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Baseline Survey: The Mobile Motive

By Baselinemag  |  Posted 2006-05-06 Print this article Print

A Baseline survey shows that spending on mobile computing is on the rise. The top goal: getting data out to—and back from—remote workers faster.

What's driving mobile computing purchases by enterprises? Hint: It's not the junior executive pining to pocket the shiniest device he can get his mitts on.

The clear-cut No. 1 business benefit of mobile computing applications is keeping workers connected. In a Baseline survey of 143 information-technology executives, 81% of respondents cited better communication and collaboration among employees as the key advantage of providing such hardware and software, followed by 69% who said increased responsiveness to customers was a benefit.

Click here to view additional results from the mobile survey exclusively online.

Those and other reasons are driving enterprises to budget more for mobile computing projects, which encompass everything from wireless e-mail devices to special-purpose software for salespeople using laptops. The average business expects to increase mobile computing spending 1% to 4% in 2006, according to Baseline's survey, which was conducted in March. And for larger companies—those with more than 1,000 employees—the median expected increase was 5% to 14%, up from an average range of $250,000 to $500,000 in 2005 spending.

For Dave Croteau, manager of customer support for Toshiba America Medical Systems, getting data from his mobile field-service staff in a timely manner was a nagging problem. And the delay was losing the company money.

Croteau oversees customer-service operations for the Tustin, Calif.-based company, which provides service and support for medical imaging equipment, including ultrasound and X-ray machines, to hospitals and labs across the country. His team dispatches one of 400 field service engineers whenever a customer needs help. PDF Download

Here was Croteau's beef: The engineers were equipped with laptops running Amdocs' Clarify customer relationship management software to enter information about the work they performed. But if they were at a customer's facility, they usually couldn't get a network connection to log in to the Clarify system, and they'd put off the data-entry task. "The average close for a case was running over 13 days," Croteau says, "which coincided with the technical engineers doing their expense cards every two weeks."

That delayed how quickly Toshiba America Medical Systems could get paid, because the billing department can't process invoices until an engineer files a report detailing the work. Plus, Croteau says, the billable hours engineers entered were often only hazy guesses, and it turned out that on average, customers were being undercharged.

Last fall, Croteau led a team that rolled out Research in Motion's wireless BlackBerry devices running software developed by Antenna Software, which specializes in mobile applications. The system lets technical engineers enter data, such as the parts they used during a visit, into Clarify from their BlackBerrys no matter where they are.

About 80% of the field service techs now have BlackBerrys. The results? According to Croteau, time to close cases has dropped 70%, to about four days; he's shooting to get it down to 24 hours. In addition, technicians have reported an average of 22% more billable hours; Croteau says that because they're entering the data sooner, it's much closer to reality.

In the first year, the project will cost $700,000, including hardware and software. Croteau says the project's expenses will be recovered in seven months if the company can tally just 15 extra minutes of previously unreported billable time per month per technician. "In terms of our total cost structure," he says, "one of the biggest things is that our field engineers are reporting time more accurately now with the wireless devices."

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