Wavelink Blog

Category: Mobile Device Management

An Insider’s Perspective: Android Migration, Velocity, and More

GettyImages-489809759

Robert DeStefano is an enterprise mobility evangelist with 17 years of experience in the mobile productivity space.

For nearly four years, he has been responsible for all mobility-related messaging across the LANDESK brands, and in particular, Wavelink’s industrial mobility products.

We recently sat down with Robert to gain deeper insights into some current topics facing the industry today. Here’s what he had to say.

  • Tell us a little bit about the typical Wavelink customer. What problems does Wavelink solve for them?

Wavelink customers are continuously under pressure to work faster.

The whole supply chain is being pushed to move product more quickly—with virtually perfect accuracy—and an end goal of meeting delivery requirements down-chain, all the way to the end consumer.

Often, our customers are chasing an annual metric of getting five percent more productivity out of their operations every single year.

Wavelink helps them get there with proven solutions that keep mobile workers moving through their tasks at optimal speed.

  • Android migration is a big topic right now. What are the biggest hurdles for companies with Android?

Aside from determining the best device form factor for their workers, businesses considering moving to Android believe they’re staring at millions of dollars of application migration costs.

They don’t want to spend that huge amount of money, obviously, and they don’t want to risk disrupting the backend host applications that they already have invested heavily in optimizing.

But this doesn’t have to be the case as I explained in my recent post, How You Can Use Android Without Messing With Your Host Apps,

  • What is Velocity and how are companies using it?

Velocity puts a modern veneer on existing telnet and web applications. It takes these apps from a key-based interface into a touchscreen-friendly UX.

This is great for partners and end customers alike because partners can modernize their existing apps for new customer deployments.

Customers can offer a more familiar user experience to a workforce that, especially in younger generation workers, have never even seen a “green screen” terminal emulation client.

Velocity puts a modern UI on top of that proven, stable terminal emulation client, so it’s a fresh look without changing pieces that were already working.

Download our free white paper and find out how your Android migration can be as seamless as possible.

WL_blog-CTA-Banner

How You Can Use Android Without Messing With Your Host Apps

GettyImages-476085510

Perhaps the greatest concern when doing any sort of upgrade or tech refresh is summed up in this question: “What will this do to the systems I’ve already invested in and have optimized?”

Your supply chain management systems—whether your WMS, ERP, etc.—are serious investments, and the resources (dollars, man-hours, and more) spent perfecting them make you hesitant to touch them unless you absolutely must.

The problem with third-party vendors

It’s even worse when you must allow a third-party vendor to get in and touch those systems. You worry about what they’re touching, and then you worry about how much it will cost you in the long run.

A third party making changes to your system means multiple expenses (and risks).

The first concern is about what their initial changes will do. Next (and often a larger expense) is the cost to bring the vendor back in to retest its software every time you want to make a change to your system. Even if your changes are for a completely unrelated reason, you’re paying that vendor to come back and retest, just to be sure.

We’ve witnessed this type of business model from many vendors over the years. It can be painful.

Choose an Android device and modernize your telnet or web application with Velocity

Choosing an Android device—and modernizing your telnet or web application with Velocity—means you can make the leap to Android without having to touch your host apps. Velocity modernizes the mobility clients you already have installed and that are already working with your host.

Even if you choose to voice-enable your Velocity-based applications with the Wavelink Speakeasy solution, the same promise holds true.

Speakeasy runs completely on the mobile device, meaning that everything that takes the spoken phrases and turns them into text for fields within your application is handled within the mobile device. As far as your host application is concerned, there’s no difference between data entered via voice and data scanned from a barcode, or keyed in by the user.

You’ve made a significant investment in your host applications. There’s no need to compromise that investment to get the latest mobile tech for your workers.

The next generation platform

Palm OS, and PocketPC/WindowsCE/Windows Mobile—right through today’s leading operating systems. The touchscreen experience is bringing mobility into its next generation.

With the mass-market accessibility of smartphones, your workers are more ready than ever to willingly (and possibly, thankfully) adopt a new mobility platform. Best of all, when you choose Velocity as your platform for Android applications, you can make the transition easy while preserving the investments you’ve already made.

