Fly, Fly Away

Delta Air Lines has a well planned and effective enterprise mobile strategy. Delta employs a healthy mix of devices based on the role, environment and required tasks. The employees in the terminals need business mobility devices as rugged as Thor’s Hammer and for everyone else, there are consumer devices. Their business mobility development team is focused on one hybrid platform, which supports their fleet of Android rugged devices and iOS devices.

What do enterprises need to consider when migrating legacy applications to consumer mobile devices to meet the enterprise mobile strategy?

Single carry used for personal or work – Consumer devices are great when supporting a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) strategy and even a BYOD strategy using company-issued mobile devices. Mobile Device Management (MDM) platforms like AirWatch, Soti and Playbook MDM allow organizations to provide secure access to enterprise applications and company data. Employees should be able to utilize amazing applications that leverage the Android / iOS devices they are already using.

This can start to go wrong if your organization makes it a free-for-all when supporting devices. Even if the enterprise mobile strategy is to go with Android supporting Nexus, Samsung or LG, the slight differences in each manufacturer’s hardware can make it cumbersome for Help Desk and business mobility dev teams to support and account for. Selecting one device platform or even one manufacturer can make the world of a difference when executing a consumer device strategy.

Support for Larger Displays or Customer Interaction – Let’s not forget about tablets. There are two instances when leveraging a tablet should be considered:

  • Display information on a larger screen format: Often there is a need for a larger display to showcase specific information. For example, designers sharing work with clients, construction workers that need access to CAD drawings and pilots who need to access to flight maps.
  • Device hand-off: There are scenarios that call for the device to be used by a 3rd party (i.e. patient or customer) for data collection. A nurse gathering information from a patient to pre-sales resources capturing leads in the field. These are just the tip of the iceberg for leveraging tablets.

Business Mobility Needs – Are these devices being used for a task that requires a small format device or leveraging the hardware? For example, capturing form data in the field with text and/or media with the ability to immediately submit to a backend system or store & forward. Tracking assets or proximity to assets leveraging BLE and leveraging the mobile device as a gateway for IoT sensors. Lastly, capturing video, audio and voice transcription in the field with the ability to add geolocation metadata.

Technology Selection – When converting applications for consumer devices, developer tooling and technology selection becomes increasingly important. The easy choice is to pick one platform and support the native stack as part of your enterprise mobile strategy. However, most organizations fear being tied to a single platform with high switching costs or critical dependencies in case they need to switch platforms or introduce a new platform type in the future. Below are some of the hybrid language options:

  • React Native:
    • Pros: Lots of community support, availability of component libraries, developed and used by Facebook.
    • Cons: It’s not a true framework so there is not one right way to implement.
  • Flutter
    • Pros: Dart is a promising language, included widgets reduce the need for design and the output is a native iOS and/or Android application.
    • Cons: Based on Dart which is a language developed by Google and still new to the market.
  • Web Hybrid
    • Pros: Deployment flexibility, lots of community support & example and many framework options to choose from.
    • Cons: Lack of native UI and experience but the gap is ever shrinking.
  • Xamarin
    • Pros: If you fancy your organization a Microsoft shop you can continue to say that and write applications in C#.
    • Cons: The development workflow is slower than the native platforms and other hybrid options.

Other Hidden Costs – Time is money! The points below are areas where huge chunks of time could be sunk upgrading business mobility.

  • Sourcing replacement devices – The deployment of the 2018 insert consumer device here has been deployed. What happens 18 or 24 months from now when devices need to be sourced for breakage replacement? This will add to the research and testing now that a 2020 device needs to be vetted and most likely a newer OS as well.
  • Staying ahead of OS Updates – Consumer devices are provided OS updates as they are made available by the manufacturer. Also, there is a lack of features for preventing or allowing the updates to be controlled so be prepared for a device fleet with a range of OS versions.
  • QA Testing across multiple devices – Testing is easily overlooked and marginalized when developing. The same is true when estimating the amount of time it takes to validate a deployment across multiple devices and multiple versions of the same OS.
  • Finding workarounds for lack of device access Zebra has their EMDK and Samsung has Knox which makes controlling any of their devices possible. When you lack these tools, your developers spend an extraordinary about of time finding workarounds that are mostly dead ends.

Key Takeaways

For organizations migrating from legacy mobile devices and considering deploying consumer devices as part of the enterprise mobile strategy, please consider the following three points:

  1. Choose the right device for the right environment – If the device is not appropriate for the environment then this blog post will not save you. Allow your requirements to drive device selection and do not lead the device selection process with a price.
  2. Narrow the device focus – Having a diverse device mix increases the complexity of your technology organization. Reducing fragmentation reduces the development, testing and support cost. Everything that can be done to reduce the number of devices supported will reduce the risk of a bad experience.
  3. Pick the correct technology stack – Making the correct selection can make or break an organization. Choose wisely and you’ll be rewarded with a team that can move at the speed of light to fix issues in the field and delivers new features/applications to the business.

Overall, consumer devices do have a place in the enterprise. However, without a comprehensive strategy and understanding of how to properly leverage consumer technology, history will continue to repeat itself. If you need help with your mobile strategy or want feedback on your technology selection, we offer a free mobile strategy workshop

Make sure to check out Part 1 of this series if you haven’t already. If you are interested in learning how our services can help you develop an effective enterprise mobile strategy, please contact us today. 

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Richard Makerson

Richard Makerson

Managing Partner - As the co-founder of BlueFletch, Richard is a Technical Manager with skills in Mobile, Microsoft .NET, and J2EE Application Development. Richard has also trained, deployed, and supported multiple application tiers across complex production environments. He has extensive technical experience in native, cross-platform and web-based mobile application development. Richard holds a BS in Computer Science from Morehouse College.