Mobile’s new frontier: The front line of business

Workers who don’t work at a desk are finally starting to see mobile technology become standard tools to improve their work — and business results — as CIOs focus more outside the office.

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Detachable tablets (aka all-in-ones, hybrid tablets, and convertibles) have had pockets of success, says IDC’s Bassett, but not the ubiquity expected when they debuted in the early 2010s. “The use-case scenario ended up being more limited,” he says. “If you’re going to use a computer, you’re going to use a computer.”

Mobile management tools help wrangle front-line use

When it comes to managing the front-line mobile fleet, IT has been in luck. The shift from Windows Embedded devices to Android saw support from vendors such as Afaria (now discontinued after multiple acquisitions) and Soti, that also supported iOS and Android, plus later Windows 10 and macOS, so there was no loss of management capability in the transition, Wallin says.

Today, plenty of proven mobile management vendors, including BlackBerry, IBM, MobileIron, and VMware, support the Android versions in use in front-line devices.

Unified endpoint management (UEM) tools, as they are called today, also support various device scenarios, from BYOD to fully locked-down devices to hybrid use cases where part of the device is locked down and part is open to BYO apps, with the two environments separated. That allows greater flexibility in how devices are used and deployed than existed in the early days of single-purpose front-line devices.

Differences, however, exist around support for shift-work environments, in which devices change hands at each shift and need to be quickly switched from one user’s settings to the next. All the major UEM platforms — BlackBerry UEM, IBM Maas360, MobileIron UEM, Soti MobiControl, and VMware Workspace One — plus the Samsung-only Knox support front-line scenarios. But Wallin says that Microsoft’s own Intune management tool has poor support for front-line scenarios, especially those involving shift workers — despite Microsoft’s long history in front-line mobile.

With the technical backbone now available, and many back-office modernization efforts already under way, it’s little wonder that CIOs are beginning to focus outside the office for mobile gains. True business value from a fully mobilized front-line workforce has never been closer.

Copyright © 2020 IDG Communications, Inc.

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