Living through it – from Punch Cards to Mobile Applications!
This posting will unfortunately betray the fact that I may have entered that period of life known as the “senior years”. With that comes a degree of reflection and I was thinking of the technical progress that I have seen in my professional life so far (and hopefully more to come!) This was also prompted by a union calling me and asking if anyone in our company could handle a conversion from a system running on a “mainframe” using COBOL- really. More surprisingly, was that yes, we could actually handle that.
A whole lexicon related to systems from the past came to me- punch cards, IBM 360, mini computers, dumb terminals, Apple 11, floppy disk, Novell, Y2K etc. etc. Amongst this barrage of by- gone systems there was one related, recent fact that impressed me at the end of this stream – after decades of dominance as the principal processing tool by business and individuals the reign of the PC is coming to an end. For the first time since its introduction to the market, sales of PC’s are on the decline as the emphasis on mobile applications and the device platforms they use grows dramatically. I thought about the aforementioned union with their “mainframe/COBL” system and the world they would be moved to by changing to leading edge modern software.
The business of unions cries out for the adoption of mobile systems as much, if not more so, as any corporation and yet I am sure that an analysis of their platforms would show that they are lamentably behind in this respect. Unions have geographically diverse related entities (Internationals, Councils, Chapters, and Locals etc.) as well as a need for staff and members to share data in different locations sometimes while “on the road” or “offsite”.
The adoption of web based mobile systems can dramatically change the way unions do business and drive efficiencies that could not have been imagined just a few years ago. By using mobile devices union staff that work “in the field” such as business agents and stewards can access central database information via their mobile devices and provide answers to employers and members in seconds. Processes such as Dispatch and Hiring Hall as well as Grievance Management can be carried out remotely thereby vastly improving communications and the efficiency of these key operations. In addition when coupled with effective member engagement activities through social media, SMS and e-mail blasts (accessed by members on THEIR mobile devices), key activities such as organizing and voter turnout programs, become transformed creating tremendous possibilities for unions on the political and organizing level. Other key uses we are developing relate to processes like an instant status checks of a member’s “standing” and dues payment history as well as the processing of dues – all done via “remote” mobiles devices.
In summary, the possibilities of “field” uses to strengthen member ties to the union and improve operational efficiencies for the Local are no longer limited by technology but are actually improved by it.
The new customer I mentioned earlier with the “mainframe/COBOL -based system will be moving to our new PRIZM® system which is “mobile ready” and provides all of the functionality that I outlined above. It’s going to be an incredible change but that’s what is needed in many union systems that have become obsolete and inefficient. Check out where your union lies between “punch cards and Mobile Applications” and if you want us to help you move towards the most advanced software that there is give me a call personally and I will be happy to arrange a demonstration of what’s possible at YOUR union.
Robert N Stevenson
Director of Business Development
tel: (203) 831 8655 ext. 113