Relacom: Tips on Investing in the Right Mobile Technology for your Field Workforce

Niamh Madigan

John Bridger, IT Director, Relacom discusses new investments in mobile technology and challenges when it comes to limitations around implementation.

Enterprise Mobility Exchange (EME): What are the key drivers behind your new investments in mobile technology for your field workforce?

John Bridger: Relacom is a field service provider to utilities and telecom companies in the Nordic region, and we are probably the most prominent and largest of those providers. What we see today, as our customers are demanding more features, relating to how technicians work in the field with location based services, photographs, documents, map management, and everything around being at a certain place and utilising IT technology at that point. That's really what is driving us towards large investments in field technology.

EME: Looking back, what has been your greatest achievement at Relacom to date?

John: In 2007, we defined a completely new IT strategy for Relacom group, and I think my biggest achievement is probably having worked with that strategy from the beginning, and seeing it through to its implementation last year, and through this year.

EME: What are your current biggest challenges moving forward?

John: I think perhaps the biggest challenge for us is technology adoption in the field. It's not simply from a user perspective, but the kind of technology limitations you can find when you actually come to implement it and which you can't necessarily effect. So, for example, we sometimes find that network coverage in the 3G networks, when you get to more remote areas, is definitely not 100%. When that happens, you have to look at how the technicians are working, what their processes are, what work-arounds you can come forward with to negate those limitations. That's probably the biggest single challenge we have.

EME: Leading on from that question, what do you think the solution provider community, Enterprise Mobility and beyond, can do to help you address these challenges?

John: What we're seeing is not necessarily directly related to those challenges that we're facing, but one challenge we face all the time is cost. All we're seeing in the marketplace right now are what we used to call consumer grade devices, or consumer price devices, which are starting to penetrate into the corporate device market. For example, in our case, we're investing heavily in Samsung Android telephones which have a much lower price point than, say, more traditional PDAs and rugged devices. The drawback is essentially that you don't find complete accessory offerings, so for example, maybe car holders, vehicle mounts, all this kind of thing. You find other aspects, like battery life, which are not quite as good as you'd like. So I think that's one of the challenges that providers face, really. It's to, partly for the more traditional providers, to meet the price points of these new challenges, and for the new challenges to kind of round off their product offerings so that for the corporate market, they are actually satisfactory.

The other aspect to this is that, of course, Samsung is an Android platform, and the Android platform isn't really corporate today, because it's very open. So I think one of the challenges for the Android platform is for providers, like Samsung, to see how they can work with management software companies to make those platforms more corporate, if you like, more suitable for corporate use.