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The laptop and smartphone may seem like standard issue for today's knowledge workers, but a company's productivity can rise or fall depending on the end-user devices selected. With so many form factors and capabilities to consider, it's important to carefully evaluate each worker and their needs before issuing or approving endpoint devices -- a selection process compounded by the relocation of office workers to remote environments due to COVID-19 restrictions.
Some smartphones are now priced in excess of $1,000, so cost needs to be factored into the selection process. High-end smartphones might be justified for executives and salespeople, but most users could probably work just as effectively with more modestly priced devices. Lower-end devices might be the best option for users who are prone to losing or breaking devices.
Another consideration is how workers use their smartphones. If used primarily for work and not simply to handle occasional emails, then the phone should have more features and greater capabilities.
The phone's operating system is also important. A user who's comfortable working with an iOS device may have some difficulty adjusting to an Android device, and vice versa. The operating system must be capable of running the applications necessary for the job.
And then there are manageability and security issues to consider. Most organizations use a device management system to move applications to endpoint devices and apply security policies. Any device that a company issues to employees must be compatible with corporate device management or mobile application management software.
Much of the selection criteria applied to company-issued smartphones also apply to laptops, including device manageability and the operating system's ability to run key business applications.
Replacement rates especially come into play when selecting laptops. Most companies replace or refresh laptops according to a predetermined schedule: A three-year refresh rate is typical, but some organizations stretch the refresh period to five years. In some cases, companies refresh endpoint devices annually.
Refresh cycles directly influence device cost considerations. It might not make sense, for example, to issue employees a $3,000 Microsoft Surface Book if the laptop will be replaced in a year.
Longevity also factors into laptop selection. Suppose a company plans to refresh employee laptops every five years. Business applications five years from now will likely be more demanding than today's apps, so companies planning a long-range hardware refresh cycle should avoid bottom-of-the-barrel hardware. The hardware needs to be capable of running today's applications as well as those that are created a few years down the road.
Most remote users probably aren't going to need company-issued printers. Since a large majority of employees are still working remotely, many business processes have become mostly paperless. Yet printers still have their place in the work environment, especially for business contracts that require physical signatures.
When selecting printers, companies should assess the printing needs of each employee, including the quantity and types of documents that the user will be printing. Laser printers are well suited for bulk printing and producing high-quality text documents or documents that have simple graphics, but they're a poor choice for users who need to print photographs. Multifunctional devices that print, copy, scan and fax from a single machine can be of great benefit to users with varied job requirements.
Be they smartphones, laptops or printers, selecting device hardware has always been an important component in employee efficiency, productivity and experience. As increasingly more digital employees work remotely, the device selection process becomes all the more critical.