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.


A Leaner Way to Work

Despite the challenges of managing and securing mobile devices, companies are finding new mobile computing tools to let employees collaborate more rapidly. Dresdner Kleinwort Wasserstein, an investment bank based in London, runs 2,700 separate "wiki" pages on its internal networks. A wiki is a free-form, Web-based forum that can be modified by anyone who's a member of the group.

In the 18 months since rolling them out, Dresdner has found the wikis, running software from Palo Alto, Calif.-based Socialtext, have become immensely popular among its 6,000 employees to keep in touch with each other, says Myrto Lazopoulou, the bank's head of user-centered design. Information shared on the wikis ranges from meeting notes to ongoing project team discussions. "You can stick a meeting agenda on a wiki instead of sending e-mail to 30 people," she says.

Now, Dresdner has opened up access to the wikis to mobile users. Most of the bank's key employees use BlackBerry devices, Lazopoulou explains, and as the wikis grew in popularity, many wanted a way to keep plugged in while they were on the road. Some features are absent in the BlackBerry version; for example, users don't see a button for their favorite wikis. But otherwise, the mobile wikis—referred to as "mikis"—provide full access to the group pages. "It was the best solution to keep everybody up to date," she says.

At most companies, however, not every employee needs a BlackBerry or similar wireless device. Bigger companies are more restrictive in doling them out: 27% of the survey respondents at companies with more than 1,000 employees say they give mobile devices to all management employees, compared with 43% of those at smaller firms. And whereas no large organizations give every one of their non-management workers mobile devices, 16% of the little guys do (see "Who Gets the Gizmos?").

Accenture, the global consulting services company, doesn't arm all of its 126,000 troops with the wireless gadget du jour. In fact, fewer than 10% of its employees have a company-supported wireless personal digital assistant such as a BlackBerry, says CIO Frank B. Modruson.

Why? A wireless PDA is upward of twice as expensive to own as a laptop PC, he says: A $1,200 laptop amortized over two years is cheaper than a handheld device, which can cost up to $500, plus two years of wireless access service at $50 to $100 per month. "The decision about whether to give someone a mobile device comes down, in some cases, to salary," Modruson explains. "If the cost of the device is just a small fraction of the person's salary, it makes sense to give them that kind of device."


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