A Seat At The Mobile Round Table

— February 01, 2008

Imagine a world where David Reynolds, the director of sales of a 100-person specialty plastics manufacturer, is awaiting his flight to visit a key medical services customer. To drown out all that airport turmoil, he's wearing noise-canceling headphones connected to his laptop's MP3 player. His wireless wide-area broadband connectivity over EVDO enables access to his company's internal blog discussing the needs of healthcare and medical services clients. He reviews his company's virtual manufacturing plant in Second Life which depicts the supply-chain dependencies in creating specialty plastics products. Imagine this type of connected, empowered world for small and medium businesses.
 
Contrary to popular belief, these technology tools don't aid productivity in the office, whether the operation is a large-scale enterprise or a Small- to Medium-Sized Business (SMB). Technology tools aid work done in venues outside the office -- the places where SMB employees like David Reynolds spend 52% of their work week.
 
Using Yankee Group SMB survey data and some Merlin-esque magic, we've identified four employee types, three of which show productivity benefits from consumer- and businesscentric technology tools. Which type of employee are you?
 
>Sir Lancelot, the road-warrior, internationally traveling deal-maker type;
>Knight of the Round Table with aspiring goals and heavy home-office needs;
>Townsfolk, content with your lot in life but spending a lot of time commuting to work;
>Squire, a younger, less-educated, locally traveling, just-making-ends-meet employee
 
Sir Lancelots, Knights of the Round Table and Squires all benefit from consumer-centric technology tools like blogs, Wikis, EVDO-enabled laptops, smartphones, online auction sites and online travel services. Townsfolk don't.
 
So what's an SMB to do?
 
Stop purchasing office-centric technology solutions: you're throwing good money away. You need technology solutions that empower a remote and traveling workforce. If you have to choose between a new phone system and smartphones for your mobile-centric employees, choose the latter.
 
Get your I.T. staff to support the Squires in your organization as much as the Sir Lancelots and Knights of the Round Table. Those Squires will display impressive productivity increases if equipped with the right tools.
 
Invest in blogs, Wikis, smartphones, instant messaging, EVDO-enabled laptops, and online travel services for your mobile employees. Slaying dragons, saving fair damsels and skirting castle moats is difficult work, none of which is accomplished by sitting in an office cubicle (or standing at the Round Table). The best of these technology tools increases productivity 30%-40% outside the office. Make the investment. //
 
By Steve Hilton, VP Enterprise and SMB Research, The Yankee Group. Steve Hilton's "Ask Steve" column focuses on the SMB market. It will debut on MobileEnterpriseMag.com in January 2008. Ask Steve your questions about mobility solutions for SMBs by emailing AskSteve@MobileEnterpriseMag.com

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