The world of business is changing as the workforce becomes increasingly mobile, writes Mark Taylor, MD of Nashua Mobile. It's no longer practical or desirable to have one's employees spend their days chained to their desks.
For small to medium sized businesses (SMBs), this trend offers a wealth of opportunities to grow revenues and cut costs. Underpinned by maturing technologies such as faster yet more cost effective cellular data services and powerful but easy to use smartphones, workforce mobility is helping agile SMBs to become more competitive and flexible.
The technology may seem intimidating, but it's actually an evolution from tools that SMBs already take for granted, such as cellphones and Internet-connected PCs. The arrival of cellular communications meant that you could always be reached, giving you the freedom to spend more time doing productive work at client sites, to go on holiday yet stay in touch with developments at work, and perhaps even do away with the need to run an office with a secretary simply to take phone calls.
Little needs to be said about the role that PCs have played in automating business processes and easing communications with tools such as email and office productivity software. With this basic infrastructure in place, SMBs are now ready for true enterprise mobility.
Technologies such as wireless broadband, Wi-Fi hotspots and cellular technologies such as GPRS, 3G and HSDPA are all helping SMBs to improve customer service and grow their revenues by allowing staff to spend more time in the field. Your staff can carry all the tools they need to stay in touch with them in their pockets or briefcases.
Your options include notebooks outfitted with HSDPA/3G and Wi-Fi cards or smartphones such as the BlackBerry devices. Mobile and wireless applications that SMBs are adopting range from personal productivity tools such as remote access to calendars and email, up to specialised vertical industry solutions such as vehicle tracking systems and GPRS-enabled point-of-sale devices.
For example, a worker can download a presentation and email via a HSDPA modem or Wi-Fi card between meetings. High-speed cellular connectivity technologies such as GPRS, EDGE, 3G and HSDPA make it possible for employees in the field to scan a corporate contacts list, place orders, check inventories or look up contact details remotely.
Handheld devices such as the BlackBerry smartphones are both powerful and affordable. The BlackBerry solution gives you and your employees the ability to stay in touch at all times. The impact on productivity and customer service in an organisation with only a few employees can be enormous.
Some smartphones even include an integrated GPS, ensuring that your drivers, service employees and sales staff never get lost on the way to a critical appointment.
Most of this technology is available off the shelf and can be deployed relatively painlessly, with little need for huge investments in re-training staff or in deploying new technology infrastructure. Companies such as Nashua Mobile are able to help customers to set up hosted email servers, office and notebook computers, and mobile devices like smartphones in such a way that their users have seamless access to their calendars and emails wherever they are. It also offers unified messaging solutions that bring together mobile and Internet messaging services in one interface.
Affordable tariffs, increased network coverage and maturing applications have all combined to make the world of mobile and wireless work a reality for SMBs. Few smaller businesses can afford to miss out on the opportunities that mobile and wireless technologies have to offer them to increase productivity, boost efficiency and streamline their business processes.