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Should You Opt In or Out of Today’s Growing Mobility Options?

Everyone likes to have options, and there are plenty of them available in our personal lives :

  • You can withdrawal money from your 401K, and use that for anything else. This is legal, but generally not recommended. In addition to paying taxes on the gain and a penalty, you will be forgoing tax-deferred gains in your 401K investments, which – with compounding – will grow faster than other investments.
  • You can pay your mortgage with checks from your credit card.
  • You can buy a base SUV without all-wheel drive in northern states, but dealers only agree to such a sale if they need to hit a customer’s price point to close the deal. (Honest car salespeople would recommend all-wheel drive for the winter weather conditions.)
  • You can buy inexpensive tools from a price-sensitive hardware story, but they may not last long and they may damage what you are working on.

In other words, just because an option is offered, maybe even promoted, doesn’t mean that it is a good option for you. Even in price-sensitive situations. The same holds true in our professional lives as well.

As any mobile tech buyer for field-based, enterprise-level or industrial workforces will confirm, there are many hardware, software, and accessory choices available. Sometimes too many, it seems. And though some companies like to buy hardware first, then select compatible software, the buying process often occurs in the opposite order given that software is often the primary driver of business processes. That means that many companies will engage with software suppliers either before, or at the same time as, they engage with hardware solutions providers. And a lot of “options” will be presented at one from both sides. A single rugged tablet platform may come with four different baseline pricing levels based on the Intel processor inside, which can each be configured with three different OS options, six different security options, up to eight I/O ports and hundreds of software platforms. So how do you sift through all of the mobile device and software options on the market today to successfully filter out the ones that you definitely need, and definitely don’t?

What mobility solution options do you really need?

Start by assessing your specific needs .
Consider your current and planned IT architecture, your workers’ individual needs, the specialized work environments, and what’s worked – and what hasn’t – with your past mobility solutions. If a device doesn’t support barcode or RFID scanning, CAC/Smart Cards, True Serial ports, or anything else essential to the task at hand, then the software will be less effective. If there is too much glare on the screen, the user can’t see the software’s display. If the radio loses connection, then software accessible only via the cloud will stop working, and so will your workers. That’s the reason why Xplore, for example, offers different options on different tablets and keeps them all software agnostic with some standard "options" built in. Even within same company, different I/O or data input tools may be needed for different departments or worker categories. The end goal is always to custom-engineer a solution, even if only one option is changed, so that the customer doesn’t have to compromise what they really need.

Consider the integrity of your technology partners, and their hardware or software.
There’s an unspoken truth that many (not all) sales professionals are told to “reduce selling friction,” give the customers what they want,” and – most importantly – “never argue with your customers.” Granted, every reputable hardware or software provider will do what their customers want, and try to do it well. (That’s why nearly every professional-grade software provider, in nearly every industry, has also included support for consumer devices since 2010. These devices are everywhere, popular, and cheap, and most software suppliers aren’t going to stop you if you try to use them in tough environments.) But there’s a difference in being a “yes” man to make the customer happy right now and close the sale and collaborating with the customer to find the right TOTAL solution to make them happier long-term.

So how do you gauge partner integrity beyond a sixth sense or gut feeling? Look for companies that pride themselves on being total solution advisors, as Xplore does on the hardware side, and don’t try to upsell you on every option available on their platform. Folks that are willing to say: "I know you are really looking at Windows tablets, and we can certainly get you the components you are asking for, but we are confident that we can achieve a more complete and reliable solution – and save you money – by going with Android tablets instead..." demonstrate that they're putting customer's tangible and intangible profitability above their own financial motivations. And it's even rarer, but to hear someone say "you know what, I really just can't deliver what you need/we're not the right fit for you...." shows they put the customer's interests ahead of their own.

And though many software providers say it’s not their place to recommend hardware since they aren’t hardware experts, the truth is that if the hardware underperforms – or fails – their software will fail to “deliver” too. At a minimum, they risk their software getting caught up in the blame game if the customer looks at the inadequacies from a total solution perspective. Therefore, the best software providers will be willing to collaborate with other solution component providers and the customer on hardware-software integration, testing and optimization.

Never sacrifice features/options that you do need for the sake of price, perception, or even pride.
Yes, you have bosses, employees, colleagues and customers to both impress and make happy. But you are the one doing the due diligence; you are the one that knows your company’s tech requirements best. Therefore, you’re the one in the best position to make the right decision about which options you can’t afford to bypass, even if they cost more now, and which ones are wasteful because you just won’t ever need them. For example, public safety officials may need antenna pass-through capabilities for their mobile computers, but manufacturers probably don’t. On the other hand, you may need an Intel Core i7 vPro processor but feel pressured to buy a cheaper device. The problem is that a lack of processing power or speed will downgrade the performance of the software and other hardware features.

Remember: The most successful field force mobility projects use software and devices which have been designed for the mobile environment. And that requires options, such as the ones rugged tablets provide, especially since no two companies really every need the exact same thing. 

Blog Author: Bob Ashenbrenner
President of Durable Mobility Technologies, LLC.