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Mobile device failure: the hidden issue affecting employee mental health and business operations costs

(Image credit: Image source: Shutterstock/ESB Professional)

Companies across a range of different industries are trying to implement effective mobility strategies, but most don’t get it quite right. Almost every single business today has either already integrated, or plans to integrate mobile devices into their pre-existing IT systems in order to optimise business processes, streamline workflows and increase workforce productivity. Many of today’s businesses see themselves as innovative, competitive and agile, which means they are happy to deploy the best tech available to grow their market presence. However, whilst businesses are getting their mobile deployment strategies and the onboarding processes right, the same can’t be said for the management of these devices.

This has become a major problem. Too many businesses are being negatively affected by the ‘hidden’ issue of end-user mobile device failure, which is crippling productivity and upsetting the well-being of the workforce. It is also costing a fortune to deploy and maintain these devices. These issues combined can cause a bad return on investment (ROI) regardless of how beneficial the mobile devices are for business processes, but this should not be the case.

The business impact of faulty or damaged devices and possible solutions

For a long time now companies from a variety of industries have been aware of the potential business impact of faulty mobile devices and tools, but most have struggled to put in place effective measures to either tackle or investigate the financial repercussions that come with utilising faulty mobile devices. Others are simply unaware of the real business impact of mobile devices failures or its extent.

When a business wants to deploy new work devices in the form of mobiles, tablets and other portable machines, they often benchmark their allocated budgets against the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) of these devices. This formula calculates the purchase price of the assets in addition to the cost it takes to operate them, the latter of which includes the maintenance and repair costs. TCO helps companies determine the value of purchasing equipment and the ROI it brings over time.

TCO models from analyst firm VDC and others, typically focus on the costs associated with acquiring mobile devices, applications, add-on equipment, and any up-front costs for training, warranties and the like. They also take into account the costs associated with the failures of these devices, and the monthly and annual costs of these failures as a percentage of the Total Cost of Ownership over a 3-5 year period. These costs of failures can be further simplified into ‘Hard’ and ‘Soft’ costs, with the former defined as expected costs that come with deploying, maintaining and repairing devices, whilst the latter costs being based on end-user productivity including loss of income generation and employee wages. The soft costs, in particular, are those hidden but damaging effects that company executives don’t know about and are unlikely to realise unless it’s brought to their attention. This in itself is a grave concern. Surely if the board knew the scale of what poor mobile device management was costing them, they’d want to act to sort it immediately?

That’s why it's absolutely vital that businesses look at the True Cost of Ownership when looking to deploy new company devices to get an overall better idea of the potential ROI, especially when the costs of failures can be 80 per cent or more of the total costs of ownership of a device over a 5-year period. 

A simple but effective solution to combat this issue is for businesses to go beyond basic mobile device management, which has been failing businesses for years now. Instead, they need to look at limiting the soft costs associated with device deployment, which can be achieved by being more proactive and less reactive when it comes to monitoring the health status of their mobile devices. Device health monitoring is important as it can help companies to identify potential device issues and enables the IT teams to take pre-emptive actions to deal with the issues at hand in an effective and efficient way. As a result, this helps limit the costs of repairs or battery replacements, eliminates unnecessary device replacements and also cuts down on employee downtime, all of which should reduce the disruption whilst at the same time increase productivity.

For instance, if a company is able to monitor the battery life of mobile devices used by their staff over an extended period of time, they are much more likely to know when the battery will die and will be able to proactively replace the battery to ensure the possibility of downtime and end-user productivity being affected is at a minimum. In the same vein, devices undergoing software updates can be monitored in a way that gives the IT team complete oversight of all the devices running the new software. This essentially enables the company to spot any anomalies that fail to update or are running on the old software that is likely to cause software failure and immediately address them without any disruptions to end-user productivity levels.

Device failure is often part and parcel of everyday technology use, however, this issue is having a severe impact on the mental wellbeing of the global workforce. If a mobile device malfunctions or completely fails on a worker once a year, it can be frustrating. If that same device continues to fail each quarter or each month, there will be a detrimental effect not only on worker productivity but also on their mental health.

Device failures should not be occurring as frequently as they are today. This is a problem that causes unnecessary downtime and means that workers are unable to do their jobs. A direct consequence of this is that they might miss out on achieving their KPIs, which gives rise to heightened stress and anxiety levels. In fact, a recent enterprise mobility survey found that 95 per cent of all end-users affected by mobile device issues stated that it has negatively impacted their productivity. What’s more, the issue is also having a negative effect on workforce wellbeing with 66 per cent of the respondents acknowledging feeling unnecessary stress and anxiety when their mobile devices fail to allow them to do their job.

Although the issue may seem like a common occurrence, the lack of proactive, and predominantly reactive actions, from IT departments on what appears to be a business-critical issue suggests that it may well be a ‘hidden’ problem. The hidden nature of this issue stems from the IT team not having the tools available to detect and deal with the issue proactively. This is not IT’s fault, and the problem is exacerbated as when a device fails it’s often only known to workers who are reluctant to report every device failure they get, resulting in a gap between what IT sees as the problem and what the end-users experience. IT needs the tools to allow it to better monitor enterprise mobility devices so that it can implement solutions that provide actionable insights and real-time visibility, across the board, into the mobility issues impacting their workforces.

Mobile device failure is costing businesses dearly by affecting employee productivity levels and bringing unnecessary additional costs to the table. It is hitting company revenue hard through two completely avoidable avenues. However, by effectively monitoring mobile devices and taking a proactive approach to dealing with device issues, you can have better control over limiting these additional costs and improve the general ROI you get from deploying such devices. What’s more, your employees will thank you for it later.

Gary Lee, Chief Revenue Officer, B2M Solutions