By Shelley Solheim  |  Posted 2005-11-14 Print this article Print

Russell is now using the Boise, Idaho, companys OneBridge Mobile Groupware to give 250 employees access to wireless e-mail, PIM data and, eventually, back-end corporate applications on handheld devices. Approximately 90 percent of those employees are using Palm Inc.s Treo 600 smart phones, and the other 10 percent are using miscellaneous cradle-fixed devices.

The move has not only increased productivity for Russells employees but it has also saved money on support and hardware in the process. "We wanted to integrate into our existing infrastructure wherever possible," said Nelson. That infrastructure included Microsoft Corp. Exchange servers; multiple points of access; Citrix; notebooks, through VPN; Web mail through Microsoft Outlook; and OWA (Outlook Web Access). "A lot of our infrastructure is outsourced, so every server has a cost tied to it, on a monthly basis."

Click here to read about Googles tests of a secure Wi-Fi service in California.
The new system also requires less storage. "By going to OneBridge, rather than go from four servers to a minimum of six, we were able to consolidate it all down to two servers," Nelson said.

The next step for Russell is to extend Sage Software Inc.s SalesLogix CRM application from the back end out to its mobile workers. Russell did an analysis with Extended Systems but decided to wait a year before making the move.

"We did an early assessment of what it might look like, and it hit a strong resonant chord in the business unit. But we werent ready internally to [take] the next step," said Nelson. "There was a lot of work that had to happen on [the] back end and a lot of work that had to happen on the management side. This year, were actively looking at how to get it done."

What the company has historically done "is to rush out with a technical solution, only to find out theres a human being behind that," Nelson said. "Salespeople are focused on sales—their first goal is not to learn the greatest technology," he added.

For now, however, the increased communication is paying off, said Nelson. "Our business is largely comprised of knowledge workers ... so we have a huge quantity of corridor warriors running around from meeting to meeting," he said. "As such, they historically read and respond to e-mail at the end of the day. So, youre weeding through a hundred e-mails at the end of the day, trying to figure out whats important." With the new mobile system, employees can access e-mail virtually anywhere and deal with it the minute it is received. "This gives us a lot more response to e-mails throughout the day," Nelson said.

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