This week The Sage Group has been at the Enterprise Mobility Exchange in Miami with one of our clients MobileDemand, a leading provider of ruggedized tablets. The Exchange brings together those in the forefront of mobile technology including providers and industry analysts as well as users of mobile solutions to share information and exchange ideas on the current and future state of mobility such as case studies and experiences.
According to IDC Research, some 1.2 billion workers will be using mobile enterprise tools by 2013, representing roughly a third of the total global workforce.
On Tuesday, Randy Nunez from Ford Motor Company spoke on Charting the Use of Consumer Grade Technology in the Field. My initial thoughts were: “Here we go again! Someone is going to present the position that consumer grade devices such as iPhones can go anywhere and do anything at any time.” However, that was not the case. It was a talk that covered the criteria and considerations a company should use to ensure the right mobility tool for the right job. In selecting a mobile device for a mobile solution Ford Motor considers:
- Environmental and Use Case issues that may impact the device: Examples include temperature, moisture, weather, dust, impacts, intrinsically safe, etc. One consideration not mentioned: how well the unit is designed to withstand electrostatic discharge (ESD). Most rugged devices can withstand in excess of a 22KV hit while consumer grade devices are less than half that. In cold temperatures within dry climates, static is the number one enemy of mobile devices.
- Application compatibility: Decide on the mobile client. For example: thin client or native? Will the application port over from Windows Mobile to Android or iOS? Can the solution support multiple operating systems?
- Usability: Is the unit going to be used outdoors? And, if so, is there an enhanced display with the right viewing angle so screen detail is visible? Does the job involve workers wearing gloves? And, if so, will touch screens be an issue?
- Device ownership: Will the device be provided by the company? Or is it a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) program. Many companies are encouraging a BYOD program. However, many have not adequately considered the security aspect (this will be another blog) or how much freedom should be given to the plethora of devices available that might show up in the workplace. What is very important is the need for the company to implement an End User License Agreement that clearly covers the rights and responsibilities as well as the type of information that can be placed on or accessed from the device. Most likely there is both personal as well as corporate use of the device.
- Device management: Companies need to decide whether they will be doing application management for the device (MAM) or device management (MDM) or both
- Product lifecycles: Consumer grade products will have shorter lifecycles with more frequent software updates and provisioning requirements. Failure rates will be higher and it has been shown that the cost of support for a consumer device is much higher than a rugged device. As well, the difference in expected life is five years versus less than two years. The product lifecycle has implications for procurement (including testing), deploying (including training) logistics support, maintenance and recycling. All of these activities have associated costs and the more frequent a company has to go through these cycles the more expensive it is.
In summary, mobile device selection is not often the black or white decision that some believe. Lifecycle churn, usability, application environment, deployment, training and support are all important considerations. While user satisfaction plays a significant role it should not be over-weighted in the selection criteria. In the end companies should consider the total cost of ownership (TCO) and pick the Right Mobility Tool for the Right Job if they want to maximize value.
A special thanks to Ann Dozier of Dean Foods, Weldon Feightner of Knology and Jim Huemphfner of AT&T who participated on the panel Using Mobile Technology to Deliver Added Value to the Business that I chaired. They provided the audience several examples and use cases as to how their companies and their customers are achieving new levels of organizational value by taking advantage of mobile technology.