8 Lessons Learned Supporting A Mobile Device Fleet

In this episode, Brett and Richard take a look at lessons learned in supporting mobile devices – such as what are the support costs, what’s tools are needed for good device support, remote view or controls and more.

INTRO  00:06
Welcome to the enterprise mobility roundup podcast. Brought to you by blue Fletch. We discuss technology topics related to Android and workforce devices, and how they intersect with business and mobility.

Brett Cooper  00:19
Thank you for joining us for another session of the booth clutch Enterprise Mobility Roundup. Today we’re gonna talk about a topic that Richard and I, we’ve actually been been working together for almost two decades now. We started out in Windows CE days, actually, before there was Wi Fi networks, and it was devices you put in cradles, the cradles would sync data back and forth. There’s just crazy times in hindsight, and it’s difficult to think how much things have changed in the last 20 years. But on the same side, it’s also interesting how little things have changed, especially from a support standpoint. And, you know, one of the things I always talk about, it’s not not as easy as buying devices and just throwing them out in the field. And they work. There’s a lot of day one, yeah, it’s expensive. But the next four years is a lot more expensive if you don’t manage it properly. And we sat down and thought through like, what are the eight lessons we’ve gotten the most out of the last eight years when we think about support, support costs, and day two is the phrase lot people use. But if day one, you spend a lot of money to buy something, day two is every day after that, where you’re supporting it, and there is a cost to managing those. So the first area, Richard, this is probably your I think you called this out or like the quote used here, what’s the first area you think about when you’re thinking about support for devices

Rick Makerson  01:36
have more data, data is important. Because if you have more data, there’s less finger pointing, the worst thing that could happen during deployment is an issue occurs. And it’s a blocker. And, you know, the network team is telling the device team that, you know, it’s not our fault is your fault, the device team is then telling the application team is your fault. And then you know, it’s like this whole Spider Man meme with everybody’s pointing at one another. And nobody’s fixing the you know, the darn problem. But if you have the data to show that, you know, the issue resides at you know, this level or it’s in, you know, this part of the deployment, then is less finger pointing, people, you know, tend to calm down and they don’t feel attacked. And you can actually focus on solving the problem.

Brett Cooper  02:24
Is it no finger pointing or less finger pointing?

Rick Makerson  02:27
It’s less like somebody’s still gonna be a jerk and probably point your finger regardless. But the more data you have, you know, the less feelings get hurt. How about that?

Brett Cooper  02:37
That’s gonna like that, less, less hurt feelings, more data. The next area we talked about is a good segue from that was easy to use data tools. And for me, it’s always that if I have to teach a guy on the support desk, how to use SQL queries, he’s not going to use it. So what’s, what’s your thoughts around tooling? When you think about the types of tools you want to put in front of our support teams? What does that look like from a data data access standpoint,

Rick Makerson  03:01
I want to give them the tools that they need, so that they can solve problems without, you know, having to get the whole team involved, right. So, you know, data should be accessible, it should make sense. You know, dashboards were really great. A lot of the tools now are very accessible, they’re cheap. So there’s no reason why somebody doesn’t have Mixpanel or Splunk boards, or power bi, bi, Tableau, you know, use those tools. Think about how you want to present the data, think about what could go wrong, you know, what does a healthy deployment look like? Let’s define that. And when it doesn’t look healthy, you know, anybody should be able to click on something and dive into that area, to figure out what’s going on.

Brett Cooper  03:47
Building those baseline profiles, for me is always really important. Like this is a site. This is what a good site looks like. That way, it makes it easy for the support team to look at and say, Yeah, well, there’s, there’s a problem here. Let’s go fix it. And then I think the other thing on the Data Tools is can I export it to a CSV or Excel? Yeah, that’s the sound I’m getting all

Rick Makerson  04:05
that’s always important is always somebody who is the Excel wizard. And so you know, the tools are great. And one, you know, like you said, you don’t want to teach somebody how to use SQL. But there’s a lot of people that can use Excel really well. So if you can get the data out and use Excel just for those one off scenarios where you need to dig or transform or use a pivot table, then that’s always a plus

Brett Cooper  04:29
what splits up a pivot table and air quotes I saw that because you use Pivot. Pivot Tables is awesome. Number three, remote control and then we’re not we’re not talking about a remote you press buttons on but what’s, what’s that? What is remote control to you. So being

Rick Makerson  04:44
able to remotely see your device being able to log in and click around so that’s very helpful if an issue is happening at a particular site that you can log in and try to recreate it all or login and watch a user recreate an issue that, you know oftentimes only happens in that environment doesn’t happen in the lab or in the office.

