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Published in NAVUG Magazine Q2/Q3 2015

SUCCESS WITH MOBILITY FOR DYNAMICS NAV, HERE’S HOW

by Peter List, Tasklet Factory

If you’ve already decided that going mobile is the right path to take for your company, then this article will help you avoid some of the typical implementation pit falls that can stop the project before it gets fully implemented, or stop it because the process of keeping the it alive is difficult and expensive. It does not matter if you are implementing a mobile solution for your sales people, for the staff in the warehouse, or for some other area in your company. The generic problems facing any mobile solution are the same:

  • Getting the mobile software installed and updated with new releases
  • Keeping up with new releases of Dynamics NAV
  • Supporting the end users effectively
  • Problems with the network
  • Getting the users on board

This article will explore these problems and tell you how to address them.

Managing the Software and Settings on the Mobile Devices

If you want to have a smooth running mobile solution with very little downtime, you absolutely need to automate the process of getting the devices ready for use as much as possible. To do this, you need a device management system that allows your IT department or solution vendor to automate the tasks related to installing the necessary software and making device configuration changes from a central system. Every mobile device comes with a default configuration from the factory. In many cases, you want to changes these settings to your own default settings. The tasks to automate are many and include:

  • Setting up the network connection
  • Settings that affect the battery consumption
  • Settings that affect the barcode reader
  • Synchronizing the time and setting the correct time zone
  • Regional settings to show numbers and dates in the correct format
  • Installing software

After making sure that all mobile devices have the same settings and run the same software, you need to take care of one last thing. Making sure that the normal users do not have access to the settings of the device. This way the devices stay configured correctly and this is critical to keep the solution alive and the calls to the help desk down to a minimum. Most device management systems have a way to “lock down” the devices and control which programs the users are allowed to use.

If you have a device management system to control your fleet of mobile devices, it will be simple to deploy new software releases or make system changes. And most importantly, it can be done remotely so you don’t have to send the physical devices back to the IT department to fix a problem.

Handling New Releases of Dynamics NAV

In the (good) old days, there would be several years between each major release of Dynamics NAV and companies could implement many customizations and have time to get the benefits of them, before being hit by the cost of having to upgrade them, to be able to use the next version of Dynamics NAV. Many of these companies are now stuck on older versions of Dynamics NAV, because the cost of upgrading, and the risk involved, is simply too high.

In the past, mobile solutions were often implemented as customization projects and they tried to solve some of the problems not addressed in the standard product. Today, Dynamics NAV is a very strong product and new features are added continuously. My advice is to keep as close to standard as possible and put yourself in a position where you can upgrade, if you want to. At least the mobile solution should not block you. In my opinion, the main objective of a mobile solution is to give users access to the data stored in Dynamics NAV and allow them to enter the data they would normally enter using the Dynamics NAV client.

When implementing a mobile solution in your Dynamics NAV environment, make sure to find one that makes as few changes to the standard Dynamics NAV objects as possible and use standard features as much as possible. This will make the task of upgrading it to work the latest version of Dynamics NAV much easier and a low risk operation. In fact, the task of keeping up with new releases of Dynamics NAV should be the vendor’s problem, not yours.

Supporting the End Users

The users of a mobile solution are, by nature, more mobile and further away from the people supporting them. This means that it is very important to have a way to help the users in the field and in real-time. If you have already made sure to have a device management system available to manage the devices, you will be happy to know that most of these also offer a way to remote control the mobile devices. This allows the supporter to see what is happening on the mobile device, and prevent the situation where the user tries to explain an error that happened hours ago to a supporter that will have to spend a lot of time to understand the problem and interpret what the user is saying.

Remote assistance saves time and the users know that quick help is available if needed. This builds trust between the users and the solution. If there is no trust, the solution will not be used.

Network Problems

Wireless networks are great, no doubt about it, but with any wireless technology there are problems. They are affected by things like other networks nearby, or if you store certain items in your warehouse that will block the wireless signal. The point is that the wireless network can be affected by things that are out of your control. As a result of this, getting 100% and stable network coverage in your entire area of usage can be very difficult. It is much easier, and much less expensive, to get to 90%, or simply focus on getting the network perfect in smaller areas.

If you want to have a mobile solution that runs smoothly all year long, you need to find a mobile solution that can work offline. Offline solutions typically only need to communicate at the beginning and end of a work process. This means that the work can be performed without a network connection, making the solution unaffected by a bad connection in parts of the usage area. I am a strong believer in the offline approach because it simplifies the implementation and maintenance of the mobile solution. In my experience simple is always good.

Getting the Users on Board

Implementing a mobile solution often requires a big change in the work processes performed by the users. If you come from a paper based process there will also be a new technology to master for the users. For some this can be a big change and can cause some resistance. Especially if the new hardware and software is difficult to use.

The best way to transition to a mobile enabled work process is to start simple. Don’t enable everything at once. Let the users master the basic operations before you start to work with the more advanced ones. And give the users time to play around with the new solution in a test environment to give them hands on experience before using it for real. This will maximize the chance for success when you enable the solution in your production environment.

The mobile solution is just a tool to enable your employees to be more effective. They need to be comfortable with the solution before you will get the maximum value out of it.

Conclusion

The decision to implement a mobile solution can add great value and possibilities to your work processes. Just make sure keep things as simple as possible and put stability, usability and easy maintenance at the top of your wish list.

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