Behind the Research: 10 Tips for Survey Design

This post is the first in an upcoming short series of blogs called Behind the Research. Our Behind the Research series is intended to provide existing and potential clients with targeted insights into our some of our key methodological approaches pertaining directly to our data.  While this series is by no means exhaustive, our Analysts will lend their expertise and provide tips on methodological topics of interest and relevance.  If you have a topic which you would like to see covered in a future issue of Behind the Research, feel free to e-mail your suggestion to croche@vdcresearch.com or Tweet your suggestions to @VDC_Research.

Polls and surveys have the ability to provide significant insights into many areas of research and can often reveal hidden trends.  Whether used in politics or market research, surveys provide analysts with vital data for forecasts, predictions, and cross-cutting analysis of their desired topic area.  Many of VDC’s reports, whitepapers, and blog posts contain data provided from our custom designed surveys. 

The nature of VDC surveys allow respondents to provide information from an anonymous, protected vantage point, giving them the ability to respond freely with information regarding markets, business structures, and other strategic details.   However, before leveraging the capabilities of any survey, it should pass through rigorous planning stages to ensure that it is not only effective, but will also yield the best possible environment for accurate results.  This design process further solidifies internal and external validity, ultimately reducing Type I and Type II errors in the following analytics process.  While there are many strategies involved in survey design, this blog post will attempt to highlight 10 critical tips to keep in mind when designing your own survey.

  1. Outline First:  Overall, when designing a survey, it’s best to create a rough outline of how your survey will flow, the logic, and the block organization before programming it into your desired survey platform (Qualtircs, Survey Monkey, etc.).  This can save a lot of time during the revision process when changing blocks or re-order questions. 
  2. Create Fair Questions:  Know your audience and design questions to elicit a fair answer.  A biased question will give you biased answers.  Using leading questions or answers which clearly favor one response, will often result in heavily skewed and unreliable data.  When using Likert scales try to avoid terms like “Always” and “Never” in favor of terms like “Not Very Much” or “Extremely”.
  3. Limit Response Options:  Consider limiting the number of response options or design close-ended questions.  If you have a multiple choice question which asks participants to “select all that apply” and give them a list of ten (or more) items to assess, you will likely receive watered down data points and might miss trends due to aggregation.  In the case described above, respondents will generally select quite a few choices, but you can combat this through response control.  If participants can only select 3 or 5 options, they will provide more accurate responses. 
  4. Beware of Respondent Fatigue:  If you have a HUGE question, sometimes it may be best to break it into a series of shorter ones.  Participants will only give each question a certain amount of time before they become tired and move on.  So, if you have a question followed by a long list of Likert scale items, or one which requires heavy reading, participants will probably tune-out about half way through due to fatigue.  You can combat this phenomenon by making several shorter questions instead of one long question.  Limiting response options will also help prevent respondent fatigue.
  5. Attention Checks:  Always ask an attention check question.  This will allow you to quickly purge any respondents who fail this basic test in the data cleaning phase of your project.  You don’t have to hide this question; if people are not paying attention, then you don’t want them in your data anyways.  Be sure to insert the attention check question(s) in the middle or end of your survey to catch satisficers or flatliners.  You’ll be surprised at how many people actually fail a question as simple as this: Attention_check
  6. Page Breaks:  Be sure to put a page-break after lengthy questions or after two smaller back-to-back questions.  Too much information or too many questions on any one page can easily overwhelm respondents and increase fatigue.
  7. Organize Questions:  Put questions with the same theme or topic into the same block (organizational structure).  This way, respondents answer all the pertinent questions regarding one topic at the same time.  By focusing all of their attention onto one general topic at a time, they are able to provide more accurate responses.  This organization will significantly help when using survey logic tools as well.
  8. Use Survey Logic: Use “skip logic” and “display logic” to map out your survey.  This way, participants will only receive specifically applicable questions.  Skip logic will allow you to skip a question if a respondent does not meet certain criteria.  Display logic will allow you to only display a question if a respondent meets specific criteria.  While these tools many not be needed on simple surveys, on a long more complex survey, logic coupled with organized questions can save a lot of programming time.
  9. Fore Validation:  Remember to force respondents to answer questions which are essential to your data or which are important to the general flow of the survey.  Any question which is dependent on skip or display logic should receive this treatment.
  10. Test Your Survey:  ALWAYS test your survey!  You essentially want to try to break your survey by being the worst respondent possible.  This way you can catch any logic issues, organizational problems, or other errors which might be lurking before you launch to your actual target audience.  Also, feel free to give it to co-workers and let them try to break it too!

Cameron Roche received a dual B.A. in psychology and government & law from Lafayette College and his M.A. in political science, specializing in political psychology, American politics, and polling/survey methodology, from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.  He previously served as Assistant Director for UMass Poll and as a Research Assistant for the Cooperative Congressional Election Survey (CCES).  Be sure to look for future Behind the Research posts addressing other methodological aspects of survey work and data cleaning.  The author can be contacted directly at croche@vdcresearch.com or via his Twitter @Cam_Roche


The Postal-Courier Industry’s Looming Technological Challenge

The postal-courier industry, in the midst of market changes, will need to grapple with a significant technological challenge looming on the horizon. The delivery of goods is an expensive proposition that requires significant capital investments and a large supply of labor. Technology, in the form of handheld devices and delivery software, works to create an efficient process that enables companies to minimize costs and maximize revenues. The handhelds used by delivery personnel include a number of important capabilities—bar code scanning, messaging, GPS—that help facilitate workflows. From enabling track and trace to obtaining proof of delivery, the current use-cases for these devices are plentiful. As the expectations of consumers grow and their desire for greater personalization increases; postal-courier organizations will need to heavily rely on these devices to transfer real-time data between all parties involved in a transaction. Moreover, postal-courier organizations attempting to expand their service offerings to offset declining mail volumes and differentiate themselves from the competition will employ handheld devices and new applications to complete additional business processes. To this end, upgrading to a new, more modern operating system helps organizations expand into auxiliary, customer-facing services.

