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DA Systems

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Mobility intelligence

It’s not just a buzz-phrase, it’s the entry point to a world of savings for any organisation with vehicle fleets or staff who work out in the field

“The mobilisation of the enterprise” is one of those trendy phrases beloved of IT gurus – a handy term to explain the revolution of business processes that mobile technology developments are making possible.

But don’t let your jargon filter put you off. Mobility intelligence has become an essential component in terms of business efficiency and competitiveness. If you’re not using it in your business, you’re probably losing out.

Mobility intelligence is about identifying trends and patterns across all elements of a mobile deployment in any sector, including logistics and field service. The more intelligence you have about your operations, the better equipped you are to be both proactive and reactive in making necessary changes to the business. And the happier your customers will be.

A single piece of mobile data can deliver intelligence about several aspects of your operation – workforce productivity, mobile business process efficiencies, costs, and customer service levels.

Take electronic signature capture, for example. This can eliminates paperwork and automate invoicing, and is also a compliance tool, feeding data back into scheduling engines. By confirming the real-time location of staff and customers, it enables customer relations teams to be proactive – for instance, alerting the next customer of a potentially late arrival of a delivery or engineer.

As companies mobilise more of their business process, from housekeeping operations to mission-critical tasks such as monitoring private-business mileage and timesheets, managing all the component parts has become ever more complex.

However, mobile device management solutions are now rising to this challenge. Originally they addressed basic requirements such as managing device and application deployment, but now they can also offer real-time monitoring of assets and usage-analysis, facilitating further optimisation of business processes.

Asset management

Basic asset management of what is happening to your mobile devices is these days just the starting point. “Not so long ago there was zero visibility on how devices were performing in the field,” points out Ron Caines, global vice-president for sales and marketing at B2M Solutions. “A basic reactive, device-centric MDM controlled by the IT department with helpdesk for remote workers will deliver immediate ROI by keep down operational costs, but most are not dynamic and don’t report in real time, so the can’t provide the depth of data that can help identify potential future efficiencies.”

Despite investments sometimes running to multi-millions of pounds, customers still have devices that are not performing, Caines maintains, and “no fault found” is still a typical scenario for many companies requesting help with deployed mobile devices.

“With the latest generation of MDM, you can get greater visibility and the chance to be proactive in managing any issues that arise. By identifying issues in real time in the field, you can minimise the number of no-fault-found returns, reducing the impact on productivity and saving on return costs. All it needs is an MDM solution such as mProdigy and a trained helpdesk.”

“To realise the maximum benefit from an MDM solution, companies need to be proactive,” agrees Lewis Marston, CEO of supply chain and mobility company, Rocket Consulting.

“That can be as simple as running a report at the end of the day to show that all devices are docked correctly and charging in preparation for the next shift. The data collection and analysis must be regarded as an everyday business activity, rather than carried out after an event.” If you maintain a rigorous policy of routinely collecting information on issues such as whether batteries are nearing end of life, it can help prevent devices failing mid-shift, he points out.

Most businesses make use of mobile device management, but many use it simply to deploy apps and manage devices, not for strategic, proactive management of processes and devices. That’s the view of Damien Penny, managing director of Peak Ryzex Europe. “When you are investing in technology to deliver better service and improve productivity, why wouldn’t you also want to manage that technology to ensure those workers remain productive and customer service levels continue to be met?”
Continual evaluation can pay dividends, says Penney – taking the guesswork out of issue resolution. “Devices that are functioning perfectly at initial deployment may start to cause problems further down the line. Without MDM you are in the dark.

“For example, because MDM allows you to add and deploy apps quickly, it can result in a lot of unused apps residing on the device. That in turn may have an impact on processor speed, memory and battery life, all of which may affect productivity.”

Strategic planning and analysis

Companies on their second or third generation of enterprise mobility deployments have begun to realise the limitations of basic MDM, says Penney, and are seeking ways to drive further efficiencies in the business. Analytics will pinpoint the issues, he points out, and give you insight into the effectiveness of the operation, showing you where the issues are and where ROI is not being delivered. “Mobile process optimisation has high value to management and clear benefits to ROI.”

More companies are realising that using the data proactively can deliver higher ROI and can be invaluable in future strategy planning,” agrees Ron Caines of B2M. “The key metrics will vary from business to business, so companies should decide where the focus should be in order to deliver the best ROI. MDM is not a one-size-fits-all solution.”
The latest generation MDM solutions integrate application analytics based on business process performance metrics, enabling MDM to play a role in strategic planning. However, that will mean many companies re-evaluate their mobility strategy in order to gain a clear understanding not just of the current requirements, but also of what the business may need in future.

As Caines puts it: “That entails looking beyond the device and the app, and taking into account factors such as how the device and apps interact with each other; the network and location; and the effect of all this on key business matrices.”

Penney says it’s important to try to visualise what the business needs might be in 18 months or so. “Will the device specification be able to cope with any additional demands you might make of it? Processor speed, memory and connectivity all impact on productivity and user experience, for example.”

At another level, analysing what is happening to the current device estate gives you reliable data about in-service performance, helping identify the optimum specification for the next deployment, points out Penney. “This is particularly important if you are comparing consumer and rugged devices and their in-service reliability.”

Rugged handhelds or consumer devices?

While it’s true that more employees are using mobile devices for work tasks, generating the need to manage consumer devices, another factor influencing today’s enterprise mobility policies in the encroachment of consumer devices into areas where rugged devices have held sway.

The challenges of managing rugged and consumer devices in the field may vary, but with companies frequently deploying a mix of consumer and rugged devices, the demand for one-stop MDM solutions is growing. That’s why MDM specialists in the rugged sector have broadened their portfolio to include management tools for both. MDM is now often integral part of a hosted mobility services platform or mobile worker management software, for example.

“We have to be ready for an increasingly mixed estate of mobile devices that will include rugged industrial technology together with consumer-grade smartphones and tablet PCs,” says Damian Penney.

“Consumer devices are competing against purpose-made industrial products, which are designed specifically for reliability and long life in enterprise applications. Dynamic companies like Apple and Samsung are making waves in a market that was dominated traditionally by rugged devices. Samsung for instance is looking to double its revenues in the B2B market this year. Consumer devices are updated more regularly, which can cause some confusion for them, as they can end up with a very broad mixed estate.”

To support mixed estates, Peak-Ryzex has developed a fully managed mobile services (MMS) offering for consumer tablets, smartphones (Android, Apple iOS and Windows 8) and other wireless devices, which mirrors the comprehensive managed mobility services it already provides for rugged, industrial mobile device.

Lately B2M unveiled Elemez, a cloud-based analytic tool the company says it will work with any MDM software, including its own mProdigy. Elemez takes a holistic, intelligent view of key attributes such as device disruptions, network connectivity, battery status and application utilisation.

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