WL_blog-CTA-Banner

Adding Android: A Few of the Biggest Benefits

Android

As you consider the implications of introducing Android devices to your supply chain workers, you’ll see two camps emerge that represent the majority of your team.

One group has been using your telnet clients and is very familiar with how it works. The other group is generally your younger workers and new hires—many of whom have never seen a “green screen” app in their lives and have no idea how to use one.

Choosing Android mobile devices for your next mobility deployment—and modernizing your mobility clients with Velocity—will help you boost productivity in both of these groups.

How Android benefits younger/less experienced workers

The more obvious group who will benefit is the younger crowd who doesn’t have to learn how to use a telnet application. This will save countless hours on its own.

Remember, these workers (mostly late Gen X’ers through millennials) have grown up during rapid changes in technology and don’t fear diving into something new. For them, the only new thing will be the workflow. 

They’ve grown up with Android over the last several years and will tend to embrace your modernized application because it works just like the smartphone they carry.

How Android benefits more experienced workers

As for the more experienced camp of users, they will also embrace your Velocity modernized app on an Android mobile device, but for very different reasons.

First off, while they’re very familiar and comfortable with their telnet client app, they’re not unfamiliar with the Android user experience. While change can be scary, delivering their familiar workflow in a modernized application is actually what this crowd has been hoping for.

They look at the smartphones in their pockets and have recognized opportunity. They want to be able to work faster.

While they know your current telnet-based workflow with their eyes closed, giving them the Android experience is a win for personal productivity. These are your more mature workers who realize that the current devices and apps may be limiting all they can accomplish before their shift ends.

In both cases, the user experience offered through a modernized app is an opportunity to increase productivity for all your workers. It’s an unusual opportunity wherein the question isn’t who will resist, but rather which group will embrace the experience faster.

But wait! There’s more…

Beyond the familiarity of the experience, as well as the productivity that Android can unlock, there is more you can do to influence the intuitiveness of your workflow directly.

The Velocity administrative console gives you control over how those modernized screens are presented to the user.

Color-coded visual cues

One common practice that companies are embracing is color-coded visual cues. Users of a text-based client like telnet would key in a “Y” for “yes” and key in an “N” for “no”.

Now, however, these two responses are tap-able responses on the application screen. To help address speed and even language challenges, color coding responses such as these (the “yes” box is green, the “no” box is red) can make it even easier for workers to accurately choose their response.

Others have taken to color-coding entire task navigation—making each type of task workflow a different color. In this scenario, all the screens in your Picking workflow may have a green background, while Receiving screens would be presented on a blue background.

Adding elements such as color-coding make at-a-glance navigation even faster for workers, which can accelerate the training of new workers, among other things.

Custom keyboards

One additional customization element that can improve worker productivity significantly is custom keyboards.

Many Android rugged devices, like their consumer-grade cousins, are designed with few physical buttons or keys. While standard keypads for QWERTY and numeric data entry are useful, you can create custom keyboards that present users with only the on-screen keys they would need for a specific data field. This reduces the potential for typographical errors that can impact data accuracy.

WL_blog-CTA-Banner

A Validation of Mobile Productivity

ZebraTechA few weeks ago, we released an update to the on-premise and SaaS versions of our Avalanche product. With three decades of managing mission-critical mobile devices under our belt, one might think the release of a service pack is a bit mundane. However, the recent activity around Avalanche has been quite the opposite.

Along with this release, we took a moment to celebrate the most recent validation we received from a long-time device manufacturer and partner. Although Avalanche has been validated numerous times over the years by Zebra, we’re extremely proud to have received Zebra Enterprise Validation on their latest mobile computers. As customers choose the recently released TC70 series or the brand new TC8000 for their mobility deployments, they can rest assured that managing those devices with Avalanche is more than “just another-third-party enterprise mobility management product”.

Zebra Enterprise Validation “confirms an application works as intended on a particular Zebra Technologies device. Application developers participating in the program work closely with Zebra Technologies’ engineers to validate their application’s functionality under common customer usage scenarios. This thorough evaluation provides assurance that devices will perform as expected when used with the application.

