Guest Column | November 13, 2012

The VAR Challenge For 2013: Enabling Field Workers In Any Industry

By Jim Sheldon, general manager, Trimble Mobile Computing Solutions division

The past year was an exciting one for the VAR selling technology, as new equipment and solutions for field workers in every industry were released in 2012 and more are on the way next year. The enterprise has moved out of its climate-controlled office and is on the move, and its workers expect to be ever more productive in the utilization and application of hardware, software, and integration solutions.

Innovation to meet enterprise needs is the order of the day. Our customers are now comfortable with high-quality consumer- grade products like smartphones and tablets; additionally, they expect their business equipment to be just as functional, but also rugged and reliable.

It’s that rugged and reliable part that can be the rub. Businesses have learned that a consumer-grade tablet or smartphone with a shell around it does not provide the level of performance that the true field worker needs — rugged from the inside out. Drops, dirt, rain, and dust — not to mention temperature extremes and humidity — quickly destroy a product meant for indoor use; in some cases from the inside out, thus not visible to the user as to when a major hardware failure will occur. For true return on investment the enterprise is more and more requiring equipment at an IP65 rating or higher, providing a longer life in the field that keeps workers productive through years of outdoor use.

A computer should last as long in the field as in the office. Consumer-grade handhelds are designed to have short life spans and be replaced within a year or less. When enterprise is investing in computer handhelds such as smartphones and tablets, often their financial planners have to gulp and budget for short life spans.

A continuing challenge for resellers in the field worker market is customers asking for integrated software solutions developed for the mobile worker, designed to meet their specific industry needs, whether construction, utilities, natural resources, insurance, or many others. Most resellers have a regular product line and can offer a variety of product solution bundles to go with their rugged handhelds, but there are always requests outside of one’s usual purview. Can your business partners help? They should!

Partner benefits for resellers who work with us, for instance, include bringing system integrators, developers, and distributors together so that the rugged handhelds we provide are truly the most functional equipment the customer can buy. The new rugged smartphone and tablet that we introduced in 2012 are built with the software developer in mind. In order for you, the VAR, to have a better sales cycle and answer the queries from customers and prospects, we work diligently to bring together our various partners so everyone can share their strengths.

An example is the fisheries management program created by one of our reseller partners, Alsea Geospatial, on our Nomad rugged handheld. This application can be used in a wide variety of industries, not just managing professional fishing operations. Providing contacts among our partners will lead to this application becoming available for other resellers in many agricultural industries, and of course we look forward to seeing how else it will be adapted. Innovation by and through our partners is part of what makes our business so rewarding.

Looking forward into 2013, it’s clear that the demand for more innovation, more integration, and more rugged capability to deal with real-world limitations and challenges will continue to grow. In 2013 it will continue to become more common for enterprise professionals to manage away from their desks. They go out! They’re in the field: managing on-site, collecting data, tracking assets, fulfilling work orders, filling in forms, and making immediate decisions on-site. The fact is almost every worker is a mobile worker today.

The need for rugged handheld computers in a variety of form factors will continue to grow, and the need for us all to continue to network to bring integrators and developers together to expand the solution choices will grow also. We’re excited to see what happens in 2013 and look forward to being a facilitator of the future.