The Top Two Enterprise Mobility Issues Facing Supply Chain Managers Today

Tim Ingles
Fri, Mar 10, 2017
Enterprise mobility is increasing, but companies still face hurdles transitioning over to new, mobile platforms.
Enterprise mobility is increasing, but companies still face hurdles transitioning over to new, mobile platforms.

Most businesses aren't going mobile - they're already mobile. A 2016 Strategy Analytics report found that the global mobile workforce is likely to increase from 1.45 billion in 2016 to 1.87 billion in 2022.

Andrew Brown, Executive Director of Enterprise Research at Strategy Analytics, said that when it comes to mobile technology North America and Western Europe are leading the way.

"If we compare regional data, North America and Western Europe are still the leading regions in terms of leading the mobile worker penetration." Brown said. "The mobile workers in these developed regions adopt and use far more mobile technologies (laptops, smartphones, tablets, mobile device security, enterprise mobility management, business mobile applications, IoT, big data analytics, mobile cloud and virtual reality) than any other regions."

Brown also added that "businesses are also continuing to take advantages of telecommuting, and offering employees flexible working environments."

Yet, despite this growth, two major problems exist. There remains uncertainty surrounding the mobile operating platform managers will use to build their mobile strategy on top of. Also, questions remain as to which cost-effective and functional mobile devices they should use for each area of their business.

1. Microsoft Discontinuing the Windows CE Operating System
Managers who built their entire mobile strategy on top of the Windows CE Operating System will have to decide whether or not they'll move to the new Windows 10, Android or iOS operating systems. That's because Microsoft will no longer support Windows CE 6. And while it did release versions 7 and 8, CE 6 was most popular.

Bruce Willins, engineering fellow at Zebra Technologies - a manufacturer of mobile enterprise devices, said a number of things are causing (or will cause) companies to inevitably switch operating systems.

"Windows CE is reaching the end of its lifecycle. In April 2016, Microsoft ended mainstream support for the latest CE version (CE7). As a result, support for legacy applications is starting to diminish, new applications are not targeting CE, and the lack of new security protocols support (e.g. TLS1.2) is becoming a significant issue," said Willins. "Windows 10 Mobile is a comprehensive mobile OS platform but may be overkill for traditional CE applications. It is also relatively locked down so customer extensions often demanded by enterprise users are not likely."

If you're not sure what to do, a recent survey by VDC Research may provide you with a bit of direction. About 30 percent of enterprises plan to wait and see how Windows 10 Mobile Enterprise fares before transitioning over to it. Around 10 percent of respondents said they'd migrate to an Android platform, while roughly half aren't sure what they're going to do.

Like Willins, VDC Research also believes that companies that are taking a wait-and-see approach or are undecided will undoubtedly have to make a decision sooner rather than later as Microsoft continues to update and discontinue software. Further, VDC Research noted that companies that want to stay competitive will have to eventually upgrade their mobile technology as well. They believe this will cause an uptick in the number of Android and Windows 10 device usage in the near future.

2. What is the Right Device Type for the Job – Ruggedized or Consumer-Grade?
At one point, it was not unusual for many companies to solely use ruggedized mobile devices over consumer-grade technology. Ruggedized devices, like scanners and hand-held computers, are typically much more durable than mobile technology consumers purchase and use for personal fun or business.

However, rugged devices are also much more expensive, and while they may last in a rough warehouse setting, it may not be required for less rugged environments, such as health care and field service. After all, operating systems, apps and features change very quickly, which means some companies may have less desire to support the upfront cost of bringing in a fleet of new ruggedized mobile devices when it's really not necessary.

Furthermore, companies may be able to reduce training expenses and increase the on-boarding process when using consumer-grade mobile devices, like smart-phones and tablets because employees are much more familiar with these than industrial-grade devices. This allows companies not only to reduce labor costs, but improve operational efficiency and productivity.

The Answer: Choose a Flexible Mobile Application Development Platform

When evaluating Mobile Application Development Platforms, choose a vendor that can support all types of mobile devices, from ruggedized tablets and scanners, to wearables and voice and also affordable consumer-grade devices. Android's superior extensibility makes it an excellent operating system for building mobile applications that suit a variety of devices.

RFgen Software has observed increasing demand from our customers for running enterprise mobility apps across lower-cost consumer-grade devices, especially tablets. RFgen mobile data collection software solutions can work across all device types, including Android and iOS devices in a real-time, offline and batch mode, so our customers are free to choose the form factor, level of ruggedness, and operating system that best fits their needs.

CONTINUE READING: Learn more by reading "Hardware 101: A Definitive Crash Course in Enterprise Mobility" »

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