Nov 19 2020

Mobility Device Management: The Right Solution Makes It Easy

Businesses have never been more mobile, but it’s not hard to manage hundreds of devices with the right technology.

The push toward mobility, accelerated this year by the coronavirus ­pandemic, calls for employee and c­ustomer en­gagements that are flexible enough to shift between a variety of channels: in the field or onsite, in person or purely digital. The one ­constant is that engagements are fluid, with modes and best practices changing as organizations and technology evolve.

“What organizations need most of all is a flexible architecture that can support various setups, be it the remote office worker, the field service technician in remote locations or retail workers,” says David Krebs, VDC Research’s executive vice president for enterprise mobility and the connected worker. “Having a centralized platform that can address the unique access, security and support requirements of each of these scenarios is what organizations are working toward.”

Most companies’ mobile strategies seek to address multiple objectives, including business and IT flexibility, organizational objectives, employee support and concerns such as cybersecurity. Ideally, a mobile solution facilitates these goals while reducing the burden on IT teams.

Edward Rose & Sons, a real estate development and management company based in Bloomfield Hills, Mich., that specializes in multifamily and senior residences, depends on onsite leasing agents, maintenance staff and construction crews.

As the company’s portfolio grew — it now has more than 140 locations in 15 states — paper-based workflows slowed down employees’ productivity. With a goal of increasing efficiency and scalability, the company chose the MobileIron Cloud enterprise mobility management platform. Among other objectives, Edward Rose & Sons wanted a solution that could support its use of the Apple Device Enrollment Program for iPads and iPhones, a deployment that’s grown from about 600 devices to 1,600.

“We’ve more than doubled our device footprint from the beginning, yet our workload really hasn’t changed that much,” says Levi Johnstone, who leads the technology engineering team.

Develop Personas for Mobile Devices Carefully

Configuring devices and access based on roles or personas is the most common approach to mobility management, and it’s important to set up that structure wisely, says Krebs.

“Many organizations fall into the trap of defining too many roles, which can become tricky to manage,” he says. “Key best practices we have seen organizations follow have been to define roles strictly based on a persona’s duties and responsibilities, having the option of overlapping roles and making roles reusable.”

At Edward Rose & Sons, consistency is key, Johnstone says. Start small, he suggests, building personas and adding new ones intentionally. For the first few months, the company had just four roles, a number that has gradually increased to 20.

“That made it a lot easier,” says Johnstone. “We weren’t trying to figure out 20 use cases all at once.”

When employees ask for exceptions, the company vets requests carefully and adds them only if they make sense for that role across the board.

“We design use cases, like leasing agent, property manager or maintenance person. It doesn’t matter who the person is — if they’re in that role, they get the same stuff,” says Johnstone. “We don’t really budge on that.”

At Green Bay, Wis.-based Schneider, one of the country’s largest trucking companies, mobility is a way of life. With a fleet of more than 10,000 drivers, Schneider has more than 100 personas, says Mike Degeneffe, vice president of solution delivery and telematics. They are designed such that Schneider can communicate with drivers by group, line of business, region and other criteria.

MORE FROM BIZTECH: Learn how to make the most of mobile collaboration.

How to Keep Mobile Deployment Simple

For Schneider’s drivers, who provide transportation, intermodal and logistics services, “the office” is the driver’s seat of a 53-foot box van or a chemical tanker. In the past, an in-cab device supported much of drivers’ workflow and communications. But it was clunky, had unreliable connectivity and was bolted to the dashboard, so drivers couldn’t access it when they met with customers.

About four years ago, Schneider made a dramatic pivot, giving every driver a Samsung Galaxy tablet. Samsung Knox serves to control and configure the devices, including locking them down in kiosk mode and preventing drivers from using them while driving. Most important, Knox allows Schneider to deploy both proprietary and third-party apps for everything from weather and navigation to communication and weigh stations.

Together, these capabilities let Schneider address safety, its top priority, while elevating drivers’ experiences.

“It’s fundamental to our whole strategy that we need to be able to control that device,” Degeneffe says.

The company also required an easy-to-use solution. In fact, Degeneffe recommends that companies aim to create a consumer-style experience as much as possible to simplify rollout, onboarding and support.

“In a large, distributed workforce, having to sit in a four-hour training class to figure out how to use your tablet is unacceptable,” he says. “So, one of the first principles is to make it intuitive enough not to require training.”

The demand that mobile devices may place on IT is an equally important consideration, especially for small to midsize companies, says Pat Nolan, a research analyst with VDC Research.

“Outfitting a remote workforce for the first time creates a lot of new strain on these operational assets, and it’s often more effective from a cost and a productivity standpoint to bring in outside help from third-party managed mobility services or a mobile device management services provider,” he says.

24%

The percentage of companies that say their top challenge in remote work management is keeping enterprise data secure on employees’ devices.

Source: mobileiron.com, “Customer Survey Results: Key Challenges Facing Organizations During COVID-19,” July 20, 2020

Align Mobile Strategy With Business Goals

Ultimately, of course, any mobility solution must serve the business as a whole as well as it meets the needs of employees and customers.

In Edward Rose & Sons’ case, scalability was important, because the company continues to expand its properties.

Having the right solution in place also made it easier to adapt during the p­andemic, says Johnstone. For instance, leasing conversations and business meetings can take place over Zoom, and when senior community residents experienced isolation because of social distancing, staff members used mobile devices to connect them to families via FaceTime.

At Schneider, drivers’ safety and regulatory compliance are foremost, so the Samsung deployment had to check those boxes. The tablets also created new opportunities to enhance drivers’ experiences, a key priority, and to increase the company’s data collection and communication capabilities. The tablets made that far more feasible.

“You’ve got to think about what is important to you as a company and lay the foundation for that,” says Degeneffe. 

Illustration by David Vogin