When IT teams embark on digital transformation projects, to automate paper-based systems and improve business processes for field-based or mobile workers, the enterprise mobility leg of the journey often involves selecting the right tablet, rugged device or mobile device strategy.
In sectors, such as construction, logistics, engineering, manufacturing or the public sector, IT teams may inadvertently incorrectly select either the most, seemingly ‘cost-effective’ consumer device available on the market and will enhance it with a tough case to make it ‘rugged’. Or, the IT team will adopt ‘over specified’ and unnecessary military grade devices. Long-term, this procurement strategy can often turn out to be expensive and ineffective.
In cases where the popular consumer mobile brands and devices are selected, IT teams mostly procure these devices in bulk, and just replace them as they break, believing that this approach to replace devices is ‘cheaper’ and more effective. Over time, the economies of scale, in terms of device costs and downtime for teams and IT are prohibitive, making the total cost of ownership, over time, very expensive.
The alternative approach that is considered by enterprises is to adopt over specified military grade devices. This route is often unnecessary, and raises a fundamental question for IT teams about whether – as part of their enterprise mobility and digital transformation programme – they are selecting devices that are fit-for-purpose, according to the business processes that the strategy has been designed to improve?
In addition, regardless of whether a device is a standard, well-known consumer brand or a piece of military grade kit, it will eventually break at some stage. This will cause downtime for the end-user and a reduction in personal and overall business productivity. There will be a knock-on effect to the IT department, as IT will have to deal with the broken device and plug the gap in the meantime. Depending on the severity of the problem, it might be able to solve the issue with the user over the phone, or it will have to replace the device.
This sort of problem happens all too often across mobile workforces, and the latter increases the total cost of ownership of any enterprise mobility programme. This then raises a fundamental question about why any organisation would set their field service and IT teams up for this sort of over-priced headache and IT failure? We believe that a better approach to take would be to develop a mobile strategy that is based on selecting a device that is fit-for-purpose, business-rugged and which offers strong device up-time and fast replacement services.
That in mind, what should organisations consider as they develop enterprise mobility and digital transformation strategies to improve efficiency and reduce expensive device costs?
It’s all about the end user
As UK plc evaluates how to improve business processes within the organisation, it’s important to consider the applications that the users will access to do their work. Do these applications have a mobile version for users to access? When employees use ‘said’ software, what is the actual user experience of that software like – and do internal trials prove that productivity has increased. Or at the very least, from a wider strategic perspective, has the software been customised to deliver on the business promise and does it have the potential to truly drive tangible improvements?
Once these application design questions have been asked, it’s worth considering the device that employees will use as the interface with the various software applications that are driving the business forward. It is no longer cost-effective in the long run to buy perceivably ‘cheap’ devices. In this scenario, where enterprise mobility forms a crucial part of the digital transformation strategy, business leaders should consider selecting the best device for the business process that requires improvement.
Improving BPM with a fit-for-purpose device
When selecting a device, it is important for organisations to consider the applications that will function on the devices and the environment that these devices will function in. For argument’s sake, if you ran a construction company, you might just need a tablet that is stronger than a standard iPad, but which isn’t military grade.
So, why select either of those devices, when there is a tablet or mobile that is designed to meet the organisation’s needs. Consult with your device providers and challenge them on the devices that they are advising you to use. Your devices may not be fit-for-purpose. It’s a bit like using a butter knife to take a screw out. Sure, it will be effective once or twice; but in the long-term using that ‘tool’ will become frustrating, the knife will break, and you’ll need to use a proper screwdriver to do the job. The same applies to ‘mobility’.
The next point centres on whether the device that is selected is “Business Rugged”. Within hardwearing environments you only really need a device that is ‘business rugged’ or rugged enough for the environment that the device is operating within. Again, this is where your device provider should work with your team to identify what physical scenarios the device might be exposed to. For example, is the device used by sales teams, or engineers within manufacturing or construction sites, or is it a case of warehouse and logistics teams using barcode scanners while on the road? What is the physical environment that devices operate within, what types of business scenarios will they experience – will they be dropped, exposed to a lot of dust, what about chemicals or will the screen be exposed to mud? Considering how the device will relate to the environment, and the person it is being used by is crucial and can ensure that you buy the correctly specified devices for your team.
Can I speak to a human, please?
Once you’ve assessed how your end users will use the software and applications, and what supporting devices are required to improve processes, it’s important to ensure that you’re happy with your device supplier’s support, device repair and replacement procedures. All too often, it is increasingly difficult for IT teams to simply be able to just talk to a human to help them with their device provisioning. The value of a having a supplier that is ‘easy to work with’ to deliver value is key, so ensure that your supplier does have the right capabilities and is willing to offer you easy access to them for advice and support.
What is your device downtime strategy?
This is important because at some stage, beyond initially getting set up, your devices will suffer a few knocks and will break. Even military grade devices break. So the question is, when this happens, what is your wider replacement strategy – which then raises a further question about how your team and your suppliers’ team is set up to support your business.
You don’t want to discover further down the line that you’re left ‘high and dry’ by your supplier, when you really need them, when a device breaks. This will kill productivity for end-users within the business and destroy confidence in IT and the strategies it is executing.
Too often IT departments invest in their organisations’ enterprise mobility by selecting a set of devices in bulk without scrutinising whether or not these devices and the contributions towards productivity are really being reaped. We encourage CIOs to review device procurement policies and to establish whether these devices truly are fit-for-purpose, business rugged, increase productivity and decrease ‘total cost of ownership’.