Today’s Operating System

While several postal-courier organizations have chosen smartphones as their delivery device, the vast majority have opted for ruggedized enterprise mobile computers. Over 80% of these devices run on legacy Windows Embedded CE and Windows Mobile 6.x platforms. These legacy systems are particularly well-suited for enterprise devices and applications due to their customizable nature and strong ecosystems of solution providers developing applications. Moreover, comprehensive lifecycle support from Microsoft and OEM partners provides further value-add for these platforms. However, Microsoft ended meaningful support for Windows Mobile 6.x in January 2015, and support for Embedded CE will end shortly; with Microsoft only providing security patches for the platforms through 2020. As a result, over the course of the next few years, postal courier organizations will need to transition to a new operating system. 

Postal Courier Blog Image


In theory, the logical next step would be to transition to the most recent iteration of Windows without needing to implement any serious changes. However, the situation is far more complicated than that; leaving many organizations debating their next steps.

The Path Forward

With the deadline of 2020 fast approaching, companies must begin evaluating their options regarding hardware, operating system, and software. In choosing an OS for next generation enterprise handheld devices, the decision comes down largely to the consumer heavyweight, Android, or the enterprise incumbent, Microsoft. However, with Microsoft having failed to deliver a desirable operating since the release of Windows Embedded Handheld 6.5 in 2011; some in the industry have moved to the Android operating system with its modern features and capabilities.

Android does not represent a perfect solution. Designed for the consumer space, the operating system lacks many of the security and management features of Windows as well as the substantial base of enterprise developers and OEMs supporting it. Nonetheless, Android’s enterprise user-base has grown steadily over the past few years, coinciding with improvements in the OS’s enterprise functionality. All leading rugged OEMs now offer an Android option, and several view this operating system as the way forward for the industry. Moreover, many ISVs that previously supported legacy Windows systems have shifted their R&D focus to Android (and iOS). This growing portfolio of Android devices and enterprise applications serves as justification for many to switch to this OS in light of Microsoft offering no suitable alternative.

Microsoft’s hopes to regain its market share, or at the very least stop the flow of users away from Windows, lie with its new OS for enterprise handheld devices—Windows 10 IoT Core. Postal-courier organizations, specifically those in the United States, have a pent up demand for a Windows solution, albeit having been burned by Microsoft in the past. Failing to deliver a Windows 7 solution and releasing an unsuitable solution in Windows 8; confidence among those in the space is waning. Windows 10, with its cross-device functionality and enterprise features could meet this demand. However, the release continues to be delayed, incentivizing those in need of a more immediate upgrade to switch to Android. Continued delays, or the release of an incomplete product, would further spur Android adoption, essentially sealing Microsoft’s fate in the rugged enterprise space.

What about the Apps?

Devices and operating systems play an important role in the completion of business processes, but applications/software are the last piece of the puzzle. Most organizations either develop their applications internally or outsource the process, but either way, the finished applications provide the key to performing tasks in the field. Unfortunately, postal-courier organizations planning an OS transition will also need an application-transition plan. For regardless of OS choice, organizations will need to recode old applications or develop new ones.

Windows 8 and 10 are not backwards compatible with legacy Windows systems, and a move to Android or iOS will similarly require recoding. This process, in most cases, will be expensive and cumbersome. If the company has the technological resources, they may complete the project in-house; however, most organizations will likely need to outsource at least some of the project. There are a number of tools on the market, such as Xamarin or iFactr, which enable cross platform development, and essentially provide organizations with a bridge to their next OS. Microsoft is also providing hooks from Visual Studio (VS) to the Xamarin platform making it easier to leverage existing .NET and C# skillsets to support development on Android or iOS. Moreover, we expect many in the industry to use this period as an opportunity to modernize applications that have been in service for decades.

The Bottom Line

Handheld devices play an instrumental role in the postal courier market now and moving forward. The next few years mark a period of mass transition of the likes never seen in the postal courier industry, and the lack of leadership by Microsoft creates an environment of uncertainty. However, this period also marks a moment of opportunity for organizations to modernize their systems and applications. The path taken today will largely dictate the quality of enterprise mobility capabilities tomorrow.

Written by Matthew Hopkins and David Krebs.  For more information, be sure to review our forthcoming full postal-courier report, set to be released this month (November), or contact us at info@vdcresearch.com.  The author can be contacted directly at mhopkins@vdcresearch.com.


Acquiring Direct Store Delivery (DSD) Optimization

Within the past week, the NASDAQ and NYSE witnessed the announcement of two major acquisitions:  Walgreens intends to buy Rite Aid for $17.2 billion and Snyder’s-Lance plans to buy Diamond Foods for $1.9 billion.  Even though Walgreens and Snyder’s-Lance reside in different industry sectors, they both heavily rely on direct store delivery; Walgreens to keep their pharmacies well stocked, and Snyder’s-Lance to stock their retail partners. 

Direct store delivery (DSD) is a system of selling and distributing a wide array of products in which the supplier delivers goods directly to the retail store, thus bypassing traditional distribution centers and warehouses.  Workflow integration within the DSD processes is often extremely complex and typically involves products which have high consumer demand or shorter shelf-lives.  Product lines which are regularly supported via DSD plans include baked goods, beverages, dairy products, ice cream, and other snack foods.  Other industries that frequently use DSD processes include wholesale distribution, gas, and pharmaceuticals.

In recent years, a primary hurdle for the DSD community has been the increased demand placed on mobile devices coupled with the constant need to optimize the numerous moving parts involved in the DSD process.  In a market space where spoiled, rotten, or out-of-stock goods directly impacts profits, employing mobile devices which are efficient and adaptable to the complex technological requirements of DSD applications is critical.  As such, those engaged with DSD must constantly assess their mobility solutions in order to keep their delivery operations running at peak levels.  A 2015 survey, conducted by VDC Research, found that three of the top five investment drivers are directly related to with the ideas of efficiency and adaptability.  These drivers include reducing order times, reducing out-of-stocks, and providing faster decision-making capabilities. 

