March 8, 2017
All the cutting edge mobile data collection hardware and software in the world isn’t worth much if your field team breaks into a cold sweat when asked to use it. That’s why it’s so important to spend the time and effort needed to promote effective field training on mobile technology.
I’ve put together a compilation of resources both from TaroWorks and other organizations working in the last mile to help ensure that whatever you put into the field is embraced by the people who must use it to collect and analyze data, manage sales in remote areas or direct a far flung supply chain. Four issues stand out:
TaroWorks customer SOIL, a nonprofit in Haiti, which provides access to sanitation (while producing organic compost as a natural resource), recently completed field training. Systems Director Erica Lloyd has these thoughts on winning the hearts and minds of mobile technology users:
“As with anything new, you have to be really clear about the benefits to the organization and individual users. It helps to answer questions like, ‘How will this product solve an existing problem, improve productivity and be cost effective?’ All of our staff were well-acquainted with the challenges of our previous data management practices (gathering data via paper forms and typing into Excel forms), but we spent a few minutes at the beginning of the training enumerating some of those problems and how moving to TaroWorks/Salesforce would address them. The good news is our field staff were really enthusiastic – I think their positive response shows that people were on the same page about being ready to move on from our previous data collection and analysis system.” (Read More)
As I’ve written before, selecting the wrong mobile devices to take into remote areas can be a costly and time-consuming decision that hurts field data team productivity and undermines the accuracy of your data collection and analysis – as well as makes it more difficult to get your field team up to speed. Here are some questions to ask yourself:
The next – and arguably most pressing – challenge of using and adopting mobile technology in the remote areas is field training. During her stint as an ICT4D specialist at Equal Access International, Natasha Beale shared useful training tips for getting workers ready to use mobile data collection techniques in an article for ICT Works. Her recommendations included allotting enough time for training sessions, training in the local language, making sure the mobile device usage policy is clear, teaching technology basics and integrating role-playing activities.
“Training is perhaps the most important part of the transition process from paper-based to mobile M&E,” Beale wrote. “Your data will only be as good as your trainees are trained. If trainees misunderstand how to use the technical tool, managing a technical M&E deployment can quickly turn into a more exhaustive task than managing a paper-based system.”
Andrew Zacharias, the director of Monitoring & Evaluation for Trees for the Future, spoke in a TaroWorks webinar about how training figured into his organization’s experience implementing TaroWorks in the field. Some of the main lessons his team learned were the importance of reserving enough time for device setup, understanding that there will be hiccups along the way, knowing there will be varying degrees of technological aptitude among participants and implementing role playing as an effective training strategy.
It can be challenging for field staff members to successfully leverage mobile data collection technology in the last mile. This is why the main enemies of mobile user adoption during training sessions are fear, frustration and distrust. While these problems are not unique to any one operation, there are common approaches for combating these issues and supporting a proper field-staff adoption of technology. These areas include:
Sweating the field training details I’ve highlighted, should go a long way to helping your organization’s field team embrace the hardware and software you’ve given them to do their jobs.
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