aggravation by streamlining work orders and processes, allow for documentation in line with work orders, and aid in performance of duties in an efficient manner. By showing the possibilities of the tool from the start, employees will get the best experience possible, and any concerns about potential technophobia and user adoption will dissipate quickly.
Identifying a successful initial use case to pilot is critical to moving the project to deployment. By leveraging wearable technology, companies stand to increase productivity by 15-20%, reduce rework costs by 20-30%, and reduce operations costs by 15-25%. Starting with projects that have measurable returns and are true to the typical work environment will help prove a pilot project’s worth rapidly. Wearable technology for the enterprise is such a powerful tool that it will be making a return on your investment within the first six months of deployment, and you can be launching your project to full deployment within the year!
Brian Ballard is the CEO and Co-Founder of APX Labs, where he is working on the next industrial revolution–using smart glasses to create powerful ways for the workforce to interact with the digital and physical world. Catch Brian at EWTS East, where he will be leading end users from Jacobs Engineering, Avon, Aetna, PowerStream Inc., and Lockheed Martin in a discussion on the secrets to enterprise adoption of wearables.