Chief Content Officer,
Techstrong Group


In this Digital CxO Leadership Insights Series video, Mike Vizard talks with Shash Anand, vice president of product and strategy for SOTI, about the impact sustainability is having on mobile computing and digital business transformation.



Mike Vizard: Hello, and welcome to the latest edition of the Digital CxO Leadership Insights series. I’m your host Mike Vizard. Today we’re talking with Shash Anand, who’s vice president of product and strategy for SOTI. They are a provider of a platform for managing all your mobile devices. We’re going to talk about sustainability in digital transformation. It almost seems like we all like the idea of sustainability. But when push comes to shove, perhaps our needs for better digital experiences, profit, and for that matter, just the fact that we like new gadgets, overwhelms our interest in sustainability. So, is there an opportunity to strike a balance between these two things? Or will we always kind of salute sustainability but maybe not exactly driving it as hard as we could?

Shash Anand: Absolutely, Mike, thanks for having me, by the way, appreciate that. So yeah, there is there’s definitely from the sustainability report that we had. It’s called reduce, reuse, rethink from discard mentality to tech sustainability. Our report found some interesting findings. And the idea is that 68.9% of the US IT leaders believe that devices are being disposed of unnecessarily. And this report showed that wearables, laptops, you know, think about your mobile phones, tablets, even printers are all being disposed of earlier than they actually need to. You asked if there is an answer to this; there absolutely is an answer. If you do have some type of maintenance tools, we’ll call it an enterprise mobility management solution in place, we can start increasing the longevity of devices. A lot of times the perception is that, you know, “Hey, I need to replace my device, because there’s a new model out. And I want to attract new employees to my business. So I want to show them that we have the latest and greatest.” But a lot of times, it’s not necessary to be at the latest camera, to have the latest, you know, the most amount of memory, or those types of things in order for that employee or that business user to do their job and run their operations. So with a solution that gives you the visibility into why that device may be perceived to be slow, or the application is not working as expected, replacing the device doesn’t always answer that. It could still be slow after you do that, because maybe the application itself is performing poorly, and just seems seems to need to be upgraded. Or it could be that the battery itself needs to be replaced, but the entire device doesn’t need to be replaced. So these are just some examples of if you have the solution in place that can help you manage the lifecycle of that device, you can go a long way and increase the lifespan of even up to 2x times, if not more.


Mike Vizard: The popular perception is that developers and people who write software are kind of complicit in this conspiracy, right? The assumption is that I buy a device and roughly a year or so, maybe a little longer, it starts to slow down after I’ve had, you know, a dozen or so updates. And yeah, people feel like, you know, the vendors are trying to push them towards upgrade the hardware, because suddenly the performance drops. And there’s all these new bells and whistles. Yeah, is that real or is that something that’s just like the cost of progress, but we need to manage it?

Shash Anand: Yeah, that’s a really good question, Mike. So I’d say that many software developers, they design their applications to work on the latest and greatest hardware and operating systems that are available at that particular time. And very rarely do they go back and kind of try to look at older devices or older OS versions, because of the potential security holes or the incompatibility with their libraries that they may be using, or integration with other systems. So there’s reasons for wanting to always be on the latest and greatest for sure. But I would say that enterprises are still wasting money disposing electronic devices, because they lack certain tools to help them with diagnosing and repairing these solutions. So understanding why is that application actually not working? What are the things that I need to do? Because it could just simply be an application error. So how do I how do I solve this problem of, okay, the software developers always want to build on the latest and greatest. And when a new version comes out, it only works with the latest. There’s a lot of troubleshooting that is needed. And sometimes it’s just a fix of the app, or it’s an upgrade of the operating system. Or it’s some type of small little fix. So if you have a troubleshooting tool in place, I can actually do things like remote in to see what’s going on. Maybe you’ve got some other background applications that are causing the slowness. Maybe you’ve run out of space. Maybe your battery is not performing as well as it should because it’s using data from other sources or it’s being used by other sources. So these are things that you can uncover as to why certain devices may be performing poorly. The other thing is that because certain devices may be performing more poorly, it doesn’t mean all devices are performing poorly. So again, if you have some type of tool to what we call, give you the operational intelligence of what’s going on with your mobile devices, that will help you out significantly. And it will improve the applications and help the software developers diagnose issues, rather than just saying, “I’ll just put it on the newest device. And it’ll work.”

