When I was 13, I saved up my paper route money every week for a whole year in order to afford to get a computer of my own: A small, beige, sluggish laptop purchased from CompUSA. It was probably one of the only computer sales that the associate ever had that consisted of quarter rolls and one-dollar bills, but there’s really no experience like cracking open the box of your very first electronic device. Once the sweet ozone of fresh plastic clears the air and you boot the thing up, you begin the less magical experience of installing all the software that you need to make the thing actually useful.

For businesses deploying new hardware to their service employees, or just trying to manage “Bring your own device” (BYOD) hardware, this is an even more tedious prospect. Whether you’re onboarding new hires or managing a large or small-scale refresh, getting the right tools to the right employees, and ensuring the right logins and applications are active, can all be an arduous process. Mobile Device Management (MDM) has sought to eliminate a great deal of those challenges by managing cloud licenses holistically, allowing the home office to make sure software and logins are active out of the box, revoke or add licenses to software remotely, and generally manage utilities from a central dashboard.

With MDM, it’s easy to get caught up in the “mobile” bit, and, indeed, this definition is meant to encompasses all mobile devices, whether they be phones, tablets, rugged devices, or wearables (depending on your vendor of choice). But it’s important to remember that device management should extend to computers as well. This is important for a variety of reasons, chief among them that, as noted previously, all of your software should be 1:1 between mobile devices and desktops. More urgently, managing not just software—but devices in the hands of your technicians and back office employees—using a system that requires zero physical interaction is more important than ever right now.

I should note that, in addition to providing a means to avoid physical contact, Mobile Device Management is a pillar of ‘New IT’, which empowers your non-IT employees to set up their devices remotely. The principles of new IT are simple enough: Employees should pilot as much of the installation and management of their devices as possible. They open the box, boot it up, make sure everything’s installed, and get to work. For that to be an effective strategy, the foundation of support and automatic rollout that MDM allows is imperative.

A “New IT” mindset within this context is uniquely valuable in the field, as it empowers technicians to manage device issues themselves, but nevertheless offers them the lifeline of having their device information and status available to IT remotely. We talk so frequently here about remote resolution, but it’s easy to forget that such a capability should extend to your employee’s devices as well.

COVID accelerates the need for this in all of the obvious ways, as well as some less obvious ones. Sure, with MDM you have the ability to provide contactless updates and onboarding. But what about situations where you need to onboard large groups of contingent workers, or empower those contingent workers across large geographies? The right management tools on the back-end means that workers need simply register their devices to get everything up and running. Often more importantly, you can revoke access to apps once the end of a contract is reached, preserving your internal systems for internal stakeholders.

Technology is best when it gets out of your way, allowing you to deliver on your service objectives fully, effectively, and without compromise. This starts out of the box with the right technology to manage service operations, but invariably extends beyond to the way that you manage how all those utilities reach your front-line employees every day.

Tom Paquin
Author

Contributor, Future of Field Service