If you had to choose between replacing your company’s back-office desktop and servers, or replacing all of your company-issued mobile tablets, smartphones and other devices, which would you choose?
Unfortunately, this is a decision that many companies find themselves making when considering an all-in-one bundled mobility solution. An unexpected consequence, really. That is because the “all” part of an “all-in-one” or “all-inclusive” bundle likely does not use the operating system currently powering your information systems. These all-in-one bundled solutions are very often built around an iOS or other consumer-grade device, which means they aren’t built to run your back-office interface software. They only run the software needed to facilitate mobile tasks, and those who bundle these solutions don’t typically support the API for those server-based tools you ultimately need to connect with to achieve complete workflow continuity.
Interfacing with a business’s back-office system isn’t a priority and, therefore, may not be offered at all as part of the “solution”. Customers ultimately have to choose to “lose” access to their servers to modernize their mobile environment, which really doesn’t solve anything. If anything, it creates new problems. Mobile-specific operating systems don’t natively run Windows programs, so they break the device’s connection to the back-office before you even start to configure the application. That translates to lost productivity due to the lack of continuity between workflow applications as workers transition between their traditional office and mobile office in the field.
That is why, from Xplore’s point of view – a rugged tablet manufacturer– you’d be better off “losing” all of your mobile devices than losing all of your servers. Wait, what? Yes, without mobile devices, you’ll be able to muddle through service calls like you used to – phone calls, paper work lists, paper records. It would be much more inefficient, less productive and costly. But, you’d be able to get many of your service calls covered.
However, your back-end systems are the lifeblood of your organization. They maintain the central record for your entire business. They are the one technology system through which all computers connect to track and manage all of the work completed, employees’ billable hours, training, accounts receivables and customer lists. Losing access to back-end systems for more than a couple of days would be catastrophic; they are the most important computer systems that your business uses.
That is why we are a bit wary of those companies that offer an “all-in-one” mobility solution – meaning a bundled solution that they claim offer a “one size fits all” advantage. These tech sellers are newer on the scene and tend to offer up an enticing story: You can get everything you need for your mobility solution from one company . Not only do they deliver all the pieces, from software to mobile devices to accessories, they claim to offer one point of accountability. So, what’s the problem with this? Their use of consumer operating systems (iOS, among others) means they can’t run your back-end software, they break the connection with your back-end systems.
These all-in-one systems are self-contained ecosystems, with their own databases, access tools, work order software and mobile devices. They are essentially a functional island. A big island perhaps, but still cut-off from the mainland. They aren’t integrated into your back-office systems. They may offer some of those necessary back-office functions, but not all.
Therefore, be careful when assessing the effects of such bundles on your business efficiency. Consider the work needed to deploy and maintain such technologies given the lack of integration between an all-in-one solution and your business’ core information systems. At a minimum, you’ll either have to learn to use the limited back-office functions of these tools, or program new interfaces from each module to the corresponding back-office tool. It’s the only way to restore the capabilities you need to see hours worked per service call, generate a payroll, or create an OSHA report, upon the many other tasks that must completed throughout the year.
Still intrigued by a one-provider solution? Think it is the best way to implement a “simple” mobility set of tools?
Before you commit to a business-grade “bundle” take note of the many other concerns posed by companies that have previously taken a similar stance on all-in-one solutions and then faced the aftermath of system failures:
- Weak integration with vertical workflows, systems, peripherals. It is rare for any solutions provider to select the best-of-breed option for every mobile solution component, especially since these are a one-size-fits all offerings. That is why Utilities, Public Safety agencies, Field Service organizations and Manufacturers can do better than “bundled” by first picking the best software that works with their back office (and budget), then finding the mobile devices which best fit the back-office and software design. Don’t forget about accessories: pick those best for your workflows, such as mobile keyboards.
- Heavy reliance on consumer-oriented devices. All-in-one solution integrators want to save money on the bundle components so that they can make more money. So, they often tout the “benefits” of consumer-grade devices (i.e. iPads) by noting the fast user on-boarding of the popular brands. What they don’t say is how long it takes to on-board consumer devices within professional IT environments, because it is the application, not the OS, that dominates the user experience for field workers. They also don’t talk about the high failure rates in the field due to device fragility, which they attempt to moderate with protective cases. When these units ultimately fail – whether the screen breaks, can’t be seen outside in the sun, gets wet, overheats, etc. – the integrator only suffers a little, usually no worse than replacing an iPad. You, on the other hand, will suffer the bigger loss and cost – a worker unable to work, a customer waiting for service, and an IT professional who has to reconfigure.
|These are the real costs of rugged vs. non-rugged devices. Use the TCO Calculator|
Instead of believing the mirage that an all-in-one solution equates to “less work”, recognize the additional IT work it takes to prevent a lose (servers)-lose (service support) situation, take the time to build a “best-of-breed”/”best for your budget” mobility solution. Assemble the devices, software and accessories that are proven to protect your other tech investments, preserve your workflows between the office and field, and give your workers the precise tools they need to be productive under pressure.
It is important to note that a strong solutions partner may well offer a bundle to solve your mobility needs. But these types of bundles will be customized for your environment, and if you require a tight connection to your server-based tools, these solution partners will offer devices that can do that. That is very different from the one-size-fits-all bundle discussed above. To learn more about the differences:
Join us for this September 21 webinar with Group Mobile and Field Technologies Online. You’ll walk away with the know-how and resources to choose a mobile solution that’s capable of improving business process efficiency and, therefore, your operational performance and profitability levels. You will also receive insider tips on how to procure a best-in-class mobility solution, without breaking the bank.