Wavelink is honored to receive such recognition. While our own extensive knowledge of mission critical productivity inspires the products we build, the extensive, independent testing performed by a device manufacturer provides our customers an even higher level of assurance. Enterprises don’t have time for vendor finger-pointing, or products that offer “limited support”. Businesses depend on all of us, as solution providers, to deliver compatibility as part of our partnership. Wavelink delivers on that promise with each of our products, and we’re proud to add this badge of validation as a symbol of our continued commitment to our customers and partners.

Dashboards: Data in your Race for Productivity

Interior of  a 2007 stock car dashboard

Interior of a 2007 stock car dashboard

I’m a fan of auto racing. Stock cars, specifically. I’ve always been fascinated by the adjustments teams make over the course of a single race that can make the difference between a car that is capable of running mid-pack, and one that can be a top-10 car or race leader. Dialing in everything from tire air pressure, to adjustments that can loosen or tighten up handling in the corners, a driver can start a race with a car that feels one way, and by the final few laps, have a car that’s handling a completely different way.

Drivers can adjust the way they drive, but only so much. When the throttle is on the floor, but the car just won’t hold the bottom line coming out of the corners, there’s data that can tell the crew what adjustments need to be made – and that data doesn’t just show up as the team’s position on the track. It comes in the form of telemetry: RPM from the car’s tachometer, fuel consumption stats, driver commentary. Then there’s data that comes from outside the car: air temperature, weather changes (cloud cover alone can impact how a car is handling), oil on the race track, etc. That data comes from a variety of sources, but, when put together, allows pit crews to make intelligent, data-driven decisions that improve the chances of winning the race.

It’s very similar to how dashboards help you make decisions that can improve business processes. You want to be sure your workers are as productive as possible. This information comes from a number of data sources across your business (some from your WMS, more from your IT service desk, sprinkle in some from your mobile device population, etc.). When you pull the information you need from across these sources and look at them together, you get the important data you need to make decisions that optimize your business workflows.

Two more similarities: First, speed. You need to be able to access and interpret the data quickly, so powerful visualizations are important so that you can spot trends and make adjustments quickly – just like a crew chief having the data so that he can instruct the pit crew on what adjustments to make to the race car before it arrives on pit road. Second: shared use. Different team members – on the track, and in your business, need different reports from a common mix of data sources to be able to do their job at their very best.

Want to win the race for productivity gains in your business? Take our Xtraction data reporting solution for a test drive. With so many available data connectors, you’ll soon have all the visibility you need to take the lead!

What will Mobile Productivity Deliver in 2016?

Drone(own)Drones, M&A activity, a crash in oil prices – these topics and more helped shape 2015 for all of us who work throughout the supply chain. There are always unexpected events that force change in our markets, and certainly the past year hasn’t disappointed. So, as we bid adieu to 2015, it’s time to set our sights on what we might expect in 2016.

  • Device manufacturers set the stage for an Android/Windows decision: Several manufacturers of rugged mobile computers are introducing devices with some skus that run Windows and others that run Android. Android’s share has been growing in our space. The question is: whether a Windows 10 release will slow the momentum, and make some who have been waiting to upgrade, feel confident doing so.
  • Wider deployment of mobility in consumer-facing use cases: It’s been discussed for years, but the choice of larger-screen mobile devices available for store associates to carry on the showroom floor has reached critical mass. Now is the time when retailers will be looking at apps like guided selling and mobile POS to provide an enhanced customer experience.
  • The Internet of Things will get more vertical: Both literally and figuratively. We’ve seen a few examples of IoT in our world – things like robotic warehouse shelving, but as the hype continues, we’ll see some interesting concepts introduced in the coming year. Drones will be part of this. Whether or not you agree, they are part of the IoT. The concepts and use cases for these devices are getting attention.

There are also the numerous surprises that will come during 2016, and we’re looking forward to evaluating these alongside you! What predictions do you have for the mobile productivity space in 2016? Email me with your thoughts and/or wish list for the upcoming year.