Brett Cooper  05:10
Yeah, I was just I think about, I’ve had some clients that cheaped out, didn’t want to spend money on remote control. And it just gets really expensive.

Rick Makerson  05:18
Flying somebody out there. It’s even

Brett Cooper  05:19
just like calling somebody to store because you’re taking somebody off the floor or in a warehouse, you’re taking somebody off the off the assembly line or manufacturing line and that guy, the $4, you’re saving, you’re spending like 20, on labor on both sides. So it gets really tough it is it is a cost trade. So definitely invest in the remote control early on. And, you know, worse comes to worse. Try it out. If you don’t use it cancel after the first year. Yeah, try and make it work. Number Number four is reboot button or a reset button. What’s What’s your thoughts around that? What does that look like to you?

Rick Makerson  05:54
So I guess there’s two pieces to it. On one hand, I think we’ve all gotten accustomed to if something doesn’t work, turn it off, turn it back on. So if there’s

Brett Cooper  06:04
your mom calls, mom turn it off,

Rick Makerson  06:06
then yeah, then it magically works. And so on one hand, like that’s a data point, you should track, right. Like if you see excessive reboots in an area, that tends to be a leading indicator for an issue or a problem. But also, giving people the ability to rebuild devices out in the field sometimes helps. Especially if you have a very complex environment, maybe a blend of legacy systems, or, you know, it’s a good way to just fat check that like that device is in a really good state. So you know, maybe there’s a device upgrade and something didn’t build or deliver, or configuration didn’t land correctly. I know back in the day, databases on mobile devices will get corrupt all the time. So being able to rebuild the device out in the field, you know, sometimes save money, save time, save phone calls to the Help Desk or sending the device back to the TDC. So, you know, being able to have that in the field as a tool for end users sometimes can be invaluable.

Brett Cooper  07:09
Yeah, I think the one trade off there, I would throw out there is make sure that’s not a common practice. I remember one, one facility I went to, and I walked in in the morning, and there was a lady and she had 40 devices. And they’re all rebooting and resetting. I’m like, What are you do and she goes, Oh, we called the help desk one time, they taught us how to reboot or rebuild a device. So every morning, I come in and rebuild them all. And I’m like, that’s just the amount of data traffic things pulling down. But the to Richard’s point, the the tool, especially with Android and ZTE, or zero touch, you have the ability to take a device that’s in bad state rebooted, and it will pull report everything down from the MDM and start working again. So having that as an option, but do be able to control it and don’t make it standard practice for your employees to read to that to all 40 devices and your site every single day. Right? It gets gets, that gets expensive, too. The next the next area we talked about was not being afraid to customize your experience. And this is, you know, from a support standpoint, I always think about the you have a specific business, you don’t have to follow a pattern everybody else does. But when for you when you think about that, what is what are the key lessons you have around owning the experience and having it customized to you?

Rick Makerson  08:24
Yeah, you oftentimes you can save money, you can find efficiencies, you know, every business runs sort of the same, but they all do different things. And whether that’s the culture of the business, how long they’ve been in business. Sometimes there’s carryover of our business debt, but not from a money perspective. But you know, something went wrong and operational process that, yes, and you want to protect that. So just understanding those things. And don’t be afraid to do something that’s not off the shelf that if it’s going to make the end user more efficient, like, those are things that you want to solve now and not solve them, you know, in the middle of the crisis when, you know, everybody’s on this email thread, and there’s a blocker out there. You want to think about those things ahead of time.

Brett Cooper  09:15
Yeah, for me, it’s the I think about the end, the end user, you want them to think as little as about the technology as possible. You want them serving the customer doing their job, and they don’t want to be fixing technology. They’re like they’re, they got hired for a job, they want to get their stuff done and get home and make things work. They don’t want to be monkeying around with trying to figure out how SD cards work or settings on devices, right. Lesson Six was this is this is sort of hardware for a lot of people but don’t Don’t be cheap on important things.