Likelihood of Migrating from Batch to Real-Time DSD Processing


The vast majority of the DSD market is only now catching up to the significant advances seen in mobile and wireless technology.  Wireless coverage, performance, functionality, and cost of mobile devices are all factors which have drastically changed with little adoption into DSD systems  Through advances in mobile technology, DSD suppliers can now communicate with their drivers and with retail partners regarding inventory, payment, and customer support services in real-time.  Compared with aging batch-processing methods, WAN (cellular networks) connections or wireless DEX (Digital Exchange) support can significantly optimize every phase of the DSD structure.  The modernization of DEX from a hardwired solution, which required DSD drivers to carry a fragile and unreliable DEX cable, to a wireless Bluetooth solution greatly improves transmission reliability and reduces errors during communication.   A 2015 VDC Research survey revealed that DSD suppliers beginning to realize the opportunities presented by Bluetooth-based DEX and WAN.  70% of respondents indicated they are likely to migrate from batch processing to a real-time processing format within the next 2 years.  With increased migration to real-time solutions seemingly imminent, VDC expects the next generation of DSD solutions to address performance gaps and better support CPG operations.

Even though Walgreens and Snyder’s-Lance populate opposite sides of the DSD chain, the effects of emergent, real-time mobile processing features will be apparent for both companies.  They can expect to see more efficient customer support and faster response times to requests/inquiries.  More specifically, Walgreens can leverage their expanded reach to better optimize existing DSD delivery strategies by modifying routes to better coincide with Rite Aid and Walgreens locations.  Additionally, Snyder’s-Lance will be better positioned to react to real-time inventory information and will be able to consolidate Snyder’s products along with new Diamond products into the same DSD trucks and routes.  Clearly, if Walgreens/Rite Aid and Snyder’s-Lance/Diamond take advantage of new mobile technologies described above, they should see more efficient services and reduction in overall DSD costs.

Written by Cameron Roche, Analyst.  For more information, be sure to review our forthcoming full DSD report, set to be released in December, or contact us at info@vdcresearch.com.  The author can be contacted directly at croche@vdcresearch.com.  


AT&T Analyst Event Recap

We just returned from Dallas after attending AT&T’s annual analyst summit. This year was the first time that the company combined its consumer and enterprise events. While we understand the reasoning behind that decision, in our opinion, it did not add much value to our experience of the event from an enterprise mobility perspective. The overall event was very well organized and provided us with good access to AT&T decision makers and also several high profile customers and partners. AT&T issued several notable news releases to coincide with the event—the announcements all show that AT&T is moving in a coordinated way towards becoming the largest integrated carrier for the enterprise. 

Not surprisingly, connectivity was a key theme of the event juxtaposed by the opening statements made by Chairman of the Board and CEO Randall Stephenson “AT&T’s core value proposition is connectivity” to the real world admission by Mark Dunson, President of Emerson’s Climate Technologies – who was presenting very interesting IoT use cases in the food service sector – that “connectivity is really hard”. AT&T is addressing these connectivity challenges through the flexibility it is integrating into its business model and infrastructure.

Key solutions such as NetBond, which enable enterprises to move mission critical applications to the cloud through a fabric that combines the control, security and performance of a private cloud with the economies of public cloud services, will be critical to realizing that vision. Similarly central to this initiative is AT&T API platform which appears to be gaining momentum as a means for service provides to complete significantly faster installations and help them customize their billing and payment solutions, driving new business models and revenue. Finally, security was a central theme across all presentations and interactions. At the event AT&T released its inaugural Cybersecurity report aimed primarily at educating C-level decision makers about threats facing their business. With the volume of traffic traversing AT&T’s networks on a daily basis, they will have an increasingly central role in monitoring this traffic and actively addressing potential threats.


AT&T has a winner in NetBond. Rather than attempting to compete with the likes of Amazon, IBM, Google, and Microsoft in the commoditized cloud service market, the company is focusing on secure cloud connectivity solutions for their enterprise customers to connect their data and software with their cloud provider they choose. The NetBond cloud ecosystem continues to expand, and can now integrate with almost every prominent cloud player, including: Amazon Web Services, Availability Services, Blue Jeans Network, Box, CSC, Equinix, HP,  Salesforce, SoftLayer, Sunguard, and VMware. The integrations allow AT&T to seamlessly integrate its MPLS network with these clouds while reducing latency – most impressive was the live demo (always risky) that showed how quickly/easily services could be provisioned and how easily enterprises could make the cloud an “extension” of their VPN.


Industrial IoT

AT&T's focus on Industrial IoT market is beginning to pay dividends. The company is laser focused on being a trusted advisor to its clients and appears to be delivering on its promise to provide a flexible and modular IoT platform. AT&T is focusing on the right areas that are ripe for IoT enablement (asset management, connected-car solutions, instrumenting stranded assets, while pursuing a broader "smart city" opportunity). We liked AT&T's messaging and focus on helping its enterprise customers “collect real-time operational data and improve operation process”, and see the company having a great opportunity to gain traction with its various IoT solutions and support services. Mark Dunson, Emerson's President of Climate Technologies articulated the notable cold chain opportunity to gather and interpret significant amounts of data from its systems that they can then turn into insights for customers—specifically on reducing their energy usage and increasing efficiency for better overall performance.


Security – Software Defined

AT&T showed that it was serious about enhancing its security value play and articulated how it could take virtualization out of the data center and move it onto its network. AT&T revealed a new partnership with Cisco which will help it to extend the reach of its Network on Demand platform using software defined networking (SDN) and network function virtualization (NFV). SDN-enabled security can enhance network security visibility and accelerate the pace of implementing new services by opportunities for intelligent response on a granular basis through selectively blocking malicious traffic. Additionally, SDN security applications can act on anomalies by diverting network flows to key enforcement points or security services, such as enhanced firewalls and intrusion detection/prevention systems.