Finally, all of us at Wavelink that you for trusting us as your partner for mobile productivity. We wish you all the best for a healthy, happy, and productive 2016!

Before wearables were “cool”

Wearable tech is all the fashion these days. Apple Watches, Google Glass, as well as Fitbits and other health trackers, – are all new interpretations of technology that’s been with us for the last few decades. Like so many technologies that came before – internet, email, cellular communication systems—they all started in vertical use cases before broadening into the consumer market.

What’s great about this process is that it forces technologies to mature in environments that are even more demanding than consumer use cases. If a concept fails in intense markets like military, aerospace or logistics, they aren’t ready for “prime time” consumer use.  Likewise, once a technology is proven in these markets, it’s more than ready for you and me.

Take for example the wearable scanning system. If you’re in the logistics field, you might recognize this term and the mobile computers bearing this name (if not, this image of the Symbol WSS1040 might trigger memories).WSS-1040

Consider the parallels: this is basically a computer strapped to your wrist that can capture and present data, and can wirelessly synchronize to software located elsewhere. Sound familiar? This product (ca. 1997) looks hokey by today’s consumer wearables standards and rightfully so. It was purpose-built for hands-free barcode scanning and data entry, not as a fashion statement. However, the extensive research done for devices like this – to determine ergonomic balance (how comfortable can it be?), user fatigue (how heavy can it be?), display readability, operating system and host software interactions, and more, all contributed to the knowledge base that helped design today’s wearable consumer tech (not to mention several generations of product evolution on the wearable scanner you see here).

Another fun fact: as you think about the role today’s wearables will play in tomorrow’s supply chain, only Wavelink has been managing these wearables since way before wearables were “cool.”  Yes, we offered enterprise mobility management for this device with Avalanche.

There are a lot of ideas out there for how wearable computing will enter the enterprise. The good news is, if it drives workforce productivity, you can bet we’ll be ready for it! Where do you hope to see more wearable computing in your business? Comment below or email me your use case ideas: robert.destefano@wavelink.com

Tips for Deploying Enterprise Mobility Management – SaaS or On-Premise

Enterprises of all sizes and across industries require different levels of onsite control of their enterprise mobility deployments. Couple this with the unique restrictions that corporations place on mobile internet access and there’s a compelling need for choice among the deployment options when considering an enterprise mobility management solution.

The benefits of a cloud-based deployment are Retail Associate Consumer Devicecentered on simplicity. Selecting a cloud-based (or SaaS) deployment method frees up internal IT staff to focus on other initiatives.  Server components are managed externally by product experts, making a cloud deployment simple and fast. This is in addition to the most obvious benefit of a SaaS deployment – immediate access to software updates.

However, there are enterprises around the world that require, or simply prefer, to have the greatest amount of control over their enterprise mobility management system. An On-Premise deployment method provides this, in a more traditional, shrink-wrapped installation. Companies choose this model often because they like the security of having the entire deployment completely within their corporate intranet. It also provides IT teams with complete control of scheduling updates and patches.

Which option is best? Start by determining the security compliance and control requirements your organization has in place. Next, determine the level of IT staff that will be working with the enterprise mobility management console, and the time they have to handle maintenance to it. Follow that with some considerations related to control. Does the company prefer the accelerated access to software updates and enhancements? Or, does it benefit the business to have IT control the timing of updates to fit in between peaks in the operations cycle?

With both SaaS-based and On-Premise options, Avalanche 6.0 provides businesses with the ability to select the method of deployment that fits each business best. Whether mixed device deployments or BYOD, operational task workers, customer-facing workers, there is no need to compromise. When you’re deploying enterprise mobility, manage those deployments with the enterprise mobility management solution that has been trusted by corporations for decades, ready to be deployed in the method that fits your business.

The Enterprise Mobility Mix – Consumer and Rugged Mobile Devices

The Mix of Consumer and Rugged Mobile Devices in the Enterprise

Has your experience at retail stores been different lately?  Or perhaps you’ve had a different experience at a medical facility?  Maybe your own work has changed recently.  A significant change across industries has been in the number and types of mobile devices being used by all sorts of workers.  Whether you’ve completed a sales transaction by signing on a smartphone, or checked in at your doctor’s office using a tablet, there is no denying that mobile devices are proliferating in enterprise use cases.