Rick Makerson  09:47
Yes. Yeah, we saw this. There’s probably a retailer out there that I am sure 50% have a shop at regularly and they didn’t buy cradles for their devices, and you know, it came time for, I think they were pushing out an application update. And they wanted to understand why, you know, their updates weren’t landing at, you know, a higher rate. And it’s like, Well,

Brett Cooper  10:14
every employee took the device put in their locker and turned it off every night.

Rick Makerson  10:17
Exactly. So when are the devices are going to update in that window, the devices that people use during that period of time, which is also not ideal. And so then they understood, okay, that’s why we ought to have cradles, make sure that, you know, when they come to work that the device is in a higher state of charge, when we do device or OS updates, it typically happens at night. And if they’re hooked up to power, just like you update your phone, or your watch, or what have you, you know, those things don’t typically happen on battery power, or when you’re using them,

Brett Cooper  10:50
you’re the one I’ve seen people cheap out about is wireless infrastructure. So you have a giant warehouse. And you know, you don’t have coverage in certain areas. So you have employees that are literally walking back and forth from where they’re performing their tasks to another area to actually make data synchronize. And just like, because some do didn’t want to spend an extra, a couple grand, more APs in the warehouse, they’re spending probably 1000s of bucks a week in operational, you know, in labor costs. And those employees, they’re pissed, that guy doesn’t want to do that that guy wants to get the job done wants to make things happen. And so you have unhappy employees, you have inefficient, inefficient tasks, because you’re being cheap around certain areas like that. That’s, you know, really, back to you, I’ve talked about this before, it’s the cost trade offs, look, your cost trade offs, you think about that, the things you do the most. And that’s where you should really go invest things.

Rick Makerson  11:44
The other one I see is devices. So as organization, we’ve made a commitment to move this next generation device, but instead of replacing all devices, we’re only going to replace the ones that are broken, or not in service. And over time, we’ll eventually get to all the new devices. And so I think people don’t take the time to understand the impact of that, meaning, you know, if I’m in a location, and somebody else has a newer device, or a new device is available, we see people take devices and hide devices and make sure that it’s only available to them. Or you have a situation where you know, why is the store more efficient than this other store has less problems, it’s like, well, they have the newer technology, these devices are twice as fast. And the applique new applications that we rolled out work much better on on these devices. And so, you know, back to your point, thinking about the operational impact, or some of the situations that you could never think of, but what actually happen when you’re out in the field supporting these deployments occur? Yeah, I

Brett Cooper  12:50
think back to a specific example, we saw were at a client, they, they had sites complaining, we went to the sites. And normally, I think one of the one of the apps we were looking at was about eight seconds for startup. And these sites, it was 6070 seconds for the app to start up after the employee clicked on it. We looked at and like what these sites have devices that are four years older, and Moore’s law is a thing. So they’re the newer devices were eight times faster. And the app started up eight times faster. And if you think about that, you know, for 20 employees and a store times a minute, extra every time they started a vise, it gets really expensive, really fast over over a wide scale. So it’s, you know, don’t don’t be cheap on the important things invest where it makes sense measure. This, go back goes back to like tooling around measuring and knowing things, having data and be able to look at it and say, Yeah, this store is more efficient in the store. Less than seven is patches. So tell me about patches.

Rick Makerson  13:46
Patches are important, I think, no one episodes, were talking about log for J and just, you know, be on top of updates for the libraries that use third party applications that you use, you know, the OSS, you know, many organizations approve, you know, a version of a stack of software, and then they don’t want to change. And then the longer you wait, the harder it is to change in you know, oftentimes you could set yourself up for an exploit whether you know, it’s an exploit or it happens to somebody else. And then now you’re rushing to do you know, what you should have done over months and years of time and you know, a day or two because everybody’s hair on fire.

Brett Cooper  14:33
You and I call this patch strategies, you should you should force yourself to go through and push out a patch, either quarterly or annually have some strategy for doing it even if you don’t need it. Like having that strategy. You know, like there’s a zero day exploits. I needed to fix this before somebody else does. And so one client I think they ended up bringing every single device back in so they shipped 10,000 devices poem and ship 10,000 new devices out gotten really expensive, really fast. And if they had invested in the patch strategy before, they wouldn’t have to do that, which I think in Lesson Eight is sort of a corollary of this, or maybe opposite to this, but you owe us stability. And this is one where we always think about people say, I want to be on the expert, I wanna be on Android 14. Now, what are we gonna roll out of Android? Android 15. And I look at them. So you have a stack, you’re on Android eight? What is the business reason for moving to a newer version? And for you, when you when you try to counsel people on this? What’s the what’s the typical argument to get back?

