It's time to take a smarter approach to business mobiles

      

It's time to take a smarter approach to business mobiles

Ian Mitchell

It's estimated that more than half of the UK population now owns a smartphone and that figure is set to rise month on month as people become more dependent on having fast and connected technologies at their fingertips.   

Yahoo announced last month that it was going to give a smartphone to every single one of its US based employees, ensuring their employees are on-line, contactable and therefore able to work at all times.   The interesting thing though is that they have allowed their employees to take their pick from the new Apple, Samsung, Nokia or HTC ranges as part of their "Yahoo! Smart Phones, Smart Fun!" programme.

Admittedly, it may be a "fun" programme for employees but if Yahoo is also adopting the scheme to improve operations and the smoother running of their business, perhaps they have missed a couple of key considerations when selecting the handsets and networks for their employees?

 

The first consideration has to be whether the proposed smartphone integrates effectively with the company's existing systems and software.  Before selecting handsets or platforms, speak with your telecoms provider to ensure that there is compatibility between on-site and off-site devises.  If the handheld device is the priority it is worth exploring if there could be an opportunity to download an application to bridge the gap.  Before doing so check whether there will be additional costs and whether it is a robust enough programme to work effectively with internal systems.

Having compatible systems can also bring additional savings to the business.  For example, if you have a sales force on the road, the need for them to have real-time access to the latest prices may be critical. Equally, if there is regular communication with their peers, perhaps applications such as "Live Chat" that links the handsets without the need to make calls or send texts could bring real savings to the bottom line - particularly if scaled up over the number of calls made over a week or year.

With multiple handsets and networks there can also be issues with configuration of the phones.  Not everyone will have the latest version of the phone so there could be issues communicating or updating generically.  Having specialist telecoms support and advice as part of your agreement with your telecoms provider will go some way to effectively managing it.

 

 

Smartphones

 

One of the most obvious areas, and yet one that is often overlooked by SMEs or smaller corporates, is the integration with the company's existing on-site phone systems.  Having integrated systems allows landline calls to be seamlessly forwarded to mobiles or routed to a series of mobiles for the first responder to pick up.  There is also the additional opportunity to easily transfer mobile calls back to colleagues at head office by simply pressing the appropriate buttons on the handset.

Some companies are opting to save some money by allowing employees to bring their own devices to work.  Although it may save some initial costs, there have been a number of well documented security issues surrounding who has access to the handset (and therefore data), the security or ownership of additional applications added or even on-going access to confidential material if someone leaves the company.

Decision makers should consider how much is really saved, particularly when considering the option of multiple purchasing of handsets and flexible employee contracts.  One final consideration should be what arrangements are made with employees about reimbursing them for the costs of using their phone for work purposes. 

As the functionality of smart phones develops, there is a need to keep pace with developments and even take advice on what applications are available and how they can be integrated with a company's telecoms strategy.  There is however a word of caution about "over-specing" a phone or paying for applications or hardware that may not be necessary or is unlikely to be used.

There are a whole host of elements that need to be considered from the phone's functionality right through to how much it is going to cost the user to download or access data while abroad.  All these considerations should be looked at collectively so that a unified approach is taken when it comes to a company deciding on its telecom's strategy.

For many, the answer is working with a trusted telecoms provider who can offer a single point of expertise and a strategy in which all telecoms devices, whether mobile, voice based systems or data channels, can sit and integrate.  Technology may well be improving business, but with the right support, businesses can still be much smarter with their phones.

 

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Written by Ian Mitchell at 12:30

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