Property Managers Discard BlackBerrys

Seeking compatibility with its desktop technology, Nelson Bakewell is adopting Windows Mobile-based devices

Property management company Nelson Bakewell has ditched BlackBerrys in favour of Windows Mobile-based devices. The move is part of a major overhaul of its corporate mobility strategy. It means smart phones replace a scattergun mobile portfolio.

Until the tail end of last year, Nelson Bakewell's mobile landscape had consisted of personal mobile devices owned by individual staff members - expensing their mobile bills - mixed with some corporate BlackBerrys running on Vodafone.

Nelson Bakewell IT director, Nick Scott, told "We reviewed everything in company and, within that, some teams in the company were coming up with requests for using information online and having better tools when they're out and about. We really had got a bit behind on the options they had when they were out in the field."

Scott said they decided to ditch BlackBerrys within the company and go Windows Mobile for development reasons.

He said: "The reason we chose Windows was we wanted a development front-end to match up to what people were used to on their desktop and have reduced time frame for development - that was big asking point for us - and it also simplified the world."

Now workers who regularly go out into the field will be equipped with either an M600, an M30100 or a C600 Orange-branded HTC device and will have access to the core nuggets of their PIM (personal information management), namely contacts, calendar and email.

Nelson Bakewell is using the devices to reduce workers' dependency on paper. When staff carry out visits to properties they no longer have to record data on paper forms, which then have to be inputted into a system and sent to clients once they return to the office.

Instead all data is put directly into forms on the smart phone, converted into PDFs and emailed to the client. Forms have also become shorter as a result of translation to digital media.

In the paper world, Scott said, surveyors had tended towards the verbose: "People spent five pages describing what they're doing when in reality all they needed was a tickbox."

It's estimated that each team wasted 150 to 200 hours per year on the reports and the company has since seen a "huge leap in productivity".

Nelson Bakewell is also finding new ways to save time with its Windows Mobile smart phones. As well as doing away with paper forms, mobiles are also helping the property managers to get high-tech with their tape measures.

The company is experimenting with using an application called GiveMePower which moves data from the laser measuring devices surveyors use to take the dimensions of rooms. The dimensions are now translated into a line drawing and surveyors can add pictures and verbal or written notes to the diagrams.

The devices then store the reports and other information to be transmitted back to the network on the phone's SIM card. If the user is out of reach of the network, the information is stored and transmitted as soon as connectivity makes it possible.

As well as giving Nelson Bakewell a rest from admin, the time saved in using the smart phones to gather and store information could even make profound changes to the way the company operates. Scott said: "If you're in a position to measure quickly, you can go for bigger contracts."

The company is also experimenting with HSDPA, which Orange is calling 3G+, once the network is more widespread.

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