In most mission-critical mobility deployments, enterprises have deployed rugged mobile computers.  Consider the devices carried by parcel couriers, stockroom workers and others.  There’s an obvious need for durability, so that these mobile computers can withstand frequent drops, extreme temperatures, and in some situations, hazardous environments (think oil rigs).  Technologies that help these workers accomplish their tasks include advanced data capture capabilities, such as barcode scanning, RFID, and perhaps payment transaction capabilities.

A retail associate uses a mobile device to check out a consumer

A retail associate uses a mobile device to check out a consumer

As consumers, we don’t often interact with these workers as they complete their tasks.  The use cases are not typically consumer-facing.  However, there is an increasing contingent of enterprises that are placing more mobility into the hands of workers who are visible, and directly interacting with consumers.  These workers are still performing mission-critical activities – particularly in revenue generating roles, for the enterprise.

Over the past few years, companies have explored the evolving smartphone and tablet options for these workers.  In some cases, the benefits of these consumer-grade devices have proven not to be the best fit for the business, due to fragility, theft, or other limitations.  These enterprises have generally opted to revert to the familiar – the rugged mobile computers that are likely being used in traditional task-based use cases.  By contrast, there are enterprises across industries that have chosen and successfully deployed consumer smartphones and tablets into consumer-facing use cases.

There is no denying the selection of enterprise mobility hardware has expanded significantly over the last five years.  Whether going with traditional, rugged mobile computers, or consumer-grade devices, it is exciting to see the accelerated adoption of mobility across enterprises – especially as it gets into the hands of the workers with whom we, as consumers, interact.  However, this also creates a new IT challenge: Some workers are carrying rugged mobile computers, others have consumer devices.  There is overlap in applications and content access as well.  For all these users, there is a bottom line benefit to their mobile productivity.  Fortunately, Wavelink Avalanche is there to be able to ensure all these users – task-oriented and customer-facing, are optimally productive.

How to Score a Winning Touchdown for your BYOD Policy

It’s a final nod to American football references from me (at least until the draft in May), but consider the requirements of an enterprise mobility policy: there are a lot of parts that need to be considered to make a deployment successful, similar to a championship winning team. When the strategy is thorough and the numerous “what-if” scenarios are played out, success is far more likely than for a team that doesn’t plan.

BYOD, like any other component of an enterprise IT strategy, needs to be strategically implemented for the best results. Just as no individual player on a team is greater than the team, BYOD should not be viewed individually; so as not to exclude other mobility initiatives across the enterprise.

To continue the “BYOD as an athlete” analogy, BYOD needs to be a versatile, balanced policy. This means that it needs to support all the leading mobile operating systems equally (or at least as equally as Google, Apple, and Microsoft allow). It needs to enable the mobile worker to be optimally productive – regardless of their hardware selection.

However, as a component of a larger enterprise mobility strategy, BYOD needs to be deployed in a manner that unifies it with the requirements of complementary mobility components – like teammates. For example, managing BYOD should be unified with the solution for managing other mobility hardware deployed within the company – such as rugged mobile devices used at the loading dock, in the warehouse, etc. Why would an enterprise want a different console for managing BYOD? A separate management system specific to BYOD creates the kind of friction synonymous with a self-interested player on the football team – disruption, confusion, and complexity, as IT administrators need to toggle screens and systems just for BYOD users.

The big play that scores points with IT administrators and mobile users is to deploy BYOD policies in a common enterprise mobility management solution like Wavelink Avalanche.  Doing so enables enterprises to unify the management of all their mobile deployments. It enables BYOD support without compromising the support that mission critical mobility users need. Want to throw the winning touchdown? Using Wavelink Avalanche also allows for management of the entire enterprise deployment – all enterprise mobile devices (BYOD, rugged mobile computers, etc.), mobile applications and content access, network infrastructure, and printers. That’s a game plan that will enable maximum worker productivity, and maybe earn you a ride on the shoulders of your fellow IT administrators and mobility users.