AT&T also announced that it had released its first Cybersecurity Insights Report to show its commitment to helping customers keep their data safe. “Every company either has been breached or will be breached,” said Ralph de la Vega, president and CEO, AT&T Mobile and Business Solutions said in a statement. “Keeping a business protected should be a company-wide priority. Every employee, contractor, and administrator is responsible for keeping security top of mind.”

The Report outlines primary security threats businesses face both inside and outside of their companies–specifically:

  • Corporate espionage: Spies looking to steal intellectual property
  • Nation States: Groups looking to access information for their own benefit or cause
  • Organized cybercrime: Digital criminals who use malware and hacking to extract information for financial gain
  • Hacktivists: Groups of hackers that use cyberattacks to promote social change or impact public policy
  • Malicious insiders: Employees or those with internal access that use company information for their own gain

With Eric Klein, Director Enterprise Mobility Software


Event Recap – AirWatch Connect

Blending virtualization w/ EMM + some software defined security on the side

I had the opportunity to attend AirWatch's Connect event this past week in Atlanta, Georgia. The event was well attended and featured a nice mix of vendors on the show floor that ranged from small innovative mobile-first startups to industry heavies, such as AT&T, CDW, LG, F5, Sprint and Verizon.

As would be expected, AirWatch broke some news at its event:


Here's our takeaways:

Samsung: AirWatch announced an expanded reseller arrangement with Samsung—this is notable, as it shows that Knox is not dead (as some have declared). The two vendors may find opportunities to collaborate through Samsung's enterprise mobility services initiative, which continues to ramp and has a strong industry focus. This formalized partnership also shows that you can “have your cake, and eat it, too” (the company has also partnered w/ Google on its Android for Work program).

Mobile Security Alliance: AirWatch is demonstrating industry leadership via its Mobile Security Alliance; the firm had already had formalized partnerships with 9 of the 10 founding members (Proofpoint is the most recent vendor the company is partnering with). Each of the founding members (Appthority, Check Point, FireEye, Lookout, Palo Alto Networks, Pradeo, Proofpoint, Skycure, Veracode, Zimperium) is integrating more deeply via AirWatch's console and/or via AirWatch's device side agent (through APIs). The partners each bring very specific enterprise-grade security enhancements that are complementary to AirWatch's EMM value play. Alliance partners span three categories: device, application and network-focused protection.

ACE: AirWatch announced that the App Configuration for Enterprise (ACE) initiative that it is driving has grown to 44 members. Several notable vendors with innovative solutions around enterprise email (Nacho Cove), mobile application modernization (Star Mobile), and split billing (Movius) have joined the roster, but the addition of key SAP properties (Concur and SuccessFactors) were without question the most notable and important. Both of these applications are widely adopted and can now be seamlessly provisioned to AirWatch customers. It remains to be seen is ACE will propel the prepackaged application market—continuing to expand the ISV roster will certainly help.

Privacy First Initiative: AirWatch announced their Privacy First Initiative—the offering will help educate customers on privacy issues and provide end users with greater transparency on how their device (and applications) usage is being monitored. This is smart, and a capability that EMM vendors who compete with AirWatch possess. However, AirWatch is first to market with clear messaging and productized capabilities here. An example that was provided at the event was a scenario whereby IT wanted to ascertain an employee's location-going forward, this type of event can be fully audited/logged. More importantly, such events cannot be executed without informing the end user (policies are in place to information other LOBs, such as HR as well). The privacy feature will be available via AirWatch's console in Q4.

Platform Evolution: Supporting Windows 10 is a requirement; Microsoft's APIs have made it relatively simple to integrate with their Azure Active Directory product, which can streamline self-service device enrollment. AirWatch (along w/ competing EMM vendors) can also offer bulk provisioning for Windows 10 devices and support Win32 and Universal apps straight away. The company's integration also includes device management policies for native email configuration, per-app VPN connectivity and enforcement of enhanced security functions.

On the Same Page—Integration on Track. Still Plenty of Runway Left for EMM Vendors

In speaking with both VMware and AirWatch executives, it is clear that the companies are on the same page in their messaging—products such as NSX (more on this below) also show forward progress on integration. I also made sure to engage with several of AirWatch's prominent customers at the event—I was somewhat surprised by the slow progress in adopting mobile applications by several of the company's largest customers; however, overall, I got the sense that initiatives to expand applications were underway—many customers mentioned that they were busy in migrating/modernizing their legacy applications for mobile platforms.

Recognition that Mobile is Just Another EndpointUEM Strategy Required

The influx of new devices will require IT departments to reconsider how they deliver critical IT services to their internal end users, as the lines between personal and mobile computing will continue to blur and the number of “non-Windows” endpoints continues to expand. Device diversity is now common in most organizations and makes implementing solutions that have the flexibility to streamline the management of all devices, ranging from the ruggedized device deployments that are common in distribution centers, warehouses, and factories to consumer-grade devices that are finding their way into every business. AirWatch’s move into unified endpoint management (UEM) earlier this year shows that the vendor has been preparing to support the increasingly diverse range of non-traditional endpoints (e.g., ATMs, kiosks, smart vending machines, parking meters, POS devices etc.—as every EMM should be), but this has also signaled that the market has matured. Going forward, EMM vendors like AirWatch will be competing directly with much larger vendors (e.g., Accelerite, IBM, LANdesk, and Microsoft) as they begin to pivot to next generation UEM vendors. This will be a fascinating transition. 

Gelsinger Brings Executive Gravitas

VMware's CEO Pat Gelsinger attended Connect for the first time, adding some VMware executive "heft" (even though Mr. Gelsinger is svelte ) to the keynotes. Gelsinger is clearly pleased with the AirWatch acquisition, and spoke at length about security: specifically on how VMware's virtualization orientation enabled enhanced "built-in" security opportunities. The need to enhance security, compliance, and auditing capabilities is required for most large customers, and is a key driver behind the company's foray into Identity Management and its Workspace Suite. VMware is placing a big bet (R&D and marketing $'s) on both of these initiatives.

