Mobile Devices for your Field Personnel Part II: Managing, Tracking, Maximizing!

In our Part I article, we discussed the different types of devices, and the pro’s and con’s within each group.  We also reviewed internet access requirements, data plans, and made suggestions regarding cases.  Now for the second part – managing these devices, keeping track of them, and maximizing the investment!

Data Packages and Internet Access – When you set up these devices, be sure to have a company gmail or icloud account to log into the device for management and access.  Avoid using a staff member’s personal email account, since you won’t have the log on information.

These plans vary by carrier, so consider how the device will be used, which apps, and how much data will be needed.  The data will be driven by the type of device and what the user will be doing.  If it’s a Surface or Tablet, they might have video conferences, stream music, upload videos or other media, and that can add up.  Consider the size of their company email.  On the Tablet or Surface, be sure you have anti-virus installed.

Does the carrier have a Mobile Hot Spot option?  For a short-term project, we had someone use their tablet as the local wi-fi connection, and we were surprised by the data usage.  It was still less expensive than purchasing a temporary internet plan, but much more than we anticipated.  Public wi-fi is becoming more common, but not everywhere, and phone signals are unpredictable on many job sites, or even in rooms with a lot of glass (reflects) or concrete (absorbs).

How to Keep Track of All of This – Consider a Mobile Device Management (MDM) tool if the devices are company-owned.  By installing the agent, you can track the GPS location, wipe the data on the phone remotely if it is lost or stolen, reset passwords, and other features that vary by provider.  There is a monthly fee, but it’s worth it!

There are some great new tools such as ‘Find My iPhone’ or ‘Android Device Management’ which can be installed when you setup the device – they are not automatically enabled. Specific apps allow access to the phone to make it ring or check its location from a computer or another device.

Purchasing these devices is an investment that usually makes it to the Fixed Asset list.  Consider an inventory list with quarterly updates from employees.  We recommend assigning this to a specific person, someone with access to what has been purchased and who received which devices.

Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) – This is very common and has its pro’s and con’s.  You won’t have inventory to track, and there’s no large investment, but you trade control of company data since you can’t access the device, track it, or wipe the data if it is lost, stolen, or the person leaves the company.

Some Great Software for These Devices: Navigation with step-by-step directions such as Google Maps, Apple Maps; local weather (for that jobsite log); MS Project, Trello, and Slack have apps; website analytic apps include Google Analytics, Google Business Manager which can also tell you how your website stacks up (literally) on a cell phone; new dashboard offering including AD, Accounting System, Exchange, Excel, and MS Power BI to create a dashboard.  There’s a new Field Integrated Time (FIT) System for job field time collection!

Where to start? Think through how you expect these devices to be used, then dive into what features or apps they’ll need to get that job done.  The right setup can save time and headaches later on. Put pieces in place to keep the devices and your company data secure!