Friday, September 18, 2009

Mobile Applications and 69 Enterprise Support Questions

Often the focus of a mobile software project is on gathering the functional requirements, designing, developing and deploying the mobile solution, but little or no advanced planning is given to the question of how to support it once it is deployed. The following list contains many of the questions your IT helpdesk and support department will want and need to know:
  1. Who does the field worker call if there is a mobile device problem?
  2. Who does the field worker call if their mobile application is not synchronizing correctly?
  3. Who trains new employees on how to use the mobile device and application?
  4. If there is a mobile software problem, who fixes it - IT, consultant, contractor, your systems integrator or VAR? How do you get in contact with them?
  5. Who does the field worker call if the mobile application needs edited or upgraded?
  6. If the user downloads a new version of the mobile operating system and the mobile application doesn't work, who will fix it?
  7. How do you prevent mobile users from downloading new software applications that might break the system?
  8. How do you back-up mobile devices so the information is centralized?
  9. Who owns and defines the business process you have mobilized? They may need to approve any changes to the business process.
  10. Who controls the security of the device?
  11. How do you set-up a new user to securely access the enterprise database?
  12. What kinds of security rules must the field user follow?
  13. Do different users have different security profiles?
  14. Is there a standard set of security rules for mobile devices across the enterprise?
  15. Who controls access to the enterprise database application (a DBA)?
  16. Will the Database Administrator allow you to synchronize data directly to their enterprise database application, or do they want a "staging database" or API layer to review all data before it is loaded to the enteprise database application. They will likely be involved in any future changes to the mobile application.
  17. Are synchronizations done in real-time, near-real-time, or batch on a schedule?
  18. Does one mobile device have multiple synchronizing applications? Are they on different schedules or do they synchronize at the same time?
  19. How many different enterprise database applications are synchronizing with a mobile device? If there is a sync problem, how do you know what database applications may be impacted?
  20. If you hire an additional field worker, how do you order an additional mobile device? Whose budget covers this? Who is the vendor? What support plan or insurance plan should be included?
  21. Who decides if the new mobile device needs to be ruggedized or a consumer grade? What level of ruggedness is required for the specific user?
  22. Do different job functions require different devices, carriers and wireless data service plans?
  23. Who decides what brand of mobile devices are going to be the company standard?
  24. Where do you purchase your mobile devices if one breaks or you need to add one to your inventory? Do you have a corporate discount or volume discount agreement?
  25. How do you manage and control the variable costs of using a data plan from a local wireless carrier? What happens if the costs of the data services gets out of control? Who pays for it?
  26. Are the mobile devices or the mobile software solutions under warranty? Where are these contracts stored? Who owns them?
  27. Is there a yearly support contract IT needs to know about? How much? Whose budget?
    What is the account number the warranty is under?
  28. How do you set-up a new data plan for a new user with your wireless carrier? Who does that in the company? What is the account number so you can add subscribers? Whose budget pays for it?
  29. What happens when Microsoft releases a new Windows Mobile operating system and you can only purchase mobile devices with the new OS on them? Who is going to upgrade your mobile software solutions so they work with the new OS?
  30. What happens when the field engineer treks across 2 miles of muddy field to work at a construction site, but the battery on his handheld computer dies about 10 minutes after he gets there? What is the backup battery plan?
  31. What happens when text messages, photos, videos, music, and games claim all the memory on the rugged PDA and the Construction application becomes either too slow or unreliable because of low memory?
  32. How do you know when your mobile workers are synchronizing the latest information? You don't want mobile workers going days without synchronizing their device.
  33. When you send an updated software application to your mobile workers, how do you know who is using the new application and who is still on the old?
  34. How do you disable synchronization on a lost or stolen mobile device?
  35. How do you kill and/or protect your data on the mobile device if it is lost or stolen?
  36. How do you keep track of which workers are using which mobile devices? If there is an operating system update, or firmware update, how do you know who needs it?
  37. What is the process for bringing mobile handhelds into the IT department for repairs and upgrades? Is there a central location, or should various locations be scheduled on specific dates.
  38. If you are taking care of many different mobile field workers and many different mobile devices with a variety of operating systems, wireless carriers and screen sizes, how do you track who gets what?
