How New Digital Services Go Beyond Traditional Mobile Devices Management to Improve the Health of Enterprises’ Bottom Lines


By Steve Mulroy, EMEA Portfolio Marketing, Services, Zebra Technologies.

By 2025, the number of Internet of Things (IoT) connected devices worldwide is expected to reach 75 billion, and with hundreds of thousands of mobile employees relying on these devices out on the front lines – both in the field and within the four walls of facilities. There’s a real premium on knowing how well every device is performing. Yet, many organizations are paying the price of ‘not knowing’ such information.

In a recent State of Enterprise Mobility* report, 67% of mobile workers surveyed reported experiencing mobile device failures on a monthly basis, which impacted their ability to do their work. Given the correlation between mobile device performance and worker performance, greater attention must be given to proactively managing enterprise devices and pre-empting device ‘health’ issues.

Failure is not an option

For IT teams, it can be challenging to balance mobile device management (MDM) tasks against other systems’ modernization and maintenance priorities. Those who attempt to proactively assess device performance often do so at the most basic level, relying solely on physical inspections, human decision making and paper-based reporting. 

However, mobility and productivity are synonymous these days. If a device goes down, so does a worker. And mobile device performance impacts operational efficiency far beyond the front lines. That’s precisely why proactive MDM must be a priority for every organization, no matter the size or industry.

For example, utility field engineers rely heavily on their mobile devices to help diagnose and resolve power outages. If their mobile devices aren’t working properly, outage recovery can slow down or completely stall. This issue is further compounded if they have to wait hours for IT to diagnose the mobile device issues. That’s why every front-line worker should be able to self-diagnose device issues and take corrective action without needing third-party intervention. In many cases, a quick device reset is all that’s necessary to reconnect to a wireless network or speed up device processing. Having an on-device tool that can recognize that and instruct the user on what steps to take to troubleshoot on the spot is very valuable – for the worker and the IT team that would otherwise be overwhelmed with helpdesk tickets.

If the diagnostic report confirms a more complex issue, then the user can be instructed to contact IT for assistance or send the device into the service center for repair. The IT and repair center teams managing these escalated tickets can then reference the full diagnostic report to expedite resolutions and get the devices back in service.

Taking back control: real-time mobile device visibility improves service ability

Innovative enterprise-grade device manufacturers are utilizing data generated by their devices to help create analytics dashboards for customers’ IT and operational teams, as well as partners contracted to manage devices. These dashboards, which are now standard with many operational visibility and control services, give users the actionable insights they need to proactively address possible device issues. But they are no longer based solely on a break-fix model. They are much more expansive in their monitoring, returning more intelligent and actionable insights than routine maintenance processes, which can miss issues simmering below the surface and faults that develop in between inspections. For example, IT and operational teams can see when there is a high rate of battery discharge on a worker’s device, which could indicate a bad battery. In turn, they can instruct the device user on how to get a replacement battery, averting device and worker downtime.

With many of these insights now being generated using algorithms, we’re also seeing a move to more anticipatory device management strategies as well. Over time, algorithms applied within enterprise device monitoring systems will learn from previous events that may impact the performance of devices, such as seasonal spikes in usage. This can help IT and operations teams collectively predict increased usage demands that could strain devices or cause potential system issues. They’ll know ‘when x happens, y happens’ and be able to take remedial action in good time.

These are future factors that humans simply cannot detect. And since these device visibility and care services have evolved to digital platforms that aggregate both big data and small actionable data about the health of workers’ devices, they provide real-time insights to all stakeholders, including those outside the IT suite or in non-analytical roles. This ‘scientific crystal ball’ approach underpins cost-effective and confident business decision making, while taking the burden of MDM (and worker productivity) off IT alone.

Prevention (or prediction) is better than cure (i.e., replacement)

Remember that traditional MDM solutions are transactional in nature and geared toward IT users only. Most businesses today need deeper insights and more expansive analytics capabilities to effectively manage the mobile devices core to their operations.

For example, one Italian food distributor and retailer we work with is using Android™ mobile computers to maintain efficient workflows in its stores and distribution centers. It can’t afford for devices to go offline for any reason. So, it is using the Zebra VisibilityIQ™ Foresight service to intelligently collect and analyze device data from sources such as contracts, repair and case management systems as well as available MDMs. Several users within the organization can access the VisibilityIQ Foresight dashboard to identify potential problems and take action before they impact the bottom line.

In fact, the customer has already experienced a 50% decrease in service desk time along with a 40% decrease in IT staff time spent on critical or unexpected issues by moving to an automated process. When escalation to IT or the service center are required, these insights are leading to more informed decisions about the best next step to take. This, in turn, is driving high-level efficiencies, maximum device usage, a decrease in unused or misplaced devices, and a reduction in how many devices are being sent for repair. In addition to saving the organization time and money this tool has freed up IT resources to work on other high-priority projects.

That is why these services are invaluable: they drive a proactive approach to mobile technology purchasing and planning, increase solution reliability and improve worker productivity. All of this subsequently improves the organization’s customer satisfaction scores. Consistent device monitoring also helps to reduce environmental, health and safety impacts as well as data security risks, by minimizing the number of devices that must be shipped for repair.

The takeaway

It’s true that enterprises can learn from hindsight but having foresight – and the ability to act right now to avert a future device issue – will help ensure organizations’ mobility solutions do what they’re supposed to do: keep employees operating at peak efficiency levels.

Supplementing MDM (or replacing manual device management processes) with more intelligent enterprise device ‘visibility and control’ tools is the key to helping predict the unpredictable and avoiding the ‘avoidable’ device performance issues that disrupt business and impact an enterprise’s bottom line. Foresight is the future.

To learn more on how to optimize business operations with support and visibility services, please click here.

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