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You bought into mobile email - what have you got to show for it?

Have mobiles increased productivity?

Ed Moore, OpenWeb Product Manager, OpenWave Europe

I like the concept of mobile email and carefully make sure I don't have it myself. Thinking time is precious and I find it much harder to think deep thoughts when connected in to the company communication network. Call me if it's urgent or send a text!

There are however plenty of people out there who do need access to their email at all times, in order to work at peak efficiency. Technical support staff, account managers, consultants and freelancers can all nip issues in the bud or leap at new opportunities if suitably equipped and could easily justify the expense. How best to justify? Sales people have the best excuse – just one deal won instead of lost can pay for an entire mobile email infrastructure and whether it's that one single message that clinched it or a series of gentle pushes doesn't matter. So three sums; cost of failure to respond to an emergency, missed opportunities for new business or thirdly time gained through incremental improvements in administration. Approving a travel request, agreeing a pricing quote, denying holiday or selecting chairs for the office can all take you a moment but potentially save others hours in waiting around.

So the benefits are clear but what of the cost? I'd recommend two solutions for mobile email and budgets are the clear delineator.

At a simple level many existing business focused phones can now cope with email standards such as POP3 or IMAP; it may not be pushed to your handset in idle moments but you can get access whenever there's wireless connectivity. Most corporate email platforms can already deliver these standard interfaces so the only tangible cost you're looking at is incremental data charges. For the UK this can now be as little as £10 a month all in so well worth the investment.

At a medium level you have email packages that can use a range of devices to receive pushed email, including offerings from companies such as Visto and Microsoft. These will give more functionality, usually greater speed of access and incur a matching higher cost, especially if a corporate server version is chosen.

Finally at the sophisticated level we have what most mobile workers think of when they imagine mobile email; the elegant and simple ‘fruity' dedicated email devices. These work very well indeed but come at a price in terms of extra service charges. But let's think clearly here; at a price compared to what? If other email solutions then they look expensive but compared to a company car, expense account or pay packet then they are very cheap indeed! At any reasonable salary level then justifying for an individual should be child's play.

Unfortunately making email mobile does lead people to do at all times what they currently do in the office; continue being interrupted all the time, be bombarded with Spam and jokes from friends, gossip and waste time. To these you can add those mobile generated emails that everyone loathes; "yes, good" (what is?), "I agree" (to what?), "at customer" (so?), all finished with that automated rider "Sent from a Fruitberry".

I'll go back to thinking time...®

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