Mike Vizard: We hear a lot about how digital initiatives are running through resistance from end users. Do you think part of that issue is that we as the developers and builders of apps are assuming a level of hardware that may not exist, or that they don’t have, or that we think that they should have, and no one wants to upgrade? Because it costs, or they’re waiting for their next plan to give them the next upgrade cycle? And so maybe we’re too far ahead of where those users are with their devices?

Shash Anand: Yeah, I would say that you’re right, in the sense that the consumer world, you are definitely kind of saying, “Hey, I want to be at the latest and greatest. I’m going to replace my model, because there’s a new model that’s coming out coming out.” I think in an enterprise world, we see that these devices, they can last five years easily. You can also look at the type of device that you’re using from a hardware perspective and say, okay, maybe I need something in this particular workplace. Our devices are used quite a bit; maybe it’s shift work, maybe they get moved around a lot, maybe they’re in higher and lower different temperatures. So you might want to think about what type of device that you should have to increase the longevity. And many times that could end up being where you need to put a case around the device. Or you might want to look at a rugged device. These are examples of things that we provide as guidance on, you know, what type of device should you be using for that particular job? And where is that? Where can that take you further? And what I mean by that is, if you have like a tool in place, you can upgrade these applications, you can monitor the memory of the devices, you can monitor the battery performance of the devices. So you need these types of tools in place to help you really understand your operations at a better level, versus just kind of saying, “Oh, it should always be at the latest device.” That’s kind of the last resort is to replace the device in many scenarios.

Mike Vizard: Sometimes this is also a fashion statement, especially when you hire a new employee, it’s very hard to say, “Hey, oh, and we’re gonna give you a machine that’s been previously owned by two or three other people.” And you’re kind of like, “Say what?” And so you know, what’s practical in terms of what I can do with Device Management and extending the life and those devices?

Shash Anand: Yeah, that’s a fantastic question. So what we can do with increasing longevity is ensure that the speed… a lot of times the perception is that older devices may be slower. The reality is that it all depends on the applications that are on the devices, right? Or what’s running? Are you allowed to go to the App Store and go to the Play Store and download any apps that you want? Are you going to have the Netflix and the social media available at that same time? These are things that of course, take up a high amount of bandwidth; they take a high amount of memory. So what do you allow and not allow in that bring to your own device world; it becomes a challenge for sure. But what happens is if you have this enterprise mobility management solution, we design kind of that idea of these groups of people say for example, Mike is a manager managers can do these things. So you set up what we call policies. And these policies allow certain people to have availability and access to certain applications. And what you could do further if it’s, say, for example, a user at a retail store, maybe what you can do is you can lock down the device to a certain set of applications and allow them to only use certain apps on the device. And that eliminates the need for them to even accidentally download other applications, or get applications or cause a virus or connect to a network that they shouldn’t be network working with. So security becomes a massive benefit when you have some type of enterprise mobility management solution in place. And this is important for that enterprise world. We can also do things like…. Sorry, Mike, I just want to add one of the things which is around lost or stolen devices – this comes up quite a bit. And, you know, having the ability to locate devices, both outdoor and indoor, and tell exactly where that device is in real time and alert on if the device ever leaves an area – these are very important things from an enterprise perspective. So I just want to emphasize that part as well. That ties in with the security layer.

Mike Vizard: Do you think people are running with a mobile first mindset now, just across the board? Are we still along somewhere in that journey? Because we still see a lot of folks writing apps for Windows desktops, and how do you prioritize where what runs where or when?

