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Our organization has gone through a very successful deployment of the BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES) and accompanying devices in the past several months. The service has been a hit with our corporate managers and our internal subscriber base has doubled over what was anticipated, covering nearly 15% of our overall staff base. Following are 10 lessons that we learned that can be passed along to ensure the Research in Motion (RIM) BlackBerrys leave a good taste in your organization.
1. Conduct a pilot project and evaluate results.
Determining who your most likely candidates are and what they are looking for in a handheld device. If you don't know what your staff require then you'll never know if you've met their expectations.
Determining if BlackBerry is the right solution, for enough people in your organization will prevent a lot of wasted effort and costs. If people are looking for the functionality of a PDA, then perhaps the BlackBerry is not the solution for them. On the other hand if you have a mobile sales force, a large number of frequent travelers or numerous 7x24 operational staff perhaps the BlackBerry is just the ticket. The mobile messaging that the BES provides is ideally suited.
Create a pilot evaluation form and get statistics and comments for categories important to the organization
2. Have a deployment plan
Spec out a proper server for the BES. While not required, I highly recommended a dedicated server. Our BES has undergone numerous patches and reboots in the months since it was deployed. Other applications may be impacted if they co-exist on the same server.
Draft up activation procedures and empower IT staff to administer the service. Documentation is vital. It's not difficult, but there are several steps to activating a BlackBerry. Unless you plan on doing them all, provide sufficient documentation so that the effort can be delegated.
Create a schedule for who will get a BlackBerry and when. I don't recommend providing a BlackBerry the day before somebody is going out of town. Better to have the client use it locally and be comfortable with the device before taking it on the road.
3. Arrange for client training
Training for clients is critical. Without adequate training people will be left to figure things out for themselves leaving many frustrated and missing out on the full potential of the devices. Do the best you can, but ideally bring somebody in who's had previous BlackBerry experience. There are so many shortcuts and power-tips that clients will miss out if you're not familiar with them. I recommend a basic class followed 3-6 months later with a more advanced class.
Quick Reference Guides are also beneficial. Developing your own in-house guides is probably a waste of time when you can buy professionally done guides for less than $4 a pop. Providing staff with something they can take on the road with them can be invaluable.
4. Arrange for IT support training
Training for IT support staff is important to ensure devices are activated smoothly and that appropriate troubleshooting can take place when they're not. In addition support staff should be equipped with a BlackBerry in order to be familiar and to aid in providing the best customer support possible.
Create troubleshooting guideline documentation. Topics to include:
- Device activation issues
- How to wipe/reset the device
- E-Mail reconciliation settings
5. Develop a general BlackBerry deployment policy
Draft up guidelines around who gets one. This is critical to ensure expectations are met. Without guidelines everyone will want one and it will be too arbitrary to decide who should get one. People will perceive that favoritism is occurring. Other guidelines include:
- Create a FAQ section on your intranet regarding the corporate support structure for the BlackBerrys, who to call and when. This is especially important regarding off-hour support.
6. Negotiate the best possible contract with a carrier.
- Monitor expenditures to ensure your wireless provider is giving you the best value possible.
- Negotiate plan for product refresh. Aim for 6 or 12 months.
7. Don't get too fussed about the BlackBerry models.
- Embrace change. The technology refreshes so fast, and if you're a global company what's available in North America may not be elsewhere
- Know when to recommend one model over another (SureTypevs QWERTY keyboard).
8. Plan for some accessories
Bluetooth Ready. Any device made in the past two years will be Bluetooth capable so wireless headsets, keyboards, pen adaptors, etc are all potential considerations.
Third party software may also be part of the game plan. My favorite free application is the Google Maps for BlackBerry, it's terrific!
9. Create/document the IT Policy for the BlackBerry Enterprise Server
There are a ton of policies that can be implemented. Keep it simple and to a minimum. More policies mean more complexity and potentially more troubleshooting. Some basic policies to consider include:
- Lock timeout settings (screen-saver lockout)
- PIN to PIN communications (allow or disallow)
- SMS & IM policy (ok or not)
- Allow outgoing calls while locked (by default its disabled, rather annoying)
10. Know the true costs, make a proper business case
When your getting started most organizations should manage to negotiate the BlackBerry Enterprise Server licensing for free. The network provider will more than make up on the BES licensing through the sale of BlackBerrys and on usage charges.
As with cell phones, the longer your term, the less you'll pay for your BlackBerry. Budget at least $100 a device as a one-time cost in addition to your monthly fees. The newer generation devices will always cost more than something that is a year old.
It may come as a big shock to people but its going to cost more to operate the BlackBerry devices than cell phones. Our experience may not be typical but our monthly bills quadrupled. There are several reasons for this: data charges, roaming data charges, and increased calls from the BlackBerry since everybody is walking around with their entire address book.
I've been involved in so many product rollouts in my career that I've lost count. Despite the high maintenance the BlackBerry service has been a huge success within our organization. Our clients love them, warts and all, and have only had two people give theirs back. I hope the lessons I learned will help your organization enjoy a sweet BlackBerry deployment soon.