By Sarah Nicastro, publisher/editor in chief, Field Technologies
Greg Dykes, manager of technical services at The Davey Tree Expert Company, joined Field Technologies recently on a webinar to discuss his company’s experience rolling out a variety of technologies to its mobile workforce. One component of their overall solution is Apple devices – and here Greg talks about why Dave Trey felt Apple devices were the best fit for its field force.
The Davey Tree Expert Company’s more than 8,600 employees provide tree care, grounds maintenance and environmental consulting services for the residential, utility, commercial, and government markets throughout the U.S. and Canada. Davey has provided the services since 1880 and has been employee-owned for 37 years. The company recently made a decision to automate its field processes, and is using a combination of Apple hardware, Telogis software, MobileIron MDM (mobile device management), among others.
In talking with Greg during the webinar, I could tell he felt strongly that selecting Apple devices for the company’s field workforce has had an impact on the success Davey Tree has had with its initiatives. The debate rages on with whether or not Apple hardware is appropriate for these type of field service applications, so I wanted to synch up with Greg and talk specifically about why Davey Tree feels that the answer to that questions is a resounding “yes.”
Nicastro: You mentioned 3 major benefits Davey Tree saw in using Apple devices. The first was the field workers’ familiarity with them. Can you talk a bit about this aspect and why you feel it mattered so much?
Dykes: I really think it is a combination of things. Apple has maintained an intuitive and consistent look and feel to the iOS operating system across its devices. Employees who have an iPhone or have used one in the past were quickly able to operate the iPads. We also know that future releases of Apple devices will keep that look and feel, which helps with end-user change management. Speaking of future releases, the next consideration was Apples’ regular cadence of software and hardware releases. We know when new Apple hardware and software are coming which also helps not only with change management, but also with hardware refreshes as well. Last are the enterprise programs Apple has to help manage the iOS platform. These programs allow us to test future iOS releases, as well as manage applications and deployment of the devices. No other solution on the market has these enterprise features and capabilities.
Nicastro: The second benefit you listed was having enterprise support at consumer speeds. What do you mean by this, and what value has it brought Davey Tree?
Dykes: The way technology has emerged in our personal lives has put new expectations on how technology can and should be used in our work lives. Our employees are used to going online or walking into a retail store and leaving with a device that is ready for them to start using right out of the box. I wanted to deliver that same experience to our employees. Getting new technology to them quickly and ready to use makes them more productive and saves the company money at the same time.
Nicastro: The third benefit you talked through was the security and deployment program. Please talk about those elements and how you feel they’ve contributed to your successful deployment.
Dykes: We needed to have the iPads secured and protected. With Apple's deployment program combined with MobileIron MDM, we were able to configure and deploy the devices in mass quickly. Manually configuring all those devices would have been a slow and costly process. We have been able to quickly deploy the devices to the field and keep them in the field to be used where they should be.
Nicastro: Did Davey Tree evaluate other hardware options, or did you know from the beginning you’d go with Apple devices? Why or why not?
Dykes: At the beginning of the Telogis project, we had just come off a large project which required many of our employees’ smartphones and tablets to be reconfigured. During that project, we saw far fewer tickets and calls for iOS issues. The bulk of the problems we encountered came in from Android devices. The inconsistency of Android OS versions across all the different hardware vendors generated considerable more support time. That, combined with the deployment program with Apple, prompted us to standardize on iOS.
Nicastro: The biggest argument against Apple devices for field service is that they aren’t “tough enough” for the field. What are your thoughts on this, and what has Davey Tree’s experience been since roll out?
Dykes: Since our deployment, we’ve seen very few devices come back to be fixed. The devices have performed really well in some extreme weather conditions from winters in Michigan to summers in Central Florida. We also protect the devices with cases, but the employees are really the ones who should take credit for our lack of issues. We really see them take good care of the iPads. The iPads have become an important part of their work day, and they know that and know they need them to keep working. Also, we are employee owned, so they also want to see their investments taken care of.
Nicastro: Based on your experience with this project, what advice do you have for other companies in the midst of technology evaluation and selection?
Dykes: I think there are a few things to help ensure success when building your platform.
First, solidify exactly what you want to achieve with the platform. Think about the big picture. It’s not just this one app you are trying to deploy; there will be others that will be needed to be managed in the future as well. Keep those in mind.
Next, build your team of partners who listen to what your end goal is. And look for partners who are going to work together. If you want their products work together for you, the partners need to work together and collaborate as well. I was very fortunate to have a great team. Also, make sure you include the business in the team. It is critical they are involved in the process and provide input along the way. They are going to be the ones using the platform after all.
Last, learn from other people's mistakes! Reach out to other organizations who have journeyed down the path. They all have stories about what they would NOT do again if given the chance. You can learn a lot from those stories.