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Have mobiles increased productivity?

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Rob Turner, Deputy Head of Data Products, Orange Business Services, UK

There are clearly different behavioural approaches to the adoption of technology in business (mobile or otherwise.) There are those who believe IT will offer a distinct competitive advantage and have embraced IT as a strategic weapon at boardroom level. There are those who believe IT investments should have a more humble role as part of operational efficiency with hard ROI. There are those, of course, who have outsourced the whole lot.

The good news is that the ROI for mobilising applications, email and others, seems to satisfy the ROI demands at all levels and there is demonstrable proof from many sources (most notably the recent research papers published by IDC and Ipsos Reid.)

The growth of mobility-enabled applications is driven by the same factors driving all IT and business process change namely:

  • Improve responsiveness to rapidly changing customer needs and changes in internal and external operating environments
  • Optimise efficiency of staff and other resources at all levels (from Head Office out into the field)
  • Improve workflow and shorten the cycle time for all business-critical processes

If you are not looking to do these things, then your competition is. Intensity of competition in nearly every industry sector is driving the need to better integrate information with key business processes.

In simple terms for mobile applications (notably email) we are talking about the benefit of “immediacy.” This is ironic given that email is designed as a “store and forward” technology – but it is essentially about getting the right information to the right people at the right time to make better and faster decisions. Often within the hour. Compare that to the days where a decision from your Senior Manager would have to wait for the next morning when his PA printed off emails for his/her perusal, the response was scribbled on the top and the decision trickled through when the PA go around to typing it up.

And most emails are not “War and Peace”. They are simply looking for approval/confirmation/further information/agreement to reschedule or re specify and the like.

The 2007 Ipsos Reid study analysing the ROI of BlackBerry deployment across over 1300 IT department in come up with some interesting figures:

  • Personal Productivity: The typical end user converts 60 minutes of downtime into productive time per day.
    − This equates to 250 hours per user per year in recovered downtime.
  • Workflow: In addition to their own personal productivity, BlackBerry also allows mobile staff to keep work moving for others while they are out of the office. The average BlackBerry user reports that BlackBerry increases the efficiency of the teams that they work with by 38 per cent, a marked increase over the 2004 average of 29 per cent that was reported at that time.
    − This equates to over US$33,000 per BlackBerry user per year based on international productivity per employee data.
  • Immediacy: The average BlackBerry user processes 2,500 time sensitive emails per year while mobile, and over 1,200 phone calls per year.
    − The value of this immediacy is difficult to quantify, but can be reasonably estimated at over US$5,000 per user per year.
  • BlackBerry ROI varies by individual and is conservatively calculated at a minimum of 238 per cent. This equates to a payback period of 154 days, or approximately 5 months. The conservative ROI for BlackBerry was calculated as 162 per cent in 2004. The increase in minutes converted to productive time each day can be attributed to the proliferation of BlackBerry among operations level staff who likely have more slack time in their calendars to convert than executives. The increase in workflow efficiency is likely influenced by higher percentages of staff with BlackBerry, which creates improved workflow economies.

Of course mobility is not just about email. Looking at the Orange Case Study for BDO Stoy Hayward:

The benefit to BDO Stoy Hayward goes beyond the positive impact on staff morale and retention. “The financial return on investment is very clear cut,” says Mark Sherfield, Finance Partner of BDO Stoy Hayward. “Our investment in 3G Mobile Office Cards, for example, hits break-even if each fee earner recovers just around an extra 40 minutes of working time per month. With BlackBerry devices we’re looking at around 20 minutes per month. Actual usage will far outstrip those figures.

Specific Points

For large and small companies alike, there are three key requirements that should be considered when evaluating a business case for mobile email.

Firstly, scoping the BUSINESS requirements addresses such issues as the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) for the Solution. Recent primary research examining the relationship between mobile email and the affect on Employee Productivity and TCO (IPOS Reid, 2006) indicates that some solutions recover as much as 60 minutes downtime per user per day. Based on hourly worker rates, a business decision-maker can quickly begin to approximate the pay-back period of a mobile email solution.

Secondly, defining key TECHNICAL requirements becomes evermore critical in those larger organisations with inherently complex IT environments. Since implementing mobile email solutions nearly always involve integrating a Company's corporate email platform with handsets that reside beyond the firewall, organisations are becoming increasingly concerned with issues around end-to-end Security, Data Encryption, Centralised IT Administration and Policy Management, and so too Device Management, Resilience and Failover also become important factors.

Thirdly, when making investment decisions organisations must consider in what ways mobile email will make a difference to the daily working routines of users. In this respect, USABILITY requirements must be specified based on the types of roles throughout the organisation. In all cases, to achieve measurable improvements in worker productivity, user interfaces on handsets should be intuitive and require employees to undergo the minimum of specialised training.

Finally, overlaying the above considerations are the core and supplementary services, which are supplied by mobile operators. The issue of network coverage is paramount with Orange for example having the largest integrated data network in the UK along with a dedicated data support helpdesk for ticket-based incident management. In addition organisational decision-makers who anticipate mobile email as mission-critical to the effective and efficient running of their business should also consider an appropriately defined Service Level Agreement

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk

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