VMware's Sanjay Poonen who heads the EUC division spoke about the company's "Switzerland Status"—its ability to work across the ecosystem and how its Workspace Suite solution could simplify application delivery (native, SaaS, Windows, or web apps) on any device with robust security. The Workspace Suite marries Horizon, VMware's Identity Management solution, with AirWatch's Content Locker and its ability to unify app delivery. VMware can also offer additional security options by combining their NSX solution (a network virtualization platform), which offers granular application level virtual network policy controls with AirWatch's per-app VPN capabilities. This brings an opportunity to virtualize data center components, using a software-defined approach, along with the potential to reduce hardware costs by decoupling compute, network and storage functions. The security benefit is the ability to restrict application access to specific segments within a network.

Kudos to AirWatch for drawing a critical mass of enterprise mobility—oriented vendors to Atlanta—the event's Expo felt like what CTIA's event's used to be.


Hip to be Enterprise: New Enterprise Focused Tablets Stealing the Show

With the broader tablet market in the midst of an identity crisis one segment receiving increased attention are enterprise end users. VDC’s recently published 2015 Enterprise and Government Tablet analysis confirms this opportunity, forecasting annual growth of enterprise tablets – which represent approximately 15% of the overall tablet market – at 12.1% annually through 2019. A flurry of new products targeting the enterprise user from mega-brands Apple and Microsoft and specialty rugged mobile vendors Zebra and Xplore are directing the spotlight on this segment.

In comparison to other mobile form factors, tablets are an increasingly popular selection for enterprise line of business (LoB) applications. According to recent research conducted among enterprise mobility decision-makers, tablets are selected 33% of the time among devices issued to employees by enterprises in support of LoB applications. As the number of mobile deployments in LoB workflows continues to grow, consumer mobile devices are setting the benchmark for what any mobile device should look and feel like, resulting in the emergence of a new breed of enterprise tablets. Beyond enterprise-focused rugged OEMs, consumer-grade vendors are also turning their attention to the enterprise market through both their consumer portfolios and the introduction of more durable, enterprise-minded devices.

Enterprise Issued Mobile Devices Used to Support LoB Workflows by Form Factor

   Tablets 1

New Rugged Tablets from Zebra Technologies and Xplore Technologies

Tablet 2

Zebra Technologies held its much anticipated Tablet Plus launch announcement on September 15 during which it unveiled the details of its new ET 50 and ET 55 tablet computers. As Zebra’s first new tablets to be released since the launch of the ET1 in 2011, notable features included support for both Windows 8.1 and Android Lollipop 5.1 in addition to Wi-Fi and/or LTE connectivity. Designed with a consumer feel and equipped for the enterprise, the tablets look to penetrate a still unsaturated enterprise tablet market. With a rugged design, comprehensive accessories to meet industry demands and unique scanning capabilities the ET 50 and ET 55 look to address a number of business use-cases, most notably those in the direct store delivery (DSD), field service, and retail verticals. However, a challenge for Zebra in our estimation will be aligning their tablets with the most appropriate use cases and target industries. Although tablets are being widely adopted in markets Zebra typically serves, these are mostly lower priced consumer devices. Demand for rugged tablets with the specifications and price points featured by Zebra’s new products is mostly concentrated in public safety, utilities, telecommunications and manufacturing environments, segments outside of Zebra’s traditional “sweetspot”. Another challenge, not uncommon in the rugged mobile market, will be the price points of the ET 50 and ET 55 which are $1,850 to $3,000, depending on the configuration. Although the benefits of rugged mobile devices are calculated by their lower failure rates, higher reliability and ultimately lower cost of ownership, even these target prices are high when compared to competitive rugged tablets.

Tablet 3Not to be outdone, Xplore Technologies unveiled the XSLATE B10, a fully rugged 10.1” tablet running Windows 8.1 (Windows 10 upgradeable), also on September 15th. The device is a fully featured tablet with multiple I/O and configuration options targeting field worker applications in transportation, manufacturing and telecommunications segments.  Xplore has undergone some significant changes in 2015, none more impactful than its acquisition of Motion Computing’s assets in April. According to VDC’s most recent rugged mobile research, boosted by the Motion acquisition and strong performance of its existing business, Xplore was the leading rugged tablet supplier in Q2 2015. Now with the target on their back Xplore will need to provide staying power and consistency in performance – especially surrounding support services for its increasingly global customer base – in order to build on its recent successes. 


Not the only new tablets in town

Tablet 4

The Zebra and Xplore announcements comes on the heels of Apple’s release of the iPad Pro on September 9. The iPad Pro makes a stronger enterprise use-case argument as compared to Apple’s past consumer-focused tablets. Features including a large 12.9” display, the new A9X chip for increased speed and responsiveness and new iOS capabilities such as split screen viewing. In addition, accessories such as the new Apple Pencil and Smart Keyboard enable the device to more adequately serve end-users in corporate environments. Borrowing liberally from Microsoft’s playbook (which will be introducing the Surface Pro 4 in October), this device is Apple’s first foray into the rapidly growing 2-in-1 market. However, at the end of the day the iPad Pro is an iPad running iOS at a price point that makes it competitive with Apple’s MacBook Pro. While iOS9 does introduce some interesting features that make the platform more friendly to corporate users – for example, multi-tasking and app management including app-specific VPN management – it cannot be considered an enterprise alternative to Microsoft’s Surface Pro or other 2-in1s powered by big OS/x86 architectures.  

