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Rugged Tablet Deployments are Just the First Step Towards Smart Mobility

“Necessary but not sufficient.” Mathematics as a discipline introduced many of us to this concept. Referring to a part of the solution that is required, but by itself is not the complete answer, is the underpinning of many engineering concepts. There are applications beyond engineering of course:

  • Turning in a thesis is necessary to be considered for a Master’s degree, but not sufficient enough by itself to automatically secure the degree.
  • Completing Basic Training is necessary to begin a military career, but nowhere near sufficient enough to determine future skill application, secure promotion, or define overall career success.
  • Conceptualizing new vehicle designs are necessary for automakers to stay relevant and competitive, but not sufficient enough to generate interest or guarantee profitability. Smart production, marketing and sales strategies are also necessary business components.

And of course this concept is more relevant than ever in today’s enterprise mobility sector. With organizations of all sizes recognizing the need to increasingly mobilize operations, I anticipate that we’ll see many ambitious mobile deployments this year. Though their success will depend on whether they see mobile devices as a part of the whole mobility solution , and not as the entire solution. Any organization that doesn’t think far enough beyond the mobile device itself will quickly experience the difference between a “mobile” deployment and a “mobility” strategy. They are not the same.

A mobile deployment implies the rollout of a rugged tablet, for example, and perhaps a few basic apps to enable certain workflows in the field. Don’t get me wrong – this is a critical first step, and a necessary step that every organization must take in order to mobilize their systems. But such a deployment does not equate to a mobility strategy that will have longer-term, and more positive, implications.

That’s why no single piece of computing hardware can – by itself – solve all your operational mobility challenges. That includes the most rugged tablet on Earth.blog-smart-mobility-jan16-300

I realize that may seem paradoxical given that I work for the leading rugged tablet manufacturer in the Americas and the number two manufacturer worldwide. But the last thing I’m doing is downplaying the significance of the very technology my company develops. I’m simply reiterating the point that rugged tablets are engineered to serve as the central enabler of a greater mobility system that’s defined by each customer’s business structure and systems. This single piece of hardware is a necessary part and is not intended to be a standalone, totally sufficient mobile solution. It’s the primary PC platform that allows for the creation of a cohesive, system-wide mobile solution comprised of workflow-specific software applications and services.

Perhaps that’s why some organizations experience disappointment after early mobile deployments. They invest in a rugged tablet for its super strong, water resistant, dust resistant physical attributes (as they should in industrial environments and Hazardous Locations) but expect what then amounts to a “power-on-and-play” effort to deliver an acceptable mobile computing experience. They don’t necessarily implement workflows out of the gate that maximize the rugged tablet’s supremely powerful connectivity, data processing and collaboration capabilities. And they sometimes forgo training end users on how to utilize all the available features and workflows on this new form factor. That can lead to fast frustration by the field service technician who was hoping for a full PC experience while on foot. It can also baffle decision makers who expected the rugged tablet alone to eliminate frequent return trips to the office and reliance on paper forms.

But just like a Bluetooth earpiece is simply a piece of hardware without a secondary device in proximity to transmit and receive the voice conversation or data, a rugged tablet doesn’t know which applications to open or how to best support your business needs without a focused software framework applicable to specific workflow– and guidance from the end user on how to utilize that software throughout their daily flow.

That’s why 2016 needs to be the year of smarter rugged mobility. Over the next several months, as you seek to close efficiency gaps and lay the groundwork for your longer-term mobility strategy with increased rugged tablet deployments, remember that no matter how many bells and whistles may be accessible on your rugged mobile PC of choice, they’re only impressive (and relevant) if you actually use them.

Find a rugged tablet manufacturer willing to partner with you long past the initial sales cycle. A partner will help you understand how best to capitalize on the physical strength and internal power of these field-ready mobile computers. And they’ll work with you to identify custom software and service options that refine the rugged tablet’s skill set to your real-time business requirements.

Just remember: You don’t have to fire up every feature on day one. In fact, I discourage rapid ramp ups no matter what stage of mobility you’re in because you need time to gauge your workforce’s utilization patterns of basic rugged tablet applications without overloading and overwhelming them. But you do need a partner that knows how to align your rugged tablet resources with your system-wide mobility goals so that you can take smart, incremental steps towards full utilization of your tablet investment throughout the year.

In short: The right hardware is necessary. But to be sufficient in delivering the full benefits of mobility – productivity increase, higher accuracy, better security – you need the right partner and the right plan.