“Give me 5 working tools in my mobile” This was the clear message Tom Johnstone the CEO of SKF gave to his IT department 3 years back. Mr. Johnstone got his apps and soon thereafter crafted the vision “Making SKF the easiest industrial company to do business with”.
We have talked to Christian Appelt, Innovation Manager and Mobile Strategist at the SKF headquarter in Göteborg about how mobility can change and improve way of work in a global industrial company.
How did it all start ?
– It actually started with a clear demand from our CEO – 5 apps in 6 months. Since around 2004 our employees was used to mail and calendar in their mobiles. With the entrance of smartphones it came clear to us around 2011 that it should be possible to mobilize some of the tools for our sales and service people.
– The apps was positively welcomed in the organization and it was an obvious next step for us to create a mobility group outside the IT department – with a clear mandate of serving all SKF departments in the field of mobility. Today we are 8 internal and 16 external developers in the team.
So what is the mandate of this team?
– Our mandate is to be an enabler of change, business development and innovation within the SKF-group. We see mobility as a tool to support SKF in all these areas.
– In practice different business units and owners can approach us with ideas or concepts they would like to develop. We act as ball plank, we see if there are synergies with other initiatives, we involve IT when needed and we build the apps together with our partners.
And what is a typical app for SKF employees ?
– We have today 30 apps and 15 new ones in pipeline – they all do different things for different type of working units in SKF.
– One category of apps is tools that help our sales and service people demonstrate and calculate our products on site. To simplify you can say that large catalogues – sometimes more than 1000 pages – now are replaced by an ipad and a few apps.
– What is important is that we constantly challenge our systems and the way we work to see if mobility is the enabler for improvements. Sometimes it is and sometimes it is not. The best ideas comes from the people working in the production or in the field – not us. Our job is to educate and challenge organization in a way that ends up with apps supporting our business in different ways.
What about budgets and financing?
– We have a budget for our mobility team. This budget makes us able to test, learn and make sure we are on top of things. We are not bound to the IT budget which is good as IT mostly is about saving cost rather than creating other company values.
– The larger part of the budget comes from the business units who have ordered the specific apps. A business case evaluation is being done for each project.
How important is it with a Mobile Strategy?
– What is important is that mobility is on the management agenda. Without strong sponsors and stakeholders such as our CEO we would not have been where we are today.
– The actual strategy can be crafted on different levels. For us our vision and our explorative attitude holds most of the strategy. On top of that we do have guidelines that should keep the organization on track. 3 guidelines are:
- Mobile First
- Cloud First
- User Experience
– Security is also always important but we see this as hygiene and our team deals with these issues together with IT in the projects
Where do you seek inspiration and new ideas?
– We are a quite substantial team and many people are involved in our projects so much learning and inspiration comes from within.
– Adding to this we do have informal but very open discussions with other companies around areas where we have common interest and challenges.
Can you mention 3 things SKF has achieved through its mobility efforts?
- Through our missioning of mobility we have created awareness and interest in the organization that things can be done in new and better ways.
- We have proved that mobility is an enabler for innovation and an entry point towards new customer segments. Many of our apps are segment specific such as “SKF Railways” and “SKF Solar”
- We have clear evidence that mobile hardware in combination with user-friendly apps creates huge time savings for large groups of our employees.
Can you give 3 advices to companies who want to leverage the mobile opportunities?
- Get started. Assess and identify some low hanging fruits (such as we did with our 5 first apps) – learn and improve
- Make sure you have sponsors and support in management.
- In SKF many business processes are represented by rigid systems and system owners. In most cases mobility does not fit with these systems as they are. One advice is not to give up as an outdated system should not hold back an inevitable demand for a mobilized businesses.
Thank you Christian. We at Mobilized Business admire your holistic and true approach to mobility and that you openly share your experiences with us and our network.