Device Management in a Distributed Workforce: 5 New Challenges

Device Management in a Distributed Workforce: 5 New Challenges
Illustration: © IoT For All

The COVID-19 pandemic may have accelerated the shift from a co-located to a distributed workforce, but wireless technologies made this change possible for both device management and workforce management. After all, employees need particular productivity tools to successfully work from home, at a satellite office, or in the field. The work-from-anywhere toolkit must cover technology from, teleconferencing, file sharing, messaging, and data-gathering, to actually managing physical devices such as tablets, mobile phones, and scanners.

Applications provide these capabilities—and applications run on these devices. To get the full value from enterprise mobility, the IT team must be able to manage these devices effectively and efficiently. That’s only getting harder, and there are three reasons why.  

Firstly, the fleet composition of mobile devices is more complicated today than it was a few years ago.  

According to our research, 46 percent of U.S. companies are using a more diverse mix of device types. Where once they got by with just laptops, now employees can work from anywhere with smartphones, mobile computers, barcode scanners, rugged handsets, and more. Each new type of device requires the IT team to develop a new set of skills. 

Secondly, more devices are deployed operation-wide.

Within a year, 49 percent of U.S. companies across industries increased the overall size of their device fleets. More devices require more IT resources—which leads us to the last factor complicating device management in a mobile (or decentralized) workforce.    

Finally, IT teams and budgets are growing faster than may be sustainable. 

Companies have responded to the technology challenges of the distributed workforce by building larger IT teams. Our report found that 76 percent of enterprises either hired new IT staff, increased the IT budget, or both throughout the past year.

This is a rational response to the challenge and increased investment in IT may be inevitable. But to avoid runaway costs, companies must also find ways to help IT teams respond to mobile device issues. What are those issues? We discuss five of the most common below. 

5 Device Management Challenges for a Decentralized Workforce

A distributed workforce leads to device proliferation. Device proliferation creates device-management challenges. Here are the top five issues today’s distributed workforce brings to your IT department—along with the solutions you need to respond.    

1. More Device Downtime

When a device goes down, everything goes with it: worker performance, customer satisfaction, and—ultimately—overall profitability. That means IT departments make it a top priority to resolve problems that lead to downtime. Unfortunately, the more devices you have in the field, the more likely it is that one of them will fail. 

While that is true across industries, it’s particularly problematic—and pervasive—in the healthcare field. We found that almost two-thirds of IT teams in healthcare have seen delays in patient care due to device downtime.    

2. Lack of Reporting for Device Issues 

You can’t ask an IT team to fix problems they don’t know about. Unfortunately, lack of reporting is a known issue in IT. Mobile workers often fail to report issues affecting their mobile devices. 

As you scale your mixed fleet of devices in a mobile workforce, this problem scales. Lack of visibility into the technical issues that reduce productivity can quickly grow into an outsized problem. In short: companies cannot rely on employee reports to identify every issue affecting workplace devices.   

3. Insufficient Access to IT Staff

Even with growing IT support teams, it’s difficult to keep up with the number of service requests that accompany larger device fleets. In the transportation and logistics (T&L) field, this problem is clear: Drivers depend on mobile devices on the road. When those devices fail to deliver, downtime results. According to our last transportation and logistics report, almost one-third of respondents indicated that the driver’s lack of immediate access to IT staff was a leading cause of downtime and delays.     

This lack of IT resources is even more pronounced in the medical field when we researched mobile devices in the healthcare industry. Unfortunately, 81 percent of global healthcare workers had issues with systems and technology while taking care of patients. 

4. Higher Total Costs of Ownership (TCO) for Device Fleets 

Downtime is expensive, and that cost scales with the size of your device fleet. According to VDC Research, productivity loss due to technical problems makes up over half of the TCO for using a mobile device. In other words, when a device fails to perform, you lose productivity—and that productivity loss shows up in your IT budget. 

5. Lack of Operational Visibility 

The more devices you have in the field, the harder it is to track how they’re performing. The same is true for the apps that run on those devices. As the distributed workforce leads to larger device fleets, IT teams need more visibility into key metrics, such as:  

  • Battery condition, including charge level, temperature, performance patterns, and sources of battery drain 
  • App usage, including app visits, foreground usage, top installs, storage size, and rates of use 
  • Data processing attribution, to determine which apps need optimization to minimize data usage costs  
  • Connectivity quality by location, including signal strength, failed connections, and other metrics that reveal the carrier’s delivery of connectivity 

No IT team could manually collect and organize analytics data across all these domains. As with the other challenges on this list, employers of distributed workforces need a new mixed fleet of devices designed for today’s large, diverse device fleets. That leads us to our final question: How do you counteract the device management challenges associated with a decentralized workforce?

The answer is hybrid device management, one that combines Enterprise Mobility Management (EMM) with diagnostic intelligence designed for device fleets. An EMM platform empowers IT teams to manage, support, and secure mobile devices that enable staff to work from anywhere. 

With the right EMM platform, IT staff can control every device in your fleet remotely. That allows experts to fix problems from anywhere as if they had the device in their hands. Meanwhile, diagnostic intelligence systems provide the visibility technicians need to respond to issues with or without user reporting—and even prevent problems before they occur. 

The distributed workforce model isn’t going anywhere, but that doesn’t mean you’re stuck with device failures. An EMM platform with integrated diagnostics analytics will allow you to grow your device fleet as needed, without the drawbacks that come with scale. 

SOTI is the world’s most trusted provider of mobile and IoT management solutions, with more than 17,000 enterprise customers and millions of devices managed worldwide. SOTI’s innovative portfolio of solutions and services provide the tools organiz...
SOTI is the world’s most trusted provider of mobile and IoT management solutions, with more than 17,000 enterprise customers and millions of devices managed worldwide. SOTI’s innovative portfolio of solutions and services provide the tools organiz...