In Asia Pacific, an increasing number of companies are choosing to improve the efficiency of their field operations by deploying mobile technology throughout their workforce. Unfortunately, as these companies rush to embrace the business benefits mobile technology offers, many are selecting the wrong device for their needs. Consequently, they fail to realize these benefits or see a return on their mobility investment.
When deciding on the appropriate device to deploy amongst a field team, some companies opt for a consumer device - instead of those specifically designed for the enterprise environment - due to the low upfront cost incurred for consumer devices. However, the reality is, not only are consumers devices more expensive in a long run, these devices are not made for the rough business environments.
There are many more considerations that should go into making a final decision, and they can be summarized as the ten rules to follow when choosing your mobile devices.
Application and environment demands
The physical ruggedness of any device is of critical importance, especially when deployed in harsh industrial environments, such as in the warehouse or on the manufacturing floor. The devices must be able to withstand countless drops, accidental spills, extreme temperatures, and dust or dirt. In a hospital, devices need to be made of special plastic that can prevent spread of bacteria and withstand chemical-based disinfectant wipe-downs.
In addition, businesses need to consider how the users will use the device and predict the challenges they might have. For example, if a worker is wearing gloves when handling a mobile computer or need to carry goods with both hands all the time, voice-enabled applications will be helpful and facilitative for the task at hand. In a hospital setting, devices with quieter and less obstructive feedback modes would be ideal so no patients will be disturbed when the nurses operate the devices.
Data capture requirements
Today, barcodes are everywhere. They are essential to enable organizations to track and trace different assets. Enterprises should examine how often their mobile devices need to double up as a scanner in the field and how intensive the scanning requirement is. If your device needs to read a high volume of barcodes or RFID tags every day, speed and accuracy would become a primary consideration.
Other key mobile features to consider include the abilities to capture 2D barcodes and signatures; take photos as proof of damage; and make credit card payment. It is a good strategy to think in the longer term, as a good device shouldn’t be a short-term quick fix, but a future-proof solution.
A device’s battery life directly influences operational efficiency. Different businesses will have different requirements in this department. For instance, a device might be shared by different users over several shifts, or the workers are on the move all the time and don’t always have access to a charging station. On this front, the consumer-grade devices simply don’t have the power capacity as an enterprise device.
Training and the ease of use
Enterprises also need to consider if its new fleet of devices is easy to adopt for their workers, who might have different preferences and skillsets. This is especially important for industries that rely heavily on casual or seasonal workers. The right choice of form factor and operations system (OS) can help reduce the time needed for training to enable workers to become productive more quickly. With the widespread use of Android touchscreen smartphones in the consumer space, a similar enterprise mobile device brings about ease of use and reduced training time for users.
Risks and implications of a potential security breach stemming from your mobility deployment need to be factored in as well. While security may have started with a narrow focus around credit cards or personal health information, it now has a much broader scope – any information about your customers and operations is of value to those with nefarious intent. Securing a mobility deployment is a multi-faceted effort: from mobile device management (MDM) selection and configuration, policy definition, enforcement and training, and ultimately, to the capabilities of the device you select.
Manageability, control, and support
Your devices should always lighten the load on IT. The ability to centrally and remotely manage your device fleet is critical for everything from pushing upgrades to troubleshooting. Without the effective use of an MDM application, particularly in the case of a BYOD solution, your employees will either become responsible for finding their own support, or they will rely entirely on your help desk, forcing IT personnel to be familiar with potentially hundreds of models.
Support and repair services
Keeping your device fleet running requires a fast turnaround on repairs, replacement options with pre-existing software, and settling provisions and exhaustive, no-questions-asked coverage. It’s necessary to evaluate how likely you will be to experience device failures and the implications of these failures on your business and your customer service levels, then find a support plan that can mitigate these risks.
The pitfalls of constantly replacing devices that have failed or upgrading too frequently can result in a fleet of mixed generation devices with significant support complexities and capital outlays. The accessories and chargers for newer models of a device may not be backwards compatible, requiring additional purchases and a loss of equity in prior investments.
Total cost of ownership (TCO)
Despite the lower initial acquisition cost, consumer-grade technology can result in a significantly higher total cost of ownership (TCO) once you have calculated the further costs incurred by investment in additional accessories and peripherals, rapid obsolescence, and potential downtime. Requirements such as barcode scanning, taking payments or surviving a drop without damage can incur considerable costs if you need to augment consumer-grade technology to meet even just one of them. In fact, experts agree that consumer smartphones increase TCO by up to 50% compared to ruggedized devices.
When you factor in the potential costs of worker downtime, accelerated replacement cycles, additional accessories and the support needed for a successful implementation, it becomes clear to see that the true costs of deploying mobility to support your line-of-business applications go far beyond just the device’s initial purchase price.
Continuity of devices
On average, most consumer devices become obsolete in 18 to 24 months, making all the accessories obsolete too. By comparison, enterprise devices have a much longer lifecycle of five years – or longer.
In addition, consumer OS security support ends after 36 months, well short of the five years of service life required by most businesses. Should a device operate on an OS that no longer releases security patches or offers security support, it becomes exposed to unforeseen security threats.
Looking at the bright side, enterprise devices running on Android can choose to subscribe to OS services that prolong the device lifecycle. This in the long run also drives down TCO.
The Bottom Line
In conclusion, consumer-grade devices initially appear to offer the best value for money, with the device itself being considerably cheaper than their enterprise counterparts. However, companies are not considering the unforeseen complexities and hidden costs that can be associated with choosing a device that is not designed for enterprise usage.
Investing in enterprise mobile technology for your field workforce is not enough to guarantee improved productivity, efficiency, and customer service. Organizations need to select the right device for their business; only then will those benefits deliver a return on investment. Opting for purpose-built mobile technology will enable you to exercise greater control over the features you want and engineer your device for your company’s specific requirements.