August 3, 2021

Moving Beyond Bubblegum, Tape and Spreadsheets: What It Takes to Manage Mobile Devices Today

Save Time and Money with Automated Mobile Device Lifecycle Management

As we all now know from often frustrating personal experience, the sudden shift to work from home during the pandemic exposed gaps in corporate IT’s ability to support a modern “anywhere workforce.” One of the biggest holes is enterprise mobile device lifecycle management.

It turns out that a drawer full of used smartphones and tablets in the IT manager’s office was insufficient to outfit hundreds of new remote workers in a matter of days. Who knew?!

To be fair, office lockdowns weren’t anticipated, but the inefficiencies of manual mobile device lifecycle processes are predictable even at the best of times, let alone during crises.

“IT organizations that weathered the early stages of the [COVID-19] crisis the best were those that had already invested in processes and tools that were location-agnostic and had removed the physical handling of devices from the device lifecycle supply chain,” according to research from Accenture.

In other words, these companies assume every user is remote as a matter of procedure. That approach informs a more automated and streamlined process for managing inventory through all phases of the mobile device lifecycle, including:

  • Procure and Provision

  • Repair and Reuse

  • Retire (Resale or Recycle)

While these stages are universal, the lifecycle of a mobile device may vary by company. Some, for example, will issue a new smartphone to a new hire, and when the employee is eligible for an upgrade or leaves the company, they retire the phone by reselling it or recycling it. Others will return used devices that are still current to inventory for use by other employees who are hired or need a replacement device for one that’s lost or stolen.

Regardless of the policy, enterprise device management involving hundreds, or thousands of devices is best executed with automated (aka “tech-touch”) processes. Let me explain:

Phase 1: Procure and Provision

In the first phase of the lifecycle, the mobile device is selected from the corporate inventory and provided to the new user along with the associated applications and accessories (e.g., case, charger, etc.).

  • Manual: Typically, when an employee joins the company or needs a replacement device, IT gives them a new or used one chosen from the in-house supply closet and recorded (hopefully) on a spreadsheet. After waiting for the device to recharge, IT or the employee spends hours setting up the device (e.g., installing applications, customizing settings, etc.) so the employee can get started or get back to work. While this may seem to be an acceptable onboarding process, multiply the time spent by your valued IT team and staff across hundreds or thousands of devices per year, and it’s easy to see the drain on productivity.

  • Automated: Modern organizations enable employees to choose the device that meets their personal needs from a curated selection of models appropriate for their job role through an online catalog. It’s not unlike any online shopping experience. Once ordered, the device is shipped directly to the employee preconfigured by expert technicians with all the apps they need, packaged with accessories and an instruction letter, and powered up, so it’s ready to go out of the box when it arrives at the user’s home or office.

Phase 2: Repair and Reuse

In this optional phase of the lifecycle, the mobile device is put back into inventory after being repaired when damaged, simply traded in for an upgraded model, or returned by an employee who left the company. Some organizations choose to skip this phase and retire the device (see Phase 3).

  • Manual: Often, broken or trade-in devices (frequently without accessories) end up in a drawer or storage closet somewhere in the IT department because there’s no established process in place for reuse. When there is a process, the IT department wipes the device and puts it on a shelf with accessories. When the need arises, they pick a device off the shelf and reassign it as described in Phase 1.

  • Automated: The modern approach resembles a product return for most online retailers. The employee receives and prepaid return slip and ships the older or damaged device back to IT. Simultaneously, IT is sending a replacement as described in Phase 1. The returned device is then wiped of data, repaired if necessary and repacked with accessories. It’s also barcoded and scanned into inventory and added to the online catalog for future use by another employee.

Phase 3: Retire (Resale or Recycle)

In the final phase of the lifecycle, the mobile device, which is either old or in disrepair, is retired and no longer available for use by employees.

  • Manual: Most organizations require that unused devices be turned into IT. Once returned, what happens next varies. In some cases, IT lets them pile up on a shelf or tosses them into the trash. In other cases, IT wipes the phones for security reasons and then disposes of them. While some still throw away the devices, more sophisticated programs resell them on the aftermarket or send them out to be recycled for parts sustainably.

  • Automated: A modern approach to retiring devices ensures that the organization maintains security and recoups the investment in increasingly expensive hardware. Employees are sent a prepaid return shipping slip to ship the device back to IT. Once received, the device is wiped of data and evaluated for age and condition against predetermined criteria and sent to a third-party partner for resale or recycling. The status of the is updated by simply scanning its barcode into the inventory software.

While this is a simplified summary of the processes, it’s easy to see the advantages of automation, including:

  • Improving the employee experience with a streamlined process

  • Easing the workload on IT with administrative tasks happening in the background

  • Increasing productivity with fewer hours spent on manual processes

  • Monetizing stranded assets through reusing, reselling, recycling devices

  • Going green with sustainable asset disposition

Tech Touch Meets High Touch Outsourcing

Building an automated mobile device lifecycle logistics program does take some time and effort.  However, it can be shortened and eased with outsourcing to a company like vMOX that has the processes, expertise, and third-party relationships in place to deliver both tech touch and high touch management. A blended approach that uses technology to optimize repetitive or administrative tasks, but still offers a high level of proactive, personalized attention and guidance.

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