Rentokil Initial is saving two weeks in sales-processing time by giving its sales teams mobile PCs. This is an example of how businesses can benefit from technology to mobilise the workforce.
As reported by Computer Weekly last week, the hygiene-services company gave its UK salespeople mobile access to its ERP system in a pilot using 3G-enabled laptops, which could be implemented globally if it proves successful. The programme has already been demonstrated to reduce the sales process from 20 days to as few as three.
Salespeople can access more product information on customer sites and provide additional sales and service opportunities. The system also means that customers receive their goods earlier with the sales process being cut by up to 17 days.
Andy Brown, programme manager mobile computing and devices at IDC, said mobile computing is starting to become a differentiator for salespeople by giving them "access to information where and when they need it."
He said the technology is being driven by more predictable costs through network operators offering flat-rate charges for mobile connectivity. He also said deals between notebook makers and operators to embed Wan modules such as 3G cards in devices are also increasing the take-up of mobile services in business.
But he said that many companies are not maximising the benefits and should have companywide mobile strategies to do so. "Many are still deploying point solutions which could include access to e-mail or ERP," he said. "These are often driven departmentally."
According to Forrester, despite evidence of increased competitiveness and savings, many corporates are holding back from making line-of-business applications, such as CRM and salesforce automation, available via mobile devices. The company said companywide mobile policies are often set for security reasons rather than productivity gains.
"Ironically, even though solid ROI examples of the opportunities of mobility exist, most firms' mobile policies are motivated by fear and not opportunity. As a result, few firms - with the exception of transportation and retail - have mobilised applications beyond wireless email and personal information management," said Forrester in its report titled Defining a Mobile Enterprise Policy.
Brown at IDC said businesses must move away from this and towards a strategy of setting companywide policies otherwise mobile technologies may not be compatible, he said.
To this end he added there is a shift towards standardising on certain platforms.
Setting policies for the entire companies is vital if workers are to get "the highest possible access to information no matter where people may be," according to Jay Heiser, research VP infosecurity and risk at Gartner.
But he said private and public sector organisations must ensure that devices are controlled centrally. "This is not just security but control. How do you as an enterprise exert sufficient control over something not within your physical boundaries," he said.