Case Study: QES Investment Ltd use a 3Com and ACT! communication solution

In the ever-mobile world of business, it is essential to have access to notes, contact details and diary schedules when away from...

In the ever-mobile world of business, it is essential to have access to notes, contact details and diary schedules when away from the office. Specialist corporate finance company QES Investment Ltd uses Personal Digital Assistants to manage far flung data needs.

QES Investment Ltd is a specialist corporate finance company that advises investors about projects in CIS countries such as Ukraine. Many of the company's operations necessitate QES' managing director, Bertrand Coste, making regular visits to these foreign territories to introduce investors to local businesses and monitor the status of ongoing projects.

An essential feature of a foreign business trips for Coste is access to an up-to-date schedule and contact list. QES decided to use PDAs as a method of compiling and updating this information, replacing their current paper-based system of filofaxes, post-it notes and telephone messages.

The main factor influencing QES' choice of PDA was their use of the ACT! personal information manager from Symantec. London co-ordinator, Catherine Lamert, has previously consulted with Symantec to develop the original English version of ACT! and, following her recommendation, QES has been using ACT! for the past four years.

Subsequently, QES was looking for a convenient ACT!-compatible portable system and settled on the 3-com PalmPilot, Lamert currently using a Palm 3 and Coste recently upgraded to the Palm 5. Coste, a native French speaker bought his Palm 5 in Switzerland and chose to run the PDA's operating system in French.

[see video]

When working in London, both Coste's and Lamert's schedules and contacts are managed by ACT! for Windows and kept synchronised via QES' peer to peer Local Area Network (LAN). The information is then transferred to their respective Palm Pilots using the 3-Com "hotsync cradle", an interface that communicates with a computer via a serial connection. This can also be done over the network if needed.

During foreign trips, changes in calendar and contact details are relayed to Coste via an email to his laptop computer. The appropriate changes are then entered into his Palm 5 by hand.

However, QES is currently moving to a more efficient system, whereby the email can be sent directly to Coste's Palm 5 via an infrared connection with his Ericsson mobile phone that contains a built in modem. This method allows QES to "hotsync" Coste's Palm 5 remotely, updating any information automatically.

This will mean lighter travelling for Coste as he will no longer need to take his laptop abroad for this purpose. The Palm V can also be used to send and receive short emails and send faxes using the infrared port and a compatible GSM phone.

[See PowerPoint presentation]

QES didn't subscribe to any formal program of training when they replaced their existing system with PDA technology, preferring what they describe as a "trial and error" approach to incorporating the organisers. However, both Catherine Lamert and Bertrand Coste made use of the built in tutorial that covers most basic features.

Despite its apparent usefulness, QES still considers the PalmPilot to have a number of shortcomings. The PalmPilot "graffiti" function, a system that allows you to "write" on the PalmPilot's touch-sensitive screen using a standard vocabulary of strokes, has unimpressed Catherine Lamert. She prefers to enter text into the organiser using the onscreen keyboard. Lamert also commented on the PalmPilot's display, saying that, at times, she found it difficult to read. However, these are not considered serious drawbacks when compared to the PalmPilot's success at managing personal information.

By Richard Pitt

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