The decision to adopt a mobile platform mix, either at the top end of town or SMB, is happening more and more these days as the myths and fears associated with the technology are slowly but surely evaporating.
The big issues, such as security, data protection and business policy management, don't have to be a nail biter or source of constant frustration anymore. IT administrators, who have long complained about the lack of control associated with mobility and feel more at ease with the brick and mortar office approach, are being placated as ease of use and manageability is improving.
According to the industry, the business benefits, including a productivity boost and administrative cost savings, far outweigh a few minor hiccups around education and integration woes. Sydney-based distributor of baby products, Jackel, decided to go mobile and has never looked back, according to general sales manager, Mark Hancock. The company opted to cease outsourcing sales and bring the task in-house in a bid to better understand its distribution channel and foster better customer relationships.
"We saw mobile technology as a way of moving forward and gathering a true picture of the distribution chain," Hancock said.
The company's 10 field workers now carry PDAs running DeData's Purveyance system; a mobile sales automation software tool that lets staff capture customer information and orders, manage relationships with 2500 pharmacies across the country, and have two-way communication with head office.
Hancock said its criteria for selecting the system was being able to capture orders, have reps dial in at night, and sync and transfer order info from their PDA to their laptop, enabling orders to be filled quickly. The technology, which integrates field and back-end operations, also gives greater visibility over field staff activity, he said.
Having two-way communication was another benefit of going mobile. "It lets us push info out to the team, which is great for promos and product distribution. It's not just capturing data but also sending info back and forth," he said.
Chosen for the fact that it could be configured for a small company like Jackel, the mobile system doesn't require a large team to manage and support it, Hancock said.
"The Rolls Royce solutions cater for large corporates, but we were impressed with the scalable nature of Purveyance: it's flexible and can grow with us, and it fit within our budget," he said.
The road to mobility didn't come without a few growing pains, Hancock said. One of the biggest challenges was re-educating the field team.
"We're not atypical in this area. We could see the benefits, but had to convince and educate staff," he said.
The Jackel case is just one highlighting the fact that mobility usage scenarios are growing faster than garden weeds.
An Ovum research analyst suggested resellers ditch the old way of thinking about mobility and consider unified communications and collaboration. These offer much richer definition and are the next logical step in a mobile world.
Research director, Steve Hodgkinson, said the traditional view of mobility was as a means to access the corporate network from a laptop at home, or while on the road.
"The concept has shifted to anytime/anywhere access on any device," he said. "Don't define mobility from inside or even outside the office. Where a person is sitting is irrelevant now."
Hodgkinson said the mobility market was essentially a three-horse race in terms of platform: Microsoft Vista/Offi ce 2007/Sharepoint; IBM Lotus Notes/Domino/Sametime/Quickr/Connections; and Web 2.0 delivered applications such as Google, Zoho along with software-as-a-service offerings such as Salesforce.com.
"Web 2.0 could have a big impact on mobility," he said. "If you access the systems you need from the Internet, say your word processor, spreadsheet, presentation tool, email and a collaboration wiki from zoho.com or google.com and your core systems from Salesforce.com or mysap.com, then you are mobile all the time.
"All you need is a broadband Internet connection, even if you are in the office. So the definition of mobility is quite different to the old idea of logging into the corporate network from the Qantas lounge. This is the start of an exciting explosion of growth for the corporate unified communications and collaboration market."
Hodgkinson said collaboration will occur on many devices: from mobile phones to laptops and PDAs doing a host of tasks such as email, calendar, to do, instant messaging, video conferencing and voice and video messaging.
"There will be seamless connections and threads," he said. "Emails will have a threaded view. We'll be able to click on an email thread like a blog or wiki. We will bring together what are currently separate and fragmented ways of contacting people. . . Mobility will be location independent, giving us same - time/real - time chats."