The Mobile Workforce



  • Increasing mobility and productivity presents a cost challenge for business; data security, however needs to be protected
  • Financing and supplying devices for staff means better security and control of assets, especially in the case of a security breach
  • Capex and opex considerations are vital in deciding how to finance your handheld device estate

Handheld devices have revolutionised the way we consume, and do business. But before financing them in the workplace, businesses should weigh up the options.

Smartphones have become an everyday essential. According to Deloitte’s Global Mobile Consumer Survey (GMCS) for 2016, smartphone adoption is nearing a plateau at 81% of adults and 91% of 18- to 44-year-olds. “No other personal device has had the same commercial and societal impact as the smartphone, and no other current device seems likely to,” the report said.

But it’s not all about online shopping and keeping up with social media. Businesses large and small are also making use of smartphones and handheld devices as they attempt to boost revenues and cut costs.

Deloitte’s GMCS: Ireland 2016 – There’s no place like phone – found that 48% use their smartphone for work calls, and 53% use their mobile to access work emails. It means bosses and their employees can continue working on the daily commute and travelling in between meetings. While there are issues around what this means for work-life balance, it allows businesses to be connected, organised and remain informed while out of the office.

Seeing the benefits

A case in point was the recent decision by housing provider New Charter Group to begin using the 1st Touch 360° Tenant Portal system to boost customer service levels and improve efficiency. It said the system would “deliver a single view of all key data, both for field operatives through their handheld devices and for tenants through an online portal-based customer hub”.

In essence, it allows tenants to make payments, request repairs and report antisocial behaviour, among other tasks. Staff, field workers and management can also, through the system, get a single view of all the data when visiting customers.

New Charter Group’s former business transformation change manager, Yvonne Campbell, said: “A significant increase in customer access and the introduction of class-leading mobile workforce technology are the primary drivers behind our introduction of 1st Touch 360°. There are also benefits for us as an organisation, as our customer insight and business intelligence will now drive our decision-making and actions. The combined result will be a significant improvement in both efficiency and customer service.”

The benefits seem clear, but businesses – particularly large businesses – need to consider a host of issues before making the commitment to introduce smartphones or handheld devices into their operations.

There is much talk these days about the policy of BYOD (bring your own device), where employers allow employees to bring their personal smartphones or tablets into work to utilise existing wifi or network connections and access company data. By not providing paid-for devices, the total IT outlay for a business is reduced, although some employers do pay a subsidy to help employees buy their device and pay for business calls. But is this really an effective answer for employers when funding mobile devices?

Taking control of devices

“By and large, companies rely heavily on employees to utilise their own devices as far as possible to reduce investment costs,” says telecoms analyst Sourav Rout. “However, these can have serious security implications, as not all devices may be acceptably secure.”

While this is a particular problem for smaller and even medium-sized companies, these devices pose risks for larger firms too. Rout pinpoints the vulnerability that especially cloud services cause and the imperative for companies to maintain a digitally secure work environment that does not compromise intellectual property. This necessitates companies "to provide handheld devices to employees that conform to security policies and access privileges that the company may enforce”.


“By and large, companies rely heavily on employees to utilise their own devices as far as possible to reduce costs, but these can have serious security implications”

 Sourav Rout, Telecoms Analyst

What then of financing handheld devices? And how can large companies give staff the right equipment in the most cost-effective manner?

There are a number of options, from traditional bank loans to asset and invoice financing. Insurance will be another cost, particularly when replacement and damage come into play. Again, there are many options open, including portable equipment insurance.

Reducing the outlay

One strategy that corporations are implementing is the separation of handset and airtime purchasing. The default has been that, in a complex process such as procuring thousands of handsets, businesses have traditionally opted for a bundled package of hardware and airtime.

Businesses like this traditional model as it allows monthly payment of a coupled airtime and device contract. But with financial pressures on IT and communications, they should consider decoupling the device and airtime purchase to make significant savings. And leasing enables businesses to spread the cost of acquiring a device while retaining the device’s residual value throughout its lifecycle.



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