Giving credit to a standardised mobile environment

A few years ago, an Australian credit union operating branches across three states undertook a significant project to standardise its desktop and mobile environments of about 700 devices.

The project went hand-in-hand with a hardware refreshment policy that would eventually replace the outdated laptops of the union’s mobile brokers with new notebooks. The rollout had to ensure that the brokers would not perceive any difference between working remotely on a laptop and sitting in front of their office desktop.

HP fits the bill

Integrated technology and communications solutions provider, PK Business Advantage (PKBA), was initially brought on-board for the standardisation project, and between July and December this year completed the rollout of about 75 new laptops into the credit union’s fleet.

PKBA’s Stephen Laheney said the union’s growing force of mobile brokers and advisors – often visiting customers – needed a powerful laptop fleet to run complex finance simulations, offer loan rates, information and other financial advice to clients. The laptop fleet needed the grunt to run all the resource-intensive financial applications found on their desktops, both online and offline in the case of applications they didn’t have wireless access to. PKBA leveraged its existing relationship with vendor, HP, and distributor, Ingram Micro, to provide the credit union with HP Compaq 6910P model laptops, which after extensive testing of different applications on different platforms proved to be the most suitable.

“Most of the fleet in desktops was HP, and they used a lot of HP servers, so we started to standardise and basically do a whole of environment thing. It was attractive to HP, they gave us really good pricing across the board on desktops and said if you want to bring the laptops along for the ride we’ll give you a really good deal on those too,” Laheney said. “So we sat down with the client, assessed their business requirements in terms of power, mobility and the weight of these things because they have to be carried around, and in the end HP fit the bill.”

One vendor, simpler support

According to Laheney, PKBA is seeing a lot of companies trying to limit the number of vendors they deal with. Part of the advantage of standardising on HP equipment is the consistency it gives to the credit union’s entire fleet.

“They only have one hardware vendor to deal with and that makes hardware costs come down, maintenance costs come down, and they only have one series of the desktop operating environment to deal with that they don’t have to vary too much, so it worked out well for them,” he said.

Conformity in a hardware provider means maintaining the entire environment becomes simpler and cheaper, and while nothing has yet gone pear shaped within the fleet, it means if something does go wrong there is only one vendor to deal with. Each laptop is covered under a standard three-year warranty that comes with a docking station, mouse and laptop carry case, resulting in cheaper, bundled pricing for the union’s entire hardware and peripheral requirements.

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“If a laptop breaks down, we are engaged to take that out and deploy a new one if that is appropriate, and have the other one serviced and returned when it’s ready, or redeployedto somebody else,” Laheney said.

All the laptops were governed by RSA Security authentication tokens, he said.

A standard operating environment

In addition to capitalising on discounts through sourcing all equipment from one provider, using a standard operating environment on all laptops means every mobile worker can use any unit, thereby eliminating downtime if one stops working. PKBA simply provides the worker with another laptop, reimages the problem hardware and sends it back out with the next worker.

“With a standard image, it starts to reduce the number of errors as people can’t play around with them. If people can’t play with things, they can’t break them,” Laheney said.

Having to deal with multiple environments and multiple hardware platforms can be costly and adds security variables that increase maintenance costs and helpdesk calls.

“The standardisation aspect is a big winner, it’s at the core of reducing your purchasing costs and your maintenance costs over time. And of course, it adds to the stability,” Laheney said. “Once you have it nailed down people are happier in their work and can rely on their tools to get the job done.” PKBA has seen large rollouts of standardised equipment reduce helpdesk staff of six by one or two people within 12 months, he said.

“The environment is a lot more stable, people can’t tinker with it, and so your helpdesk calls come down,” Laheney said.