Bunnings drives productivity with iPod Touch rollout

Coles, Suncorp also exploring use of mobile apps to enable business

Suncorp enterprise mobility systems engineer, David Brown (left), and Bunnings mobility team leader, Chris Rizzo.

Suncorp enterprise mobility systems engineer, David Brown (left), and Bunnings mobility team leader, Chris Rizzo.

Bunnings is aggressively developing mobile apps for its retail employees following a deployment last Christmas of 1500 iPod Touch devices to store staff, according to the company's mobility team leader.

Bunnings, Coles and Suncorp spoke about their mobility device management (MDM) strategies on a customer panel at the AirWatch Connect conference in Sydney.

The order to deploy the 1500 iPods at Bunnings came from the top of the business, with the idea that it would drive more sales at the busiest time of the year – Christmas, said Chris Rizzo, who leads the retailer's mobility team.

Rizzo had to deploy the devices – with internal and vendor applications on board – in time for last year's holiday season, he said.

“We didn’t even have an MDM at the time, and six weeks later we had 1500 iPods out in the hands of our team out in stores.”

The project was completed on schedule and feedback from employees has been that they love the devices and apps, he said.

Bunnings now has about a dozen new internal apps in development for store employees that are meant to assist with everyday functions including HR, safety, inventory and delivery logistics, he said.

“Nothing’s off the cards.”

An increasing number of AirWatch users are looking at how to use apps to empower their organisation, AirWatch ANZ managing director Rob Roe said after the panel.

“Go back a year, and it was ‘How do I lock these things down?’” he said. “Now the business has really stepped in and said, ‘How do I leverage these things into the business?’”

While at Bunnings the command came from the top, IT officials at Coles and Suncorp said user demand and the consumerisation of IT has driven mobility at their companies.

User demand encouraged Suncorp to support Apple devices, said the company’s enterprise mobility systems engineer, David Brown. With demand expanding into other platforms, the company is now exploring what additional operating systems to support, he said.

Apps for employees are the next step.

“Once we’ve got the platforms covered for the basics, then we start moving to the productivity side of things,” he said. “We want to leverage apps and one of our long-term goals is we want to decouple the user as much as possible from their desk.”

Coles was a “big BlackBerry shop” but demand grew for Apple and Android devices and the company was forced to look for an MDM, said Coles manager of end user computing, Anthony Corboy.

Coles has rolled out an app called MyColes to store team members, he noted. “It’s been a really big success,” he said

The consumerisation of IT means that now “everyone’s an expert,” not just IT, he added.

“Everyone has an opinion on what’s the best device, what’s the best OS and what’s the best app, so you have to compete with not only your peers in IT but almost everyone it seems.”

Suncorp used to dictate technology choices but that has shifted to a model in which users come to IT and IT responds, said Brown.

"We will enable as many things as we can,” he said. “It’s all driven by demand from the users.”

It’s too late for IT to wrest control back from the users, AirWatch CEO John Marshall noted after the panel.

"The toothpaste is sort of out of the tube in terms of the end users and that consumerisation role.”

Adam Bender covers telco and enterprise tech issues for Computerworld and is the author of dystopian sci-fi novels We, The Watched and Divided We Fall. Follow him on Twitter: @WatchAdam

Follow Computerworld Australia on Twitter: @ComputerworldAU, or take part in the Computerworld conversation on LinkedIn: Computerworld Australia

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