5 Best Practices for Managing Your Mobile Fleet


This article was originally published on CIO.com.

Here are five best practices for managing your mobile strategy, the fleet itself, and the costs. 

The effective management of mobile devices is a game of high risk. While every company is dependent on their devices to generate revenue, they also increase vulnerability to ransomware attacks costing an average $4.5 million and consume 34% of IT’s time and productivity. Keeping the corporate fleet securely up and running is top of mind for business leaders, and yet the job of management is becoming more difficult.

The burden of maintaining wireless technologies is more costly and complicated than traditional computers, because of the wide range of device types, operating systems, services, and applications that are unique to them. Consider cell phones and tablets, point-of-sale devices, wearable scanners in warehouses, diagnostic devices in healthcare facilities, and smart tags monitoring behavior and processes across a variety of industries. Most companies have thousands of wireless devices to manage, and that number can grow 10X for larger enterprises.

Trends in mobile-first strategies, remote work, artificial intelligence, and the Internet of Things (IoT) have more companies taking on responsibility for an ocean of devices and services.

Although these help companies digitally transform, devices create a mountain of IT and security work—not to mention expense. That explains why businesses are looking for standards to help them lighten the load.

Here are five best practices for managing your mobile strategy, the fleet itself, and the costs.

5 best practices for mobile device management

1. BYOD or corporate-owned: stay flexible in your device strategy

As mobile-first strategies have come under the spotlight, so too have the corporate policies around them. Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) approaches have increased in popularity due to their perceived low cost and convenience, but corporate-owned approaches are still common. So, which is better? Both have pros and cons:

  • BYOD Pros & Cons: Companies can save capital and employees value the freedom of this convenience (and the monetary reimbursements that come with it), but security concerns prevail.
  • Corporate-Owned Pros & Cons: Corporate ownership brings more security and can streamline company-sanctioned applications but lacks in enabling remote work and creates an inflexible work environment making employees feel more controlled. 

Today’s dominant approach is to use BYOD for mobile phones and corporate ownership for laptops, but there is little confidence in it. Vanson Bourne research shows 81% of companies are considering changing their mobile strategy in the future. With best practices in the throes of change, there’s no right or wrong decision here. Executives are trying to balance the demands of mobile security with the needs of remote work and employee satisfaction, and it’s not easy. The best advice: Determine how well your current approach is working. Think of it as a trial run and consider what it would take to shift your stance.

2. Security & management: make fleet inventory the cornerstone of your approach

Security is a high priority concern when it comes to mobile, and security professionals are quick to tell you: “You can’t secure what you can’t see.” An accurate inventory makes observability and governance possible. Without a comprehensive list of connected devices, companies cannot ensure security coverage, applying mobile device management and unified endpoint management technologies that push updates to devices and help IT teams monitor and respond to security threats.

Most companies have a hard time keeping up with all those devices—and when phones get tossed into drawers as employees leave the company, who can blame them. It comes down to data cleanliness, requiring the resources to obtain information, track granular details, and inform decision making. When companies and their devices change daily, discipline and dedication are key to accuracy as are integrations and APIs that help automate inventory updates. 

Here are a few data fields every inventory should include:

  • Unique device identifier
  • Model number, service type and operating system
  • Security requirements and unique applications installed
  • Status—active or inactive
  • Current owner and their location
  • Any accessories—case, screen protector, headset, etc.
  • Vendor, service contract, and account number
  • Average usage/cost per month or year
  • Associated cost center or department  

3. Lifecycle management: don’t underestimate the duties of end-to-end administration

The range of responsibilities and ongoing work required for effective device management is grossly underestimated. Devices are often viewed as static assets, but management is not a set-it-and-forget-it activity. Instead, it’s a cyclical system. Successful mobile programs address the complete and repeated nature of the device lifecycle:

  • Planning: Needs assessment, contracts, procurement, configuration, deployment, activation
  • Managing: Inventory, compliance, reporting, expenses, help desk support
  • Recycling: Repair and replace, decommissioning, reassignment

It’s easy to miscalculate the time investments necessary to address these ongoing needs. Analyst firm Nemertes finds that managing 500 devices requires three dedicated, full-time staff, and the skills are not as trivial as one might expect.

Challenges arise particularly when companies experience the high employee turnover rates—typical in today’s world. Complexity can also be an issue as IT teams must work across distributed dashboards and siloed systems. Cost optimization requires even more sophisticated information gathering and analysis. Standardized request forms and automated workflows can speed processes, as can mobile management services taking on all or part of the lifecycle.

4. Cost and ROI optimization: get to a fixed cost that makes budgeting easy

When it comes to maximizing return on investment for the mobile fleet, business leaders drive to two important goals. First: A low cost. Second: A fixed and predictable monthly cost that makes it easy to budget and forecast business needs. Getting there may warrant several of these key actions.

Lower Your Mobile Costs: Identifying cost savings requires a well-managed inventory of assets that never go unused and leveraging an expense management tool or service to quickly:

  • Compare your costs across the best prices in the industry.
  • Compare invoices to usage, ensuring billing is accurate and late payments and fees are avoided—carrier-imposed surcharges continue to rise and have a material impact on costs.
  • Evaluate your usage across tiered service plans, so you’re not overpaying for the unlimited data plan when a lower tier will do.
  • Decouple the device hardware cost from the carrier’s monthly recurring charge—key in cost evaluation and contract negotiation.

Move from Capex to Opex: Device as a service (DaaS) providers can transition your ownership models to service models, so you can standardize costs and reach a predictable monthly price.

Forecast with Accuracy: Use historical data and predictive analytics to make data-driven estimates about future expenses.

5. Innovation: use emerging technology to automate mobile management 

Most companies recognize that they don’t have the ability to control, manage, and optimize their fleet without a set of advanced technologies. Leverage these innovations to eliminate much of the manual work required:  

  • Robotic process automation, bots, and workflow engines help accelerate processes in fulfilling orders, recycling assets, and paying invoices.
  • Advanced analytics and artificial intelligence are key in auditing and normalizing complex data so you can benchmark industry-leading pricing, recognize unused resources, identify cost savings, and predict needs.
  • Integration and a catalog of APIs with IT and financial applications as well as mobile providers and telecom carriers enable you to gain real-time insights, centralize data for accelerated decision making, and automate mobile services.
  • Electronic data exchange is key in capturing and ingesting invoices, orders, and the latest pricing data from providers.

When relying on mobile management platforms for innovation, providers should also bring a level of industry intelligence gleaned from AI and advanced analytics. Whether they track a database of technology providers and their pricing, evaluate the way companies spend billions of dollars on technology, or leverage data to help clients with contract negotiations, they should be able to achieve business outcomes.

Keep Stepping Up Your Mobile Operational Excellence

An effort to simplify and optimize mobile management will drive operational excellence, and mature programs work first to maintain an accurate inventory, support security, and administer the complete device lifecycle. Taking programs to the next level means moving beyond asset management into expense management and innovation to further optimize mobile strategies.

If you’re just starting, focus on simplification by gaining visibility and streamlining manual processes. When you’re ready to advance, start leveraging emerging technologies to audit usage and align contract terms with payments. Reconciling usage and spend against terms is the secret to pinpointing inefficiencies and cost savings that make for the most well managed mobile fleet.