The enterprise limitations of the iPad Pro when compared with PCs is clear including the lack of file management capabilities and scripting technologies designed for PCs, compatibility with most productivity applications, lack of AD support and limited I/O options to name a few. At the end of the day this is just another, somewhat larger, iPad, albeit with a high end active stylus (pencil) at a higher price point.  While one could argue a future where iOS or other lightweight OSes become the enterprise OS of choice and laptops are promoted to the same architecture and framework as the rest of the mobile eco-system, that is a generational change and not one just around the corner. That said, Apple is not standing still and is clearly serious about the enterprise opportunity. Initiatives with IBM and Cisco are breaking enemy barriers and compelling use cases for iOS devices (especially tablets) are being created, often transforming existing workflows.  However, even with all of these enhancements, the iPad Pro is not a general purpose PC and cannot be considered a direct competitor to other two in one products like the Microsoft Surface Pro. Therefore we do expect Apple to encounter a bit of a positioning dilemma with the iPad Pro relative to existing iPads, 2-in1s and its own MacBooks.

What Makes a Tablet Enterprise Friendly?

According to a recent survey fielded by VDC Research among over 650 enterprise mobility decision makers, when evaluating mobile devices for line of business applications, battery life ranked predictably high on the list as did price and overall quality and reliability. With many of these tablets used in the field, wireless options—including embedded cellular capabilities—are critical (one key pain point for many enterprise and government tablet deployments has been sub-optimal GPS quality). In addition, overall ruggedness of the device—in terms of drop and water/dust protection—are key decision criteria for many applications. Surprisingly, however, security features such as integrated biometric capabilities did not crack the top five in overall importance.

However, tablets are often best characterized as a marriage of compromises. Therefore, for many enterprise line of business applications, of equal importance is the accessory and peripheral eco-systems developed by tablet OEMs and their partners. According to our research, protective cases lead the list of accessory requirements, in addition to solutions like payment and scanning sleds, multi-bay charging docks and vehicle mounts. In addition, highly application specific functionality, such as Zebra’s wireless DEX Bluetooth FOB (which addresses the huge headache and point of failure of cabled DEX solutions in the Direct Store Delivery market) often represent the keys to a well designed mobile solution. 

Mobile Device Requirements for Devices Supporting LoB Applications

Tablet 5

The tablet form factor has unique appeal for mobile workers supporting a variety of enterprise and government workflows and applications. While the overall tablet is going through its most recent identity crisis, opportunities for business and public sector applications remain strong and robust annual unit growth (for both rugged and non-rugged tablets) is projected by VDC through 2019. The tablet form factor addresses mobile workers’ need for a portable mobile device while providing sufficient display real estate to support meaningful applications. From forms-based inspection and data collection applications to using the tablet as a customer engagement tool in high value retail environments, the opportunities for these devices are substantial.

To view our recently released report on the tablet market please click here.

Written by Matthew Hopkins and David Krebs (EVP)


It’s a Topsy Turvy World: Rugged Mobile Market’s Wild Ride Continues

VDC Research’s recently published Q2 2015 Rugged Mobile Market Analysis provides further evidence that the rugged mobile market is anything but predictable. Performance varied considerably by both mobile form factors and regional market with continued turbulence expected through the end of 2015.

Strong Boost to Rugged Handheld Market in Q2 2015

  • The global rugged handheld market appears to be overcoming many of the obstacles – especially around OS migration and application modernization – that had led to fluctuating demand over the past 18 months. One clear recent trend has been the continued share consolidation among the top two vendors as Zebra and Honeywell significantly outperformed the rest of the market. Competition from consumer smartphones continues to present challenges. However, vendors have rationalized their market positions to focus on sectors and applications where they can offer significant value add.
  • At the regional level there is a significant contrast in performance. In the Americas – and particularly the US – the investment environment for rugged handheld solutions continues to gain momentum, with North America closing out its fourth consecutive quarter of sequential YoY growth. Europe by contrast paints a bleaker picture, as sluggish economic figures and a still-weak euro against the US Dollar have erased gains and placed increasing pressure on vendors to adjust prices as the currency fluctuates at near-historic lows. Demand in Asia has again picked up, moving into the second consecutive quarter of double-digit growth with many international vendors making inroads against local-vendors.
  • 2015 is continuing the transition that finally took hold in 2014, particularly in regard to mobile OS. With Zebra’s deployment of one of the largest Android roll-outs to date in the Americas with Home Depot and an impending rollout for the UK’s Royal Mail in 2015, the market seems well-primed for further deployments among tier-1 companies this year. However, the greatest question market in 2015 will be the impact of Windows 10 beginning in 2016 and whether the OS will manage to garner a critical level of demand to upset Android’s upward trend. Moreover, rugged Android demand has been concentrated in several large deals with little run rate traction, especially in the warehouse/DC sector.

Rugged Notebook Market Stalls as Market Leader’s Revenues Drop Considerably

  • The rugged notebook market closed out the first half of 2015 with a whimper, sliding further from 2014’s gains and towards some of the form factor’s lowest levels of revenues. Overall revenues dropped by 20% in the first half in comparison to the first half of 2014.
  • While Dell and Getac, fueled by several new product announcements and investments in their market development and sales teams, posted the strongest gains while market leader Panasonic’s position took a hit with a substantial decline to their rugged notebook shipments.
  • Performance in the second half of 2015 is expected to improve somewhat with strengthening demand in the public sector and the anticipated Q3 federal buying season. However, the final tally for 2015 will likely show a YoY revenue contraction of around 10%.

 Although Q2 Rugged Tablet Performance Slowed, Market Remains on Track for Record 2015

  • Unlike the recently sluggish consumer tablet market, performance in the rugged tablet market remains strong with overall revenue shipments increasing by 25% in the first half of 2015. However, on a quarterly basis, Q2 shipments slowed, particularly in the Americas region.
  • Market leader Panasonic has maintained its momentum largely on the back of strengthening sales in EMEA and APAC, lifting global revenues by 21% over Q2 2014.  The FZ series and the G1 remain squarely at the top of the pack, accounting for nearly 60% of all unit shipments for tablets.
  • Following the headlines in April with the announcement of the acquisition of rival Motion, Xplore recorded blistering high levels of growth that topped 175% over Q2 2014. Already, the company appears to be leveraging Motion’s partner network on the global market with considerable success that will propel growth well into the second half of 2015.
  • Competition in the enterprise tablet market is expected to intensify with several new entrants announcing product launches over the past quarter. Dell introduced its long awaited rugged tablet while Zebra Technologies added a Android and Windows powered tablet. In addition, Apple’s introduction of the iPad Pro and Microsoft’s anticipated release of the Surface Pro 4 in October is driving a lot of attention towards enterprise opportunities for tablets. 


