Systems Thinking Best Practices in Tablet Initiative

By Eric A Denniston, Managing Director, Denner Group International  4-8-2012

Part B – THINK

As we move into the THINKING stage of this exercise, let’s consider what the thought styles should be. How you think is really important in achieving results. We are engaged in a project that is intended to have a lasting effect on the enterprise and thus must include strategic, or systems, thinking. Systems Thinking best practices show us the importance of defining the content of the project, the thinking processes such as facilitated meetings, and the structures, such as clear rules for meetings and engaging cross-functional groups in meetings to have more timely information exchanges.

This should include working hard on defining the various desired outcomes, for each stakeholder (yes, each is asking “What is in it for me?”). We should carefully consider who those stakeholders are: warehouse managers and floor staff, our IT department, our IT warehouse planning outcomesvendors, our prospective tablet vendors, our sales and purchasing departments, our supply chain managers, our asset management office, our strategic management office, our marketing firm, our process specialists, our HR department, our attorneys and our PR firm. This list is offered as an example and will vary depending on your firm and your products, so we’ll flesh this out in more detail later.

Unintended consequences can occur

Let’s dive in to what can happen if we don’t include some of these stakeholders in the process to recognize the value of this level of diligence. Waste Management is cited in Information Week as having deployed a pilot program of tablets to 20 of its trucks. The day before the pilot program went live, their telecom carrier sent one of those now normal automatic updates to the mobile devices modifying the operating system.  The update caused “the on-board (I presume on-board the trucks) charging system to no longer work with the tablets, so they would run out of power on the road”. 

Can you now see the unintended consequence of having hundreds or thousands of tablets working incorrectly due to an automatic update from any of the vendors involved in the tablet? You may have in-house custom apps, third party apps, the OS vendor, the hardware/firmware vendor and accessory vendors (charging systems!) that need to be considered and included in planning and executing the project.

Ignoring them can be detrimental to your tablet initiative project.