By Mark Scott
It’s not just a marketing tool – Data Tweets accelerate mobile business.
When you think of Twitter and business, most people think social media marketing, few would guess that it’s helping rent heavy construction equipment in Texas. The power of Twitter is a real-time communications network, available on any smart device. Now consider replacing marketing tweets with “data tweets”, and you have a sophisticated infrastructure for improving the speed of business.
Clever CIOs are marrying mobile devices, business Apps and social media services, including Twitter, to share time-sensitive data with direct and measurable impacts on profits. One example, ROMCO Equipment, a company that rents trucks as big as a house, is using a dynamic mobile workflow with data tweets – helping them to turn around equipment for rental as much as six days faster.
“Companies involved in heavy construction and mining are being very judicious on large capital expenditures – they’re looking more and more to rent. We have a very extensive fleet of heavy equipment we rent for large projects. Some of these include heavy highway construction, oil and gas infrastructure, and mining. Having multiple offices across Texas, it was crucial for us to know the exact availability of every piece of equipment in real-time. In today’s competitive environment, the old style paper process was too slow for us. Our Operations and IT team made a recommendation to move us away from paper and fax machines, to Samsung Galaxy Tablets and a Business App from AT&T called ProntoForms. Data collected from the field is shared via a private Twitter network to all of our operations and sales people across Texas in real-time. We run a traditional distribution business, but we use cutting edge mobile technologies to get the most from our people, and better serve our customers,” explained Charlie Clarkson, President of ROMCO Equipment Co.
The three integration steps
So how do businesses leverage this powerful real-time communications network? It’s plug and play, if you have the right tools.
One: Create your Private Twitter network
The administrator can create a Twitter account that allows only approved followers to see account Tweets – this keeps all your company data tweets private from prying eyes. The administrator can also manage registered followers, they can be blocked or removed – crucial for handling an employee who changes departments, or who is no longer with the company.
Two: Identify Strategic Data to be shared and automate your Twitter Feed
Remember, Twitter allows only 140 characters per tweet – so you’re never going to Tweet all of the data you collect in the field. The key is identifying what is the most crucial data that needs to be extracted and shared. Of all the data that’s collected on a daily basis – there are crucial nuggets of data that can mean a major difference on productivity and profits. So once you have identified those nuggets, how do you extract them and connect them to Twitter? You’ll need an enterprise-grade business App that manages data workflow and connects to Twitter. Read on…
Three: Choose an Enterprise-grade Mobile Business App with Twitter connectivity
Accessing real-time data can transform your information workflow, but Twitter itself is not an enterprise data solution, it’s a communications tool. Your business will require a Business App for smartphones and tablets that can interconnect with Twitter.
A quick rule of thumb, here’s what you should look for in your business App:
- Multi-mobile OS support – in an era of BYOD, you will likely have iOS, Android and Windows Phone users in the field
- Data moving from the office to the field. The Business App plays the crucial role of accessing back office data (price lists, inventory, resource availability…), or receiving dispatches from field managers in the office, or working remotely
- Data moving from the Field to Office. The enterprise App should be adept at submitting field data back to the office, and allow for connectivity of that data to the back office
- Consider multiple input options. Maximize the power of new smartphones and tablets. Not all data will be input through typing, consider whether or not the enterprise App handles barcode scanning, voice-to-text input, photos and even GPS stamping aggregated with data collected
- Administrator management of field users and preferences for inbound and outbound data routing in your workflow
Now, how do we extract the data nuggets? Enterprise grade solutions that can deliver on the above should also have the ability to quickly integrate and play with Twitter in a sophisticated way. The objective is to automate data extraction and sharing once the data is available – you don’t want your teams in the field involved in an extra step of sending tweets and being aggravated by character limitations. Here’s what you should look for:
- The administrator should be able to identify which employees, or which data collected (or a mix of both) will be tweeted, and set preferences without needing to physically handle the employee device
- Where multiple amounts of data are collected in one data submission, the Enterprise App should be able to extract specific fields to be tweeted
- Consider how the App handles different types of content. Photos, barcode scans, and how can these be integrated into tweets
Accelerate information sharing – accelerate opportunity
Considering the competitive advantage of empowering your employees with real-time data, CIOs need to explore where to start integrating this solution into their mobile workflow. Like any new workflow deployment, we recommend starting small with one team in the field, 100 users or less, and then growing the solution across multiple departments. This way, you can test ROI and iron out the bugs for a larger enterprise roll out.
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