Rick Makerson  15:34
Stay with the major version, you can as long as you can. Most of the rugged OEMs right now support, you know, years of support, they have patches for patches years, yeah, zebra with the lifeguard works really well. And just even the whole update process, they’ve been working really hard with Google. Also note like Honeywell, and Samsung, you know, likewise, but you know, patching your OS, updating your OS is much easier today than it is before. But you know, staying on a version, you know, oftentimes helps just because, you know, in the Android world, you know, going from, you know, nine to 10, is, is big, and if 1011 is big 11 to 12. And so, you know, are you ready to, you know, potentially rewrite or redeploy all your applications, you know, how they interface with the network. So I think if you could stay with the major versions, as long as you can, as long as you’re up to date with your security patches, you know, that, you know, is my recommendation,

Brett Cooper  16:37
stick with one version, I had to do quick recap, number one lesson was no finger pointing more data, or you said something nice to the man that was

Rick Makerson  16:47
more data less, feeling less and less

Brett Cooper  16:48
when you’re playing that no finger pointing, less feelings getting hurt. Number two is data use data tools that are easy to use, so have data that can be consumed. And so Brett can export it to Excel, because everyone knows, Brett loves Excel and pivot tables. Number three was invest in remote controls to have the ability to add your support team remote into devices, absolutely not have to have somebody there in the field, take somebody off the line. Number four is resets and enterprise resets are reset in the field where you take a device and rebuild it in the field. And another

Rick Makerson  17:21
point of that is it doesn’t have to stay out there forever. So it’s, you know, seasonal, like you have snow chains, and you’re a foreigner in Colorado. In the summertime. There’s no reason for you drive around with that. And so once you know your deployment has been out there and it’s baked and it’s more or less stable, that is something that you could turn off and have the ability to turn on when needed.

Brett Cooper  17:43
Yeah. Or, like retailer, a good example be holiday season. Yeah, busy in need. Eat up time need availability. The next one, number five was don’t be afraid to customize experience, make it make it work for your business. Number six, don’t be cheap on the important things. No, don’t, don’t cheap out on us. Number seven is have a patching strategy, be able to know how to deploy patches in the field, have it tested, you’re gonna get a zero day exploit eventually figure out how to how to get in front of that. And number eight was stick with an OS version, if you can. I know in iOS, it’s pretty much impossible because Apple wants to force an OS version to all their devices every, every six months, it feels like

Rick Makerson  18:24
yep, Google’s getting the same way on consumer devices. But if you have a rugged device, most of your manufacturers are able to help just because they understand it from the enterprise perspective, how important that is.

Brett Cooper  18:39
Zebra, zebra, Honeywell, Panasonic, Datalogic, SpectraLink, they all have really good policies and processes to build around having your OSs and your patch patch strategy. So for you is there as a one of these that if you had to pick one, that is the most important when you think about day to support and supporting devices.

Rick Makerson  18:57
Number one, number one is important to me. You know, I don’t want to be the jerk in the room. And, you know, my job as a consultant oftentimes, is to tell people their baby’s ugly while having them like me at the same time. So the more data that can have and not point blame at people, but actually describe and talk about the problem that’s helped me out a ton in my career,

Brett Cooper  19:20
more more data points, less hurt feelings, like I should be a t shirt we make. And then my favorite is remote controls. Just like having the ability to get into devices in the field just makes it so easy to support stuff and get in have your developers and your support team be able to actually see the problems that are happening. So for me, that’s really important for me. In summary, you know, the devices are expensive day one, day two on what we call day two, which is the four years after you buy it, that’s where it gets really expensive. If you don’t manage it properly, you don’t set expectations. So really think about that as you’re building your device strategy and device rollout plan and you If you have other questions, definitely feel free to reach out to us where we live. We love talking about this stuff. And in thank you guys for joining us for today and Richard, thanks for hopping on again. Thank you. Thanks.

INTRO  20:11
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