by Adam Bender

Defence Housing Australia CIO keeps eye on the ‘human element’

May 08, 20143 mins
GovernmentMobileSmall and Medium Business

Defence Housing Australia has increased customer satisfaction by placing its focus on the end user while developing a mobile app for its travelling employees, according to CIO Shane Nielsen.

The government agency has 20 branches and 650 staff members around Australia who manage housing for Defence services. About one-third of the staff is nearly always on the road, with DHA conducting more than 50,000 property tenancy inspections a year.

DHA replaced a paper-based data entry system with a mobile platform that was developed in-house and is updated every month in response to the requirements of end users.

“For us it wasn’t just about the staff. We actually started our whole mobile development around the Defence member, the tenant,” Nielsen said at the CeBIT enterprise mobility conference yesterday.

“Really understanding what your end user wants to see from your solution has to be the defining point,” he said. “Sometimes we get caught up in the technology and forget that human element.”

Effective customer engagement is critical to DHA’s mission, so the agency looked for a mobile platform that could better meet end users’ needs and also be evolved quickly as those needs changed, said Nielsen.

“Particularly with the mobility space … pace moves rapidly. Customers want different engagement models. They want changes to the engagement models as we move forward. So we’ve actually changed the way we deliver to suit that.”

DHA continuously updates its mobile platform, with new requested features added every month, he said. That agile method allows DHA to focus on the end user, he said.

“We don’t have a defined roadmap. We don’t have a defined schedule.”

Nielsen said an initial challenge was getting the business to articulate how they wanted the system to work. DHA had “the classic situation” where people just said they wanted what they had on their desktop to be on their iPad, he said.

“It doesn’t quite work like that.”

In the end, DHA used HTML5 to develop a browser-based mobile app that included just the major functions needed by employees, he said. DHA uses a mix of corporate-owned devices and bring your own device (BYOD).

DHA had first tried using Citrix to virtualize the desktop but found the experience to be lacking, Nielsen said. While the organisation still uses Citrix to cover functionality not present in the mobile app, it is steadily moving features into the mobile platform, he said.

Finding a technology solution for mobility is not difficult; the real challenge for an organisation is to determine why they are going down that path, Nielsen said.

“We came from the perspective of productivity. We wanted to increase our capability of staff being on the road – more houses, more inspections, and focussing more on the engagement model.”

Staff used to take 30 minutes to fill out paper forms. Now, the mobile technology has reduced data entry time down to five minutes. That has allowed workers to spend more of their time focusing on the customer, increasing the group’s customer satisfaction rating by 10 basis points, he said.

Being able to show the tenant the feedback about to be sent off at the conclusion of the inspection was a major reason customer satisfaction went up, he said.

Adam Bender covers business tech issues for CIO and is the author of dystopian sci-fi novels We, The Watched and Divided We Fall. Follow him on Twitter: @WatchAdam

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