BlackBerry Acquires Good Technology: Keeping Your Enemies Closer

Last week, BlackBerry made headlines with the announcement of its intent to acquire Good Technology for $425M in cash. The move follows a string of mobile-first EMM acquisitions that began with Citrix acquiring Zenprise in late 2012, followed by IBM’s acquisition of Fiberlink in November 2013, and VMware acquiring AirWatch a mere two months later. BlackBerry’s move will undoubtedly help the beleaguered company continue its transition from hardware to software, help them reach their stated SW revenue targets and address some of BlackBerry’s more glaring EMM portfolio gaps. BlackBerry will also inherit Good’s 6,000+ customers, 2,000+ Good secured applications and over 16,000 Good Dynamics developers. In many ways the transaction is complementary in that it consolidates similar target customer segments and enhances the combined solution portfolio. However, beyond the surface level alignment, several key considerations emerge.

Security is Great, but at What Price?

BlackBerry and Good have both built businesses focused on developing best in class mobile security solutions. This has translated into leadership positions in segments where security is a premium, especially regulated industries such as healthcare, financial services and insurance and government sectors. From Good’s EAL4+ certification for both iOS and Android and BlackBerry’s footprint among 16 of the G20, their combined credentials are equaled by none.

However, targeting these “regulated” sectors also limits your target market to 30-35% of today’s workforce (according to US Census data). That said, demand for robust mobile security extends well beyond the so-called tightly regulated industries. As any recently conducted enterprise mobility research will reveal, security requirements clearly trump all other factors when making enterprise mobility investment decisions and is not unique to “regulated” industries. However, security requirements do differ by market segment with many organizations not opting for the premium services offered by Good and BlackBerry. The recognition of its security cache is in a way a double edged sword in that the value of the company’s offerings are so strongly associated with particular industries such as financial services, healthcare and the public sector that organizations in other sectors may not acknowledge these solutions as viable options for their business.  

The challenge for BlackBerry and Good is scaling this opportunity in the broader “un-regulated” market where security requirements are equally acute but not all encompassing and focus on capabilities such as user experience (not Good’s forte) may be greater. To maximize their opportunity, the consolidated company needs to ensure it does not compromise its leadership position in the premium mobile security solutions while expanding its portfolio to deliver more price/performance competitive solutions.  

Sleeping with the Enemy

The competition between both companies has been fierce with Good successful at convincing many legacy BlackBerry customers to migrate to their solution. The effort expended at positioning their solution as superior and pointing out clear deficiencies of the other’s solution (Not “Good” Enough) has been immense with both CEO’s not being shy about publically calling out the other. This is certainly not the first time a competitor has been eliminated through acquisition (see Oracle and PeopleSoft) and the benefit of removing the distraction created by the incessant mud-slinging cannot be understated. However, this introduces an especially interesting dynamic with many legacy BlackBerry customers coming full circle. One of them offered the following comment on a blog post announcing the deal by Good CEO Christy Wyatt.

“Many of the Good customers I speak to have moved to Good specifically to get away from the failing (financially and strategically) Blackberry. This will undoubtedly trigger a re-evaluation of our own commitment to Good. I am very disappointed by this announcement.”

Addressing Good customers – especially those that switched from BlackBerry – will be challenging. Yes, BlackBerry intends to maintain Good’s solutions for several years until it figures out how to integrate both solutions. However, Good customers need to be reassured that there is a clear roadmap and dedicated R&D for the mobility solutions they have invested in and that the integrated solution provides credible value for them. Rebuilding trust will be necessary as Good customers need to understand why they should believe that the vendor Good sales and marketing summarily slammed now represents a favorable go forward option for them.

During his tenure as BlackBerry CEO John Chen has made several interesting acquisitions including Secusmart, Movirtu and WatchDox. John and his team have done a good job at folding these solutions into the BlackBerry portfolio, adding to their already strong reputation at integrating acquired businesses. Clearly the Good integration presents an entire different challenge. BlackBerry is addressing many of the gaps in its stagnating EMM/MDM business (its closest competitors are significantly outpacing them in top level revenue growth), attempting to provide a more comprehensive EMM solution. Ensuring that it maintains competitive status quo as it integrates Good’s solutions over the next two years will present the greatest challenge.  

Putting the Pieces Together

Good has had its eye set on an IPO for a while now to provide a much needed infusion to its business. However, with the calamitous conditions in public markets and the recent performance of publicly traded competitor MobileIron, these doors were closing quickly for Good, if had not closed completely. The cash position at Good when compared to their trailing cost of revenues effectively removed much of their negotiating leverage. That said the deal that the Good team was able to secure – while nowhere near the multiples reached by AirWatch – is fair for both parties.

In a recent interview posted on BlackBerry’s blog with Christy Wyatt and BlackBerry COO Marty Beard (John Chen must have been busy) both made some very interesting statements (concessions?). Marty acknowledged that the Good acquisition will mean the “end of compromise for customers” while Christy countered that “customers have been asked to make tough choices: do they want deep management, deep security, and great user experience or enterprise scalability?” suggesting, perhaps, that they had been mutually exclusive. Clearly with Good, BlackBerry addresses some key issues, especially multi-platform support (leveraging Good’s strong iOS and growing Android installed base), container capabilities and the development partners leveraging Good’s SDK.

However, while BlackBerry is shoring up its EMM and cross-platform support capabilities through this acquisition, to what extent is BlackBerry equipped to fully address the growing requirement to support customers efforts as they move beyond addressing BYO support requirements and look to truly transform their businesses through the application of mobile solutions? This is what many of its competitors are focused on today. BlackBerry has been playing catch-up for a while now. What it deeply needs is for this transaction to leapfrog the competition. 

