What do doctors in disaster zones, lumberjacks in forests and social workers in the UK have in common? They’re all part of the growing — but largely hidden — workforces who are using mobile to transform their working day.

We often talk about knowledge workers using mobiles and tablets on the move. However, what many don’t realize is that some of the biggest gains have been made for workers who don’t enter an office all week long. They’re out in the field, from forestry and disaster relief to medicine, social work and local government. And the mobile revolution has transformed their work.

And with the rise in mobiles and tablets comes questions of content management for mobile workforces. Traditionally, when you think content management, you think desktops. But when you need to assess the right response to a humanitarian crisis or whether to diagnose a patient for leprosy, the speed and mobility of mobile content management can’t be beaten.

While marketers have concentrated on talking about mobile content management for marketers — let’s face it, it’s a bit more glamorous — the mobile revolution has probably made more significant impacts on workforce efficiency, profitability and productivity. One study found that businesses had seen a 30 percent increase in productivity as a result of collaboration. According to a recent workplace survey, 62 percent of employees said accessibility to company information affected their satisfaction levels.

Apps are Leading the Way

Accessing and inputting content on phones and tablets allows users to work anywhere any time. However, with the limited screen size available to users, ease of use has become one of the make or break factors for using content management systems on mobile. This is where apps have seen a meteoric rise. Developing enterprise apps is a key element in mobilizing company processes and ensuring that users can easily manage content on the move. According to Lopez Research, published in Forbes, 2015 is the year of the enterprise mobile app.

Apperian's 2014 report on executive enterprise mobility revealed that more than 70 percent of respondents plan to equip over 1,000 users with mobile apps, while one third of respondents are deploying mobile apps to more than 5,000 users in the next two years. The same survey discovered that 53 percent of companies are creating their own apps to address core business processes. So there’s no doubt that apps are right at the heart of this trend.

Saving People’s Lives with Mobile Content Management

Those of us who use apps to order taxis and check the weather will be blown away by the Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) guidance app, which provides doctors working in remote areas with easy access to treatment information. Over 1,500 healthcare workers in 116 countries use the app, which has been accessed nearly 100,000 times.

The app was developed with the Open Medicine Project, which has also created a HIV clinical guide app, providing guidelines and decision-support for over 6,000 health care workers treating HIV patients in South Africa. This app has been accessed nearly a quarter of a million times.

These apps are the perfect example of mobile content management being used to share data across organizations to make significant differences in internal processes. Even more revolutionary is a leprosy detection app recently created for Novartis Foundation by a group of Indian students. With the right content, the app uses different processes, including image and pressure monitoring, to determine if a patient has leprosy.

In the Forest

Forestry is another area where mobile content management has been able to make steady growth, with a proliferation of apps enabling forest workers to manage and conserve forests. Lumberjacks can use data to determine not just where, when and how to chop down trees, but even to manage the whole cycle from forest to fireside. Trimble is one of the leaders in the field (no pun intended) with a 4Loads forestry app that gives forestry workers a simple way to manage data on harvested timber.

However, it’s not just loggers who want access to forest information. It’s often used for conservation purposes too. The forestry app industry has grown to such an extent that it now has a dedicated Forest Tech event. Access to improved data on mobile apps has allowed the industry to increase efficiencies and use manpower better.

A Mobile Revolution for Social Workers

Social workers rarely spend much time in an office. The nature of their jobs requires them to visit vulnerable members of society in their homes. Yet, ironically, the success of their missions depends both on them having access to accurate data and being able to easily input data to ensure seamless and up-to-date records.

In Bradford in the United Kingdom, social workers are using social care apps to access emails, reports and case notes from a central database via a 3G network. As a result, they’ve been able to access real time information while visiting homes.

The huge potential of apps for social care workers has been recognized by IBM and Apple, who got together to create a government-specific app called Case Advice geared toward making social workers’ jobs easier. The app is targeted at 700,000 social case workers in the US, who need to spend around one third of their time entering the data they collected on-site into back-office systems. Apps like this could give them more time to do the work they need to.

Government On the Go

Social workers aren’t the only ones reaping the benefits of mobile content management. Government and national organizations around the world are beginning to see the benefits of being able to communicate with mobile workforces who look after everything from roads and waterworks to agriculture and construction.

The USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service has been quick to see the benefits of tablets and web-based apps. More than 3,000 field surveyors use a mobile app to carry out over 300 surveys a year to collect information from farmers on crop production.

Let Field Workers Have Their Say

The benefits of mobile content management for field workers are clear. However, what companies need to remember is that any content management platform only works well when it is clear and easy to navigate. Apps are an easy way to reach mobile workers, but they must manage the key functions that workers need to do their jobs well, allowing them to access the systems they need every day.

End users need to be brought on board early on in the development process so that they can define not just the type of content and tasks required, but also ensure that the end result actually helps them complete key tasks.

Apps and user interfaces may make mobile content management more accessible. However, more than ever, content management systems need to have a strong and flexible backend that can securely deal with the growing digital demands of businesses. These growing demands often mean that more than a CMS is required, and this is where digital business platforms come into play. A digital business platform allows field workers to access back end systems from their phones and tablets, using one seamless interface.

For workers out in the field, the ability to access and create content instantly and on the go is vital. With reduced screen space, their digital business platform needs to give them access to the most relevant information so that they can easily create, use and share the content needed in their jobs every day.

Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License Title image by  rufai ajala