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Mobility, Location, Speed and Refugees

In today's world of fast paced project management, simply knowing a location on a map where something is suppose to happen is not good enough - we need to know a location-in-time, what is happening there (status), and who or what (resources) are present there and how this information is going to impact future plans.  This information is particularly important when you are managing projects, with time constraints, and organizing events and meetings across a wide geographical area.

The key planning concept here is - location at a point-in-time.  If I ask, where was the bus located on the route? You would likely respond, "At what time?"  The same response could be used for the question, "Where will the bus be?"  Time and location are necessary for planning current and future events and activities.

This week my family is experiencing and struggling with location and time.  Several families from our church have adopted a refugee family from the Congo and are helping them to survive, integrate, adapt and ultimately thrive in their new country.  The family consists of a mother and three children.  We are learning so much!

The mother doesn't speak English, doesn't have work, doesn't have a home, doesn't have money, doesn't have an income, doesn't have winter clothes, doesn't own a watch, doesn't have a working mobile phone, doesn't have a car (Boise, Idaho has limited public transportation) and has kids in school. The family has a busy schedule of appointments with social services, English classes, buses, school schedules and medical appointments.  Wow!  It can at times seem overwhelming.  There are many dozens of appointments all at different times and locations.

Yesterday, one of our support team went to pick up the refugee mother for an appointment and she could not be located.  Yikes!  There were appointments to keep, language classes to attend, school buses to catch and kids to track.  We ultimately found her and got the day back on track, but I was again reminded of how important it is to have mobile communications and location knowledge.  It is very difficult to keep things organized and on schedule without these.

Mobile technologies, location information and social collaboration platforms can provide enormous productivity gains and an increased speed of work or operational tempo.  Time, status and location data, and the ability to share this knowledge, enables one to accomplish a great deal more in a given time.

To appreciate the full value of these solutions, just try to track and monitor a refugee family with three children, on different school schedules, no permanent home, and dozens of weekly meetings all across the city, while not leaving them stranded and freezing to death in zero degree (F) Boise, Idaho weather.

Our team has learned and experienced much over the past few weeks and we are better for it.  With the constant use of mobile communications, DropBox and collaboration websites, plus a lot of love and commitment, our team has managed to keep them alive, so far.

Yesterday I thought to myself, I should buy the refugee mother a mobile phone (iPhone or Android) with Google Latitude.  That way she could download Swahili translation software, keep a calendar, have a clock with an alarm, voice or text us, email, see a map, view the bus schedule, FaceTime, conduct conference calls with a translator, Skype with her friends overseas, plus we could know her location.

Then I woke up from my fantasy.  That would probably be too much in the beginning.  Many companies just getting involved in mobile technologies would also be over their heads if they tried to implement too much all at once.  It is a learning process.

We decided to start with a basic mobile phone with text messaging, but I still dream and look forward to introducing more mobile technologies into this effort.  It has reminded me of how valuable mobile devices and mobile apps, and the information received as a result of them, are to all of us.
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Kevin Benedict, Head Analyst for SMAC, Cognizant
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Full Disclosure: These are my personal opinions. No company is silly enough to claim them. I am a mobility and SMAC analyst, consultant and writer. I work with and have worked with many of the companies mentioned in my articles.

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More Stories By Kevin Benedict

Kevin Benedict is the Senior Analyst for Digital Transformation at Cognizant, a writer, speaker and SAP Mentor Alumnus. Follow him on Twitter @krbenedict. He is a popular speaker around the world on the topic of digital transformation and enterprise mobility. He maintains a busy schedule researching, writing and speaking at events in North America, Asia and Europe. He has over 25 years of experience working in the enterprise IT solutions industry.