Proving the Business Case for Mobile Solutions: Use Real Rugged Tablets, Not Tablets in “Rugged” Cases

As a wise man recently said...

Mobile tablet computers are more than warranted in field service and industrial environments. In fact, nearly every manufacturing, distribution, energy, public safety, military, and utility workflow require the capabilities that only a rugged tablet PC platform can deliver. Unlike handhelds or laptops, tablets are fully equipped computers – the same as using a desktop – and the only computers that are truly mobile for unrestricted in-vehicle and in-field use, whether you’re crawling, climbing, or walking and working. However, it’s nearly impossible to build a business case for the rugged tablet PC form factor when all you do is slap a “rugged” case on a consumer or commercial-grade tablet that’s never been intended for that environment and try to “plug and play” the device with existing business systems.

That wise man, Group Mobile’s CEO Darin White, was spot on. These industries’ operating environments, both indoors and outdoors, demand the built-in safety, security, and durability of a genuine rugged – or sometimes ultra-rugged, computer. A platform that’s purpose-built to vertical market specifications...not a device that requires a lot of add-ons (and still may not work competently). And the data-driven business model embraced by nearly every organization today requires computers with high quality processing power and lots of local storage capacity, memory, and connectivity. None of which today’s consumer and business computing devices offers, not even with “upgrades.”

That’s why anyone investing in mobile technologies today need to understand three things:


  1. There is no such thing as an “out of the box” mobile solution. Every mobile solution is just that, a “solution” not a product. Take a simple use of a mobile device to replace a paper-based process: you pick a device. But you then need the right software, with the right user interface and the right integration with your back office. This doesn’t even get into other issues like security or how to charge the devices. The whole point of mobilizing workflows and, in some cases, entire facilities is to boost output and solve business challenges. The use of mobile tech opens the door to larger benefits than just “getting rid of paper”. Want increased worker productivity? Faster time-to-market for product design and production or expedited shipment and delivery? The ability to offer new services? Deploy more well-informed teams for military missions or emergency incident response? Know that no single technology manufacturer in the world designs or delivers every single component you’ll need to fashion a complete mobile solution, because a mobile solution is much more than just the mobile computer. You need best-in-class solution components for your specific needs: printers, scanners, wireless mobile hubs, network connectivity management, etc. as well as the right software imaging, end-user training, and custom-fit in-vehicle systems.
  2. There is no return on investment (ROI) from plug-and-play mobile technologies. By plug-and-play, I am referring to consumer-focused devices that are made easy. Like a wireless router for your home. It’ll come set-up with a randomly chosen SSID (my neighbor’s is “NiceMoose”, I see it every time my phone shows available networks) and password. Connect it to the modem (plug) and connect your devices (play). These home-use devices had to become simpler. Most people don’t want to have to decide which Wi-Fi bands to use and all of the other real details that are available on routers. But your business needs to set up the right access controls. This is true with all of the pieces that you need to make your solution work, especially the software apps. That’s why you should choose a mobile device that lets you run the most appropriate software tools, do not pick a mobile device that limits your choices.
  3. Buying discounted mobile tech from “two guys in a garage” that can drop products at your doorstep quickly will cost you so much more than working with a consultant – a truly strategic systems integrator – that will architect complete mobility solutions and optimize the entire solution with you long after the sale is complete. If you ignore everything else (except that NiceMoose is a great SSID), just remember this one point and take it to heart. You want the right pieces which, together, form the solution. Some resellers are motivated by moving product, so will be inclined to endorse your first thought on what the best devices may be so that they can get on with the sale. A true partner, whether VAR or other, will want to make sure that the solution fits the need. A satisfied customer is far more valuable over the long term. You don’t want to waste millions of dollars – or even a few hundred dollars – trying to force fit the wrong mobile technology “products” into your most important business systems. Attempts to save money by trying to DIY with the least expensive off-the-shelf options will cost you drastically more than you anticipate before all is said and done. You can’t mask “out of the box” consumer grade tech limitations.

**By the way, Darin’s seen those “two guys in a garage” before and learned through decades of experience that it takes much more than “best price” or “best product” selections to really make mobile work for businesses of every size in every industry.

Hear what he had to say about that experience during a recent coffee break conversation about the dynamics of mobile technology buying and implementation. Plus, he explains what the buzzword “solution provider” really means for companies trying to prove a mobility business case to executives and/or lowering the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) for greenlighted mobility projects.

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