Mobile Technology The Mobile Manager – It’s the will not the gismos that’s missing

The challenge with new mobile technology was, until recently, to find its true practical value. It was buried amongst all the marketing hype.

Executives adopted the earliest PDAs, smartphones, and wireless devices for their features and to show off to friends and colleagues. But the novelty wore off and most were discarded and forgotten.

Now new generation devices that emerge face the prospect of being labelled as toys rather than serious solution providers. It is unfortunate because good many of these tools have the potential to significantly improve time management and boost productivity in the field.

Senior managers with limited career technology experience happily lean on their PAs, as opposed to PDAs, leaving younger colleagues to utilise the latest mobile devices. The result is all too frequent inefficiency at the top, and growing reservoir of frustration at not being able to get things done efficiently.

Luigi Cappel heads up the New Zealand Smartphone and PDA Academy and encounters this frustration almost every day. He is training growing pool of executives who want to beat the problem. “They approach me for one-on-one coaching, often because they want to use technology while away on business trip or because they’ve experienced technical problems and didn’t know how to solve them,” he explains.

Cappel promotes what he calls his “entry level of least resistance” for managers who struggle with technology. “Most senior executives who travel use laptop but often have trouble connecting when they’re away. I start by simply providing them with remote access to their server or email using CDMA or GPRS PC Card modem,” he says. (CDMA and GPRS are the mobile data networks of Telecom and Vodafone respectively.) “They are reliable, easy to use, and the path of least resistance – one that’s easy to comprehend.”

Cappel helps clients with basic functions such as setting up folders, managing information (for easy access later), prioritising email and automatically routing email messages to file. He champions mobile email as the “killer application” for utilising dead or wasted time when away from the office.

In his book Unleashing The Road Warrior (also available on CD ROM) Cappel quotes Rogen International/Goldhaber Research Associates email survey which revealed that the average New Zealand business executive spends 112 minutes per day processing email (compared with 128 minutes in face-to-face meetings with customers). The time could be better spent on more productive activities, he argues. Downtime away from the office – like time spent commuting or stuck in traffic – is, in his opinion, better spent tending to email communication. “If executives can regain half an hour day, that adds up to 14 days of additional productivity per year,” suggests Cappel. “That is significant return on investment.”

Mobile email is becoming the communication medium of choice for many managers. It’s quick, precise contact any time and anywhere, and reaches even difficult-to-get-hold-of people. It is tipped to become as ubiquitous as the cellphone, and clever new functionality in programs such as Outlook and Lotus Notes make it easier for busy executives to synchronise schedules with colleagues.

Essential mobile tools
You don’t need to make huge investment in mobile technology to make better use of the time you spend away from the office but, Packet Data account (GPRS or CDMA) is essential. You will also need cellphone and PDA, or perhaps ‘Smartphone’ that combines the two.

Some Smartphones are stronger in their PDA functionality, while others are simply better phones with the PDA facility an add-on. Because it’s not possible to be online viewing data and talking at the same time, some users prefer to carry the two separate devices. The industry is currently debating the strategic marketing merits of the one or two device option.

Mobile managers looking for additional productivity in the field, such as document or spreadsheet production or mobile printing are still opting for laptop computers as their replacement for desktop computers. Wireless capability is fuelling this mushrooming demand with market leader Toshiba recently reporting record sales month on both sides of the Tasman.

Laptops and PDAs can be used to print documents and images in the field. To meet this need printer manufacturers have developed fast, lightweight, mobile printers that are capable of producing exceptional quality prints. One example is Canon’s 1.8 kilogram i70 Bubble Jet which offers USB connection and an infra-red interface for wireless printing from laptops and suitably equipped mobile phones. The i70’s special technology produces five picolitre ink droplets for 4800×1200 dpi resolution. That’s photo-quality desktop printing for remote applications.

Michael Modrich, Canon’s market development manager for consumer imaging products, says the i70 can print directly from Canon Bubble Jet Direct compatible digital cameras or digital video cameras. “Real estate agents in particular find this feature useful. They can photograph potential buyer in particular property, and then provide high quality picture on the spot for the client to take away. It’s all about encouraging that emotional connection between buyers and properties.”

The printer supports the worldwide standard EXIF 2.2. Under EXIF 2.2, digital camera can record data tags for specific camera settings and functions, such as whether the flash is on or off. By referencing some or all of this information, an EXIF-compatible printer can process digital camera images intelligently based on specific camera settings and the shooting environment.

Competitive advantage
Companies that equip their mobile workforce with technology for functions such as remote access to information, dispatch applications, and direct sales generally capture major productivity gains. Forecasters predict that cellphones will eventually evolve into Smartphones as mainstream devices and PDAs, handheld PCs and Tablet PCs are poised for more widespread use.

Smartphones from the likes of Kyocera, Handspring, AudioVox and Qtek are already setting new functionality benchmarks. The Qtek handheld, for example, is GPRS mobile phone, computer with full internet and email capabilities, and personal organiser. It utilises Microsoft’s Pocket PC 2002 Phone Edition operating system, which has applications such as Word, Excel, Explorer and Media Player. Other features include touch-sensitive colour screen, MP3 playback, speakerphone, and calendar.

The Qtek also converts handwriting to text and records voices. And once recorded, audio messages can be emailed anywhere in the world. The Qtek is directly targeted at the business market, and is designed to replace the typical laptop, mobile phone and pager combo. Using Vodafone’s global network, users can surf the Infoscan website for personalised listings of the latest foreign exchange, money market, futures, indices, commodities, and stock market information.

New PDAs and handheld PCs from Palm, Handspring, Compaq, HP, Casio and Toshiba are still making IT news headlines. Palm’s new Tungsten T handheld pushes the envelope in form and function, and like many other handheld devices, is Bluetooth-enabled for wireless LAN connectivity. Palm is also about to launch the Tungsten W – new GPRS Smartphone. The iPAQ 5450 Pocket PC meanwhile has built-in fingerprint reader for the more security-conscious road warrior.

So today’s managers have an array of remote options to choose from to maintain seamless workflow. Cappel suggests managers working from home opt for Jetstream and tap into VPN (Virtual Private Network). “But you’ll need the bandwidth to transfer documents to the server, or for high-speed access,” he adds.

He also advises remote managers to experience the advantages of Instant Messaging. “With SMS [Short Message Service] you could never be sure if the recipient was at

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