  39. If you have a project manager that requires visibility to more data than other workers, how do you manage different views on the handheld computer?
  40. Some mobile projects require different levels of security, for different levels of data visibility. How would you manage and track that?
  41. Will your company standardize on 1 mobile operating systems or several (Blackberry, Microsoft Windows Mobile, Palm, Android, iPhone, etc)
  42. Some applications require barcode, RFID, GPS, digital camera and other specialized data collection accessories, while others don't. How does the IT Helpdesk track the brand, version and other details of these accessories?
  43. If a dump truck backs over your supervisor's $1800 ruggedized computer and crushes it into hundreds of unidentifiable pieces, how do you get a replacement out to the supervisor with the exact application and data that is required as quickly as possible?
  44. If a mobile device needs repaired - what is the process for keeping your field workers operating without it? Do you have a stock of spare mobile devices?
  45. Does your mobile device reseller have a replacement program?
  46. How do you deploy new mobile applications to your 1,300 mobile device users? Must they bring all their devices back to the IT department, or can you publish new applications directly to the handheld computer?
  47. How do you support the mobile device, when the user has limited computer knowledge and is sitting on the top of a utility pole? What tools can the IT Helpdesk use to remotely help and diagnose problems?
  48. How do you recognize a defective mobile device that is being shared by 12 different mobile workers? Do you have a method of identifying which problems are being reported on a particular device or are you logging support calls only by users?
  49. What is your process for dispatching work orders to service technicians when they are disconnected or out of range of cellular and wireless networks? A process needs to be defined.
  50. What is your synchronization plan for each mobile worker? Can they sync in the morning and evening at their office desk, or do they need to sync every 5 minutes or in real-time?
  51. What is the synchronization plan for a service technician that rarely has wireless network access? Does it justify a satellite up-link? (Sears Service Technicians use both)
  52. How do you know when information was successfully synchronized with a mobile device in the field? Can you see and determine the success of the synchronization from the IT Helpdesk?
  53. What is an acceptable synchronization time? Is it 20 seconds, 2 minutes, 20 minutes? Does the IT Helpdesk know what times are acceptable so they can consider this when configuring a new user?
  54. Does all data need to be synchronized in real-time, or only some. Product catalogs are an example of updates that may only be needed weekly or monthly?
  55. How much data can be synchronized in a given period of time on the chosen connectivity option? Is that an acceptable speed for the task at hand?
  56. Who determines the hardware requirements that support the mobile application and desired synchronization speeds?
  57. When a new mobile software application is developed, who tests its operating speed on different devices, processors, memory levels and connectivity options to determine what is acceptable and what is not?
  58. When you are updating or reconfiguring an enterprise database, how do you know what mobile applications and mobile users will be impacted by these changes? How do you manage this update process?
  59. How does the IT Helpdesk know which one of the 17 mobile applications on the handheld computer is having a synchronization problem?
  60. If you are supporting 174 work crews and their mobile devices around the globe, how do you know where they are located, and who is responsible for them?
  61. How does the IT Helpdesk know if a mobile device is using a cradle, modem, bluetooth, wireless, USB, satellite or Cellular connection to synchronize? The IT Helpdesk really wants to know before they begin working on the issue.
  62. What wireless carrier, technology and through-put speed is the mobile device using? Is it GPRS, GSM, CDMA, Edge or some other network configuration?
  63. Do you need to stagger the synchronization times? One of my clients had a problem with 300 mobile workers downloading large product catalogs all at the same time each month -the first Monday of the month. This caused a bottleneck and slow downloading times.
  64. What do you do with old and retired mobile handheld devices? Companies like Ryzex buy back old handheld mobile devices and recycle them.
  65. What rugged or semi-rugged cases are required to protect the mobile device?
  66. What add on assessories are supported on the mobile device? Ear pieces, GPS, add-on RFID, barcode scanners? Who supports these and where do you order replacements?
  67. Does the same mobile software application work on rugged mobile handhelds and on mobile consumer devices?
  68. What employees and roles get the different levels of rugged devices?
  69. Do you have a corporate account with a mobile device reseller that will repair all of the different mobile devices or do you work with many different vendors with different support and warranty plans.

All of these questions are very important and need to be answered upfront. If you would like to discuss this subject in more detail please email me.