Often we’re asked for recommendations on what devices to roll out to field staff. While we prefer not to recommend any one device, the following article may shed some light on how to go about making an informed decision.

2015_JULY_ALL_TECHNOLOGY - Choosing the right smart device for field staff

The hardware is but one element of the equation. Consider the operating system, the apps, policies on how they’ll be used and managed, not to mention training. You may even be considering they bring their own. Before you take the leap and send those little handheld expenses out to the brutal world of the tradesman, take the time to factor in the following considerations.

Consult the field

Ask the workers for their input. Often decisions are made that will directly affect the frontline staff with little consultation. Ask for their specific concerns or requirements. At the next toolbox meeting, share your plans with the staff and ask for input.

Form factor

Size of the screen is the obvious consideration. Late last year I visited a fire safety firm in Sydney. They’d recently rolled out iPad Minis to their field workforce of 70. The simplicity of the Apple devices and the size of the Mini were ideal for them. The screen is large enough to use easily in the field and to view while in a cradle in the van. Their techs wear cargo pants, the Mini fits snuggly into the pocket of the pants. In fact their argument for the benefits of the Mini were so compelling I ordered one the following week.

The ‘Pit Crew’ for Road Runner Mobile Tyres use phones. The portability of the phone’s size won in this case because: they don’t need to record many details, only to view the address, the customer details and to get a signature once the job is complete.

If you’re using eForms, anything smaller than a 7-inch tablet is out of the question.

You’ll need protection

Consider what their day looks like. Will they need to take calls, take photos or jot down notes while crawling around a roof cavity? Their hands are already busy most of the day driving, climbing and using tools so think about how they’ll manage the extra load while staying protected.

While many rugged cases are available on the market, the cheaper options often impair usability making it awkward to handle and to use. Factor good quality peripherals such as dashboard cradles and rugged covers into the inital outlay.

You may even consider a device dedicated for the purpose of using in particularly rugged situations. The likes of the Sonim devices are highly praised for their unbreakability.

Functionality

Once you’ve narrowed down the list, buy one and give it a whirl. Better still, buy a couple and give one to a field tech. Trial both the software and the hardware rigorously. Does it run the required apps? Ensure they’re able to carry out the required functions. Check the tech is able to type comfortably without too many mistakes.

Brad Halcrow SimPRO