With Eric Klein, Director, Enterprise Mobility Software


The Rise of the Rugged Enterprise Smartphone

Smaller form factor devices—namely rugged handheld computers and smartphones—remain among the most common device types that support line-of-business (LOB) workers across nearly all industry verticals. VDC estimates that manufacturers will deploy a total of 3.4 million rugged handheld computers and 32 million smartphones in 2015. While there is some overlap between use cases for rugged handheld devices and for smartphones, the latter are more aligned with highly business- and mission-critical applications, which place a premium on reliability and have unique data capture requirements. However, the rugged smartphone has emerged as a new form factor in recent years. These devices are similar in design and user experience to the consumer-grade smartphone, but they feature enterprise-grade levels of ruggedness and improved daylight readability. The rugged smartphone caters to end-users who want a more ergonomic and touch-centric device with integrated data collection options.

 Green field opportunities for an emerging device category

Despite concerns of erosion from consumer-grade devices and the recent but strong emergence of the rugged smartphone into the marketplace, VDC believes the new form factor will serve primarily as a complement rather than replace the traditional “brick-style” rugged handhelds, which cater to a core group of end users for data collection-intensive applications in areas where data entry via touchscreen remains impractical. 


The rugged market, despite its recent return to growth and inclusion of the rugged smartphone, will face numerous challenges ranging from shifts in consumer demands to macroeconomic trends. While the Americas remain the primary engine for growth throughout 2015 and onward, this growth will largely be overshadowed by a weakening European market that has been exacerbated by Greece’s economic instability and a weakening euro that has dropped to historic lows in much of 2015. Additionally, the impending release of Windows 10 on rugged devices could see many companies opting to extend their replacement cycles, which could depress rugged handheld sales in 2016 and provide consumer-grade devices with additional opportunities to expand their enterprise presence. 

Growing competition from consumer-grade manufacturers

The broader non-rugged or consumer smartphone opportunity in the enterprise is expected to exceed 200 million units, representing 14% of total smartphone shipments. The growing availability of peripherals and to augment the functionality of consumer devices and provide better protection are further opening the opportunity for consumer smartphones in the enterprise, especially for line of business applications. In addition, leading vendors such as Apple and Samsung are now actively targeting the enterprise, looking to develop new and higher value-adding opportunities, particularly as consumer sales have begun to peak. Their addition to the enterprise market has the potential to have a significant impact on how organizations choose to mobilize their workforce, affecting not only price sensitivity, but OS choice, application development, and replacement cycles. 


How Apple and IBM are Changing the Face of Enterprise IT

A Continuing Partnership

Over the course of the past decade, Apple has come to epitomize the consumer side of technology, from the iconic iPhone to the Mac, which has made significant progress against the once-ubiquitous PC. In the enterprise, however, Microsoft’s legacy as the de facto OS for business remains a significant barrier that Apple continues to chip away at by virtue of its massive consumer appeal. Under CEO Tim Cook’s stewardship, there has been a notable shift to prioritizing the OS enterprise – take, for example, the partnership with onetime rival IBM in July of last year. Following the acquisition of EMM vendor Fiberlink, IBM has continued to enhance its enterprise mobility portfolio. Since announcing its partnership with Apple, the firm has been able to develop strategic and vertical-specific mobile applications for its clients while continuing to pursue its unified endpoint management initiatives by becoming more expert in managing both Apple’s mobile OS (iOS) and desktop OS (OS X).

Capitalizing on an increasingly Apple-friendly work environment

At face value, Apple’s products appear to be designed with the consumer squarely in mind, rather than the enterprise. However, with each successive OS update, key security and IT-friendly administration features continue to improve the company’s security posture, and have led to the expanded use of Apple products in business settings. In fact, IBM has been deploying iPads to its sales force since 2014, and has seen the number of Apple devices (iPads, MacBooks and iPhones) under management expand to 110,000 through the Mac@IBM program. The company expects the number of internal MacBook deployments to grow and is taking what it has learned from the experience to the enterprise market. Through its Mac at Work service offering, IBM will begin to support large scale Mac deployments as a managed service. (The company had been providing this service on a custom-basis for some time, but only recently extended the offering to all companies as a standardized service.) While PCs will remain dominant in the enterprise space for the foreseeable future, IBM recognizes that Macs are gaining traction in the enterprise, particularly among those now entering the workforce. As a result, not only will the demand for Macs in the enterprise grow, but tools to ease the process of deployment and management will be required. IBM has wisely partnered with JAMF Software for its Mac at Work offering, as JAMF’s Casper Suite is a widely used solution automating the deployment and configuration of OS X and iOS devices.

The Enterprise is Microsoft’s to Lose

IBM’s partnership could help Apple increase its presence in the enterprise beyond the mobile space to become a truly viable business OS. However, the recent release of Windows 10 could sap some of Apple’s momentum, since Microsoft’s next-generation OS has the potential to shore up its PC business while expanding its mobile presence. Beyond bringing back the Start button, the new OS allows applications to run seamlessly on all Windows devices, a capability that Apple has still not incorporated despite the similarity of iOS and OS X. The benefits of such compatibility from an enterprise perspective remain fairly ambiguous, as PCs tend to be used in a more isolated manner. However, the move could make mobile devices (especially tablets, given their larger screen size) more capable of handling business tasks. Furthermore, both Windows 10 and the growing role of Macs in the enterprise have implications for the endpoint management market tasked with managing the growing number of heterogeneous devices and operating systems used in businesses today.

The fact that IBM and Apple continue to expand their partnership is notable, and it places considerable pressure on Microsoft to evolve its enterprise mobility strategy – particularly its unified endpoint management products (SCCM and Intune) and Visual Studio tools for mobile application development tools. As the divide between consumer and enterprise becomes less and less distinct, the power of partnerships like that of IBM and Apple grow in significance. The days of Microsoft as the lone enterprise juggernaut are over, and the market – both partners and competition alike – is taking notice.

With Matthew Hopkins, Research Associate 


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