Shash Anand: Yeah, not only that, I would say we’re actually finding companies are still using a lot of paper and pen processes. There is a mindset that, you know, “Hey, this may be a little bit cheaper, or this is the way I should be doing it, because this is how I’ve been doing it all the time.” So what we try to do is, and I would say different industries and different companies within industries are all at different phases. . . I wouldn’t say one vertical. Say for example, healthcare or retail or transportation logistics are at an accelerated rate, for example. But what I would say is, every journey of digital transformation is very interesting, because some companies want to simply digitize what they’re doing in a paper and pen process. Some are saying, “Well, we are completely digital, we are transformed digitally, because we’re using Word documents, or Excel spreadsheets.” There are others that are doing digital transformation, and moving to mobile applications. And now these are becoming mission critical to their operations. And this is where many companies are doing the digital transformation, but they’re just replacing devices. And they’re not thinking about the full cycle, the full device lifecycle, and the full application lifecycle of those devices. So it’s an interesting thing, where now that companies are transforming parts of their operations, they want to do more, because they recognize the benefits. And now it’s about efficiencies, how do I not copy and paste from one system to another? And how do I eliminate the errors of manual entry in one system? Or another? How do I integrate these systems together? And that’s kind of where you can help with these issues.

Mike Vizard: Do you think there’ll be government regulations that will encourage people to have devices longer because of sustainability requirements? Or will you know, basically, we’ll try to encourage people to do the right thing and hope for the best?

Shash Anand: Yes, I do think there will be more regulation around e-waste. I do think that many companies have their corporate social responsibility, their CSR mandates; they are building KPIs or key performance indicators around these things. The report actually gets into this as well, about the fact that while there are KPIs, there’s still this, you know, this measure of, say, we we still want to do it, we still want to use the latest and greatest devices. So only 60% of those that were surveyed have these types of KPIs in place. But they’re still replacing devices too early. And they recognize that themselves in the same survey, we said, Yes, you are, you have these mandates, but you’re still replacing devices unnecessarily. So I do think that the government will step in, because we’re seeing 50 some odd million tons of e-waste being produced. And we can’t sustain that because it becomes toxic. These metals that are being used within circuit boards and different things. They’re causing a lot of pollution. And so this will contribute towards your you know, your footprint, and this need for green IT is becoming a bit more popular. And so we’re seeing budgets being allocated, one to 25% of budgets that are allocated, towards green it, I do see that as growing, and helping to reduce e-waste, to help companies save save money, the purpose of moving to green IT is to ultimately save money in the long run. And I think that they will see that, that not replacing devices every two years, and changing that to four years, is a huge cost savings.

Mike Vizard: How do I get everybody on board? I mean, it seems like there’s a lot of political capital that has to get expanded for me and and pull everybody together. Are there best practices for doing that? You know, do we have a green IT leader? Or how do we get everybody in the company to go? Yeah, we got to get serious about this.

Shash Anand: Yeah, it’s about approaching the IT administrators or managers or the CTO of the company, right up to the C-level, and letting them know about the cost and understanding that business issue. I think that if they understand the business issue of how much cost and how much money they’re spending on replacing the devices and the consequences of frequently upgrading devices, the fact that they could not have to replace devices every two years. And if we can have that conversation of how do we get you to replace devices maybe every five years, and outlining the costs and the problems associated with that. I think it’s about awareness of what a solution could be, which is to show them the value of giving visibility into what the devices are doing the cost of securing these devices, the cost of downtime, the cost of replacing devices, the cost of dumping this data and having to wipe it and having to collect the data and restored in other systems, the cost of training the staff to retrain them on new mobile devices. These are huge costs that are not really perceived to be massive, but they are are added costs that, you know, they kind of just say, “This is the status quo, this is the way you do business.” So being aware of green IT and that movement of green IT, I think, is something that we can kind of all push these people towards. And it’s as much about awareness and kind of giving them the information about what the business issue is, the problem, and how we can solve it. Only then will they see that huge value that they need.

Mike Vizard: Alright, folks, you heard it here. You may not want to shame everybody into doing the right thing. However, you may want to coach them, at the very least, and make them aware that new gadget that they so covet comes at a cost. It’s much more than the actual price of the device. Hey, Josh, thanks for being on the show.

Shash Anand: Thank you so much for having me, Mike. Really appreciate it.

Mike Vizard: All right, and thank you all for watching the latest episode of Digital CxO leadership insights videocast. You can find this episode and others on the Digital CxO website. We’ll see you again next time.