March 8, 2017

Field Training Success: How To Ensure Mobile Tech Adoption

Erin Yamaoka

Field Training Success: How To Ensure Mobile Tech Adoption

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:

  • User Buy-in: Proving to your field team that this technology will help them in significant ways
  • Mobile Device: Selecting hardware that’s powerful enough to meet demands but cost-effective and easy-to-use.
  • Training: Training the users on both the mobile hardware and software through clear, comprehensive and interactive presentations.
  • Technical Support: Providing useful documentation and troubleshooting tips users can employ to solve problems on their own as well as having technical team members ready to step in when issues are more complicated.

Winning Hearts and Minds

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)

field training

SOIL team members are trained on the use of TaroWorks. Photo courtesy of SOIL.

Finding The Right Hardware Can be Hard

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:

  • Will the mobile device be able to run the software you’re planning to use?
  • Does the phone have the basic functionality you’ll need?
  • How easy will it be to maintain, repair or replace the device? (Read More)

Your Data Is Only As Good As Your Field Training

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.


Field training

A member of The BOMA Project field team uses his mobile device in a rugged area of Northern Kenya.

User Support Shows Field Team They’re Not Alone

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:

  • Established support processes: It’s important to establish that your field staff are not alone during this implementation process. Highlight paper references, support services, worse case scenarios and the need for backup devices during your training sessions.
  • Accountability: There should be a single point of ownership over the mobile technology. These owner requirements include being a champion of the technology and being able to understand and communicate its value. Then, it is important for you to set measurable and achievable goals for your field staff.
  • Communication : Clear and concise communication is key to making sure both mobile users and the organization as a whole benefit from the technology. If possible, users should voice their concerns and needs at every step of the piloting or phased-rollout processes.
  • Capacity building: This is possibly the most important piece of successful mobile technology field training. First, users must complete training on hardware usage. Then they should practice skills needed for the immediate pilot and future expansion. Furthermore, users should practice troubleshooting common issues, along with role playing on the devices and specific scenarios they might encounter.
  • Device testing : Though not extremely common, it’s wise to field-test devices before committing to a larger purchase order. Using the device in remote areas lacking power and connectivity – as well as collecting mobile data during inclement weather – will help you assess battery life, storage capacity, durability and ease-of-use.

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.



About the author...

Erin Yamaoka

Dir., Product and Professional Services

Erin Yamaoka provides technical support and professional services to TaroWorks customers who have operated across more than 30 countries. With a background in technology consulting, she has a BS in Computer Engineering from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and has worked with field teams in Sub-Saharan Africa.


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