Mobile devices have moved beyond the realm of the consumer. Companies across a variety of industries, from manufacturing to healthcare, have identified the power of mobile solutions to make their businesses more flexible and dynamic. A study by IDC forecasts that there will be over 105 million mobile American workers by 2020, making up 72.3% of the total U.S. workforce.
The mobile revolution of the workplace is coming, the only question is, what devices will those workers use to help grow your business?
This is an important decision because as Motorola reminds us, “Your mobility investment is in great part contingent on the devices you deploy.” In fact, the company says that this year, “enterprise mobile workers are expected to be using almost 500 million mobile devices, driving demand for robust enterprise mobile management solutions.”
Related Article: Ultimate Guide to Mobile Devices
Many factors impact the success of enterprise mobility, yet when it comes to picking devices the top consideration is whether to use consumer or enterprise-grade mobile devices. The consumerization of IT has seen a surge of BYOD (bring your own device) users; however, this trend isn’t a good fit for every organization, especially those that are rightfully concerned with the security of their data on mobile devices. Millennials in particular show little affinity for securing their personal or work devices, and their (seeming) lack of knowledge on the subject of security is indicative of the concerns businesses will need to address with an increasingly mobile workforce.
Which works best for you, a consumer or an enterprise mobile device?
Typically, enterprise mobile devices such as mobile computers, rugged tablets, and mobile printers are a better investment for manufacturers and other industrial, high-volume users because they are designed to expertly handle demanding business applications, as well as having the capacity to control the installing of better security.
Consumer devices are popular because many employees already own them for personal use and companies don’t have to make the technological investment themselves. It’s true that companies with a mobile workforce incur costs when investing in mobility solutions. In addition to the cost of the devices, companies will spend money to install needed programs, train employees on company usage, and will have the possible need of IT to maintain the systems. They may also need to purchase new software or upgrade their wireless networks.
However, enterprise mobile devices also lower the total cost of ownership (TCO), while consumer devices increase TCO by up to 50%. The cost of a mobile device goes far beyond the initial cost of purchase: Businesses should consider tangible costs like installations and implementation fees, as well as intangible costs like customer service impact, employee down time and failure costs, which are fairly high for consumer devices.
What are you getting when you invest in enterprise devices?
Most quality devices and their manufacturers have these features:
- Durability that reduces failure rates and the need for repair or replacement
- Returns/replacements are often supported with limited downtime
- Training for users throughout lifespan of device
- Better security measures than typical unsecured consumer devices
- Accurate and instant data capture via barcode and RFID technology
- Enables organizations to change operating systems, keyboards, screen sizes, and connectivity interfaces seamlessly
- Long-lasting battery power
- Can scale and adapt to your systems as your business needs grow and change
- An overall higher return on investment by improved efficiency
Employees working in the field have their own requirements, which according to Zebra Technologies’ Field Mobility Research Guide includes a screen that:
- Is readable in direct sunlight or environments that are brightly lit (79%)
- Incorporates familiar touchscreen technology (76%)
- Accommodates users wearing gloves (68%)
- Can be used in the rain and is otherwise waterproof (65%)
- Offers a screen stylus (55%)
- Includes a physical keypad (54%)
Consider these factors before that could alter the course of your company
Despite the obvious benefits of enterprise mobile devices, it’s clear that both consumer and enterprise-grade devices can be successfully used within a company; in fact, they can operate consistently and seamlessly across various departments and locations. For most companies it is simply a matter of recognizing the needs and the advantages of these devices for your business. Zebra Technologies suggests looking at the following factors before deciding on a mobile device.
- Determine where and how you will use your devices. Manufacturers design their enterprise-grade mobile devices for use with a wide array of applications and environments. For example, they make field industrial mobile computers for settings with harsh conditions and non-incentive handhelds for hazardous environments.
- Identify your data capture requirements. All-in-one hybrid mobile computers from manufacturers such as Motorola Symbol incorporate high-speed voice and data technologies for ultimate efficiency. Know your requirements for voice and data, determine which barcode symbologies you will scan, and learn whether your company is using or has plans to use RFID to ensure you select a device that will grow with your needs. Also consider the impact of big data, which affects bandwidth, speed, and storage.
- Consider battery life. Does your organization work 24-7? Is most of your workforce mobile? Your requirements for power management should be considered, so you don’t experience production delays or downtime due to dead batteries.
- Recognize the needs of your users. Every organization is different, and yet, the same. We all want devices that are intuitive, have familiar features, and are comfortable to use straight out of the box. Workforce demographics and knowledge can dictate differing requirements for usability. Consider these before you wind up with fatigued, nonproductive employees who require time-intensive training.
- Thoroughly research security requirements. No manufacturer can risk security breaches that unintentionally support illegal or unethical activities. Before deploying your mobility solution, conduct extensive research regarding device and network security requirements and those requirements for internal policies, enforcement, maintenance, and access control. A recent study by Security Magazine found that 37% of businesses had no type of basic mobile security policy.
- Think through connectivity needs. What interfaces are you using or plan on using? How robust should your WAN/WLAN be to support big data? Do workers require voice, data, or both? Will you be able to support several locations and work spaces? Check manufacturer specifications before closing the door on connectivity.
- Decide how you plan to manage, control, and support your devices. Mobile device management (MDM) is essential with mobile work forces, including those who BYOD to work or use company-issued assets. Without a clear mobile strategy and enterprise asset management system, undue burden falls on IT support staff and employees trying to do their jobs.
- Prepare a budget. Don’t forget about maintenance and repairs. Despite great advancements in mobile computing, failures can occur. Determine how much risk you’re willing to take and the potential impact on your business. Then you’ll know which type of support you’ll need after the sale.
- Project future needs. Nobody wants to replace their fleet of mobile devices, which change over time as replacements or additions are introduced. Accessories and chargers may not be backwards compatible. To protect your investment over the life of your mobile devices, ensure you have a solid plan in place for addressing these issues.
- Estimate the total cost of ownership. Don’t be fooled by low device prices. Often value-priced models end up costing you more. Those hidden costs add up over time, increasing the TCO. Knowing your exact requirements before purchasing a mobile device will prevent costly mistakes and lost productivity.
By clearly identifying your mobility requirements, you can pick the mobile device that fits perfectly in your organization. With hundreds of thousands of models, configurations, and features to choose from, the task of finding the right device-fit for your company can be overwhelming. Consider studying up on the latest trends in mobile computing to learn more about what’s next for mobile devices and business, and prepare to do what many business owners are afraid to do: make an investment in your company that will pay off with massive ROI in the long run.
How would finding the correct mobile device for your business improve operations and customer service?
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