Daimler Trucks North America manufactures trucks - big trucks. Huge commercial vehicles designed to log many miles and many hours on the road. The mobility environment required to keep track of sales information for such a huge fleet of custom-built vehicles is extensive, and James Buschkamp, mobile infrastructure architect for Daimler, was tasked with setting up a best practices system for the company's sales department.
In a recent podcast, Joanie Wexler, a mobile industry analyst and editor, spoke with Buschkamp about Daimler's mobile device management (MDM) needs and how the company went about setting up a best practices strategy as well as development and deployment of its mobile devices. "Best Practices in Mobile Enterprise App Strategy, Development and Deployment" was recorded on December 9, 2011.
According to Buschkamp, Daimler came up with the Freightliner Sales Tool mobile application, developed specifically for the iPad, to meet its mobile device management needs. The application, deployed last February to Daimler's entire dealer network, was developed so the company could enter the vocational market. Because Daimler's vehicles are custom-built, the company wanted an easy, accessible device to guide sales representatives through the build-out and sales process for customers.
The iPad was chosen as the mobile device since it had gained traction in the U.S. and a good number of dealers and sales representatives were already familiar with its navigation systems. Buschkamp added that the company was looking for a portable platform that would work with or without Internet connectivity, wireless or 3G connectivity.
"Prior to launching the iPad application, most of our products were spec’ed out on a computer," said Buschkamp. "And a computer basically sits on a desk. And creating a vehicle consisted of spec’ing out a very detailed system. And what that user could take home or that person buying that vehicle could take home was a brochure; a piece of paper; a very limited amount of data. The reason we found so much value in the iPad is it’s a very accessible device. It’s easy to sit up and use it. It’s easy to stand next to somebody and use it. And it’s easy to hand over to that customer."
Developing a custom application for the iPad posed a challenge for Daimler, as the company had not developed anything for it previously and could not easily come up with an in-house application. Deployment was also an issue for Daimler, as the company would typically have its own infrastructure set up to deploy applications to its dealers. Because the company's dealers are franchises, they own their own equipment. That presented an added challenge for the company in terms of what it could do on the iOS platform.
"What we were up against is changing our overall distribution model that we’ve used since the inception of the computer, which was we send you to a location that we own, we deploy that application safely and securely to your device and then provide continual updates ourselves," said Buschkamp. "With the requirement of being able to deploy this application to devices that aren’t direct employees of Daimler Trucks, or have their own iPad device, we were basically forced to put our app on the App Store. So, many critical decisions had to be made on how we were going to, one, protect our come-to-market strategy and protect the data we care about most. When an app is on the App Store, anybody in that country that it’s advertised can then download that app. So we answered that by creating in-app security."
The company requires a login after users download the application, with one login allowed per user, per device. Only after users have securely logged in may they access the valuable specs and data that Daimler did not want publicly available on the App Store.
Another deployment challenge was that the application needed to be both a public and an in-house application. The company's district sales managers use it to talk to dealers, for example, and dealers use it to talk to customers. So the mobile application needed to be able to accommodate all of those usage scenarios, securely and easily.
This is where MobileIron came in, a company that specializes in mobile device management. MobileIron provided Daimler with a large amount of data about the company's users, devices and the applications they have installed as well as a comprehensive way to manage it all.
"What we see in the best practice applications out there, like the Freightliner app, is the user experience is the number one consideration that the design and development team has when they’re building the app," said Ojas Rege, vice president of products at MobileIron. "So they finalize and kind of figure out what the user experience is going to be first, and then based on that user experience, they then figure out the security mechanisms, the management and deployment mechanisms. And one thing that was interesting is the Freightliner application actually won the app contest that we ran at our global MobileIron user conference a few months back. And, the two primary reasons why it did so well in that contest were, one, the user experience was so clean and the second is that it was so clearly tied to a business need that [Daimler] had."
According to Buschkamp, a primary part of the application development involved speaking to dealers directly, showing them sketches and models and using their feedback to build a valuable user experience. The company assembled a mobility group specifically to assist in the buildout of the application, with a six-month timeframe as the guideline. What resulted was that the group encompassed all areas of Daimler and all product offerings. The group is still meeting regularly to work on updates and other areas of mobility for the company.
To find out more about Adam Stein (News - Alert) and MobileIron, visit the company at ITEXPO East 2012 to be held Jan. 31- Feb. 3 at the Miami Beach Convention Center in Miami, FL. ITEXPO (News - Alert) is the world’s premier IP communications event. Stein is speaking during “Mobile Virtualization: Two Virtual Phones, One Single Mobile Device.” For more information on ITEXPO registration, click here.
Lance Whitney is a journalist, IT consultant, and Web Developer with almost 20 years of experience in the IT world. To read more of Lance's articles, please visit his columnist page
Edited by Jamie Epstein