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How AirWatch Helped Eastern Tree Services

Eastern Tree Service has been giving its young staff work-supplied technology for almost a decade, experimenting with Palm Pilot hand-helds before moving onto iPads just over two years ago.

Eastern Tree Service (ETS) started in Victoria in 1981 as a specialist service to cut trees around power lines. In the late 1990s, the company expanded to Queensland, then in the new millennium to Tasmania, New South Wales and Western Australia. With 95 per cent of its jobs coming from big power utility companies, ETS often sends members of its 1000-strong crew to the most far-flung corners of Australia.

With the iPad, it was really positive for us. We have had other devices in the field, but the iPad, the guys are excited about it


Chief financial officer Paul Tymensen has taken charge of his growing team, implementing new training programs for young staff and providing Apple iPads so they can do their work more efficiently, no matter what area of the business they are involved in. Tymensen has been rolling out the tablets at such speed that by autumn he’ll have covered nearly 70 per cent of the business.

“With the iPad, it was really positive for us. We have had other devices in the field, but the iPad, the guys are excited about it — it’s a bit of a toy in many ways. And even though we’d locked it down they were still happy to use it — it had a big screen, it was easy to use.’”

Apple iPads connected to the Telstra mobile network are part of a larger program Tymensen uses to keep his young staff on board with ETS. “We’re training our guys to give them qualifications [in arboriculture], which is something that’s never been done in our industry. The fact that they’re getting trained and they have this new tech, everyone says to our guys ‘Wow, you’re really ahead of the game’, which makes them feel proud to work for the company and want to stay with us.”

There are four branches to ETS, and Tymensen has configured tablets for each one. “We custom-built our own apps and have three of them in circulation. That’s really for our work management out in the field. Before it was on paper forms and if our guys were working in a remote area, that data might not come back for two weeks. Now it comes back every day. As soon as they update it the managers can look at it live.”

In addition, each ETS-supplied Apple iPad comes with a crew manual and is supported by AirWatch® — mobile device management (MDM) software recommended to Tymensen by Telstra — which can be used with both work-supplied or BYOD mobile devices.

“AirWatch locks aspects of the devices down so you can’t use them. For example, on the iPads we have Safari [web browser] locked out so you can’t even see it on the screen. There’s a whole host of things that you can do with the device to better manage it, so your employees aren’t using it as a toy as opposed to a work tool.”

He says the trick to providing devices with MDM software is to be clear with employees from the outset as to exactly what they will be using them for. It’s something backed up by Telstra’s Tim Webber, who says what’s needed are “HR policies that very clearly state what can be monitored by the business, and these policies need to be explicitly accepted by the employees.”