Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Checklist: How to choose mobile devices

When a company decides to incorporate smart phones and other mobile devices into its official information infrastructure, managers and IT staff must reach a consensus on which phones to choose.

Whether your company is equipping a small department or thousands of employees, here are some critical questions to ask.

  • Who will receive company phones? This answer will guide all your other decisions. After all, a foreman on the factory floor needs a different phone than an airport-hopping salesperson. “You must balance your users’ needs and expectations against what various devices are capable of,” says Forrester Research analyst Benjamin Gray, who specializes in business-class client devices.
  • What form factors do users prefer? Rugged or lightweight? Multifunctional or simple to use? A full keyboard or something that fits in a pants pocket? Consider giving users their choice of several preapproved devices.
  • What operating system will your organization support? Although BlackBerry is the dominant mobile OS, Windows Mobile is a close second and 12 percent of U.S. enterprises already support Apple’s iPhone, Gray says. Meanwhile, Palm, Symbian and even Linux have pockets of fervent fans. “It comes down to user preference and what IT is willing to support,” he notes. “Many companies opt for more than one.”
  • What mobile applications do you want to use? Wireless e-mail and personal information management are just the basics in a mobile universe that now includes portable versions of customer relationship management, sales force automation, unified messaging and many other applications.
  • Finally, which vendor (or vendors) can meet all these requirements at the best price point? All the major U.S. cellular carriers support BlackBerry and Windows Mobile devices, and all have corporate pricing programs. Unless your company standardizes on the AT&T-exclusive iPhone, this may be your least important consideration.

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