The world's largest HR consultancy is rolling out Windows-based mobile technology to increase its consultants' chargeable time.
Mercer Human Resource Consulting has begun the mobile roll-out after the successful pilot of an application to help its workers make better use of their travel time, with further applications to follow.
The move follows an upgrade of all the company's desktops from Windows 95 to XP last year, a move that Mercer's workforce services manager Nigel Cowton said had provided the foundation for the new system.
"Windows XP gives us the underlying platform to develop applications to deploy on both the desktop and mobile devices. We also have quite a complex set of applications and XP removed most of the software contention [experienced in Windows 95]," he said.
For the pilot, 50 consultants were issued with HP iPAQ or Toshiba PDAs running Windows Mobile 2003, with which they could access their emails, calendar and contact information from anywhere.
The consultants were geographically spread - Mercer has 23 UK offices - and selected from different company business units, such as actuarial, company organisation and executive compensation.
Cowton said the pilot showed that consultants were productive for 10 per cent more time when travelling. A third-party timesheet recording application is now being implemented which will increase this further.
Windows XP's greater reliability had already resulted in a 15 per cent reduction in help desk calls.
This year the company aims to provide iPAQ PDAs to 200 of its more than 3,000 consultants and support staff, and to make available more in-house applications, some of which are only used by one or two practices.
By the end of the year Mercer also expects to start deploying Windows-based Vodafone smartphones.
As most consultants already have laptops, some may prefer a smartphone while others a PDA, according to Cowton.
"By all being on Microsoft, it is device-independent and easier to do. It is the same view on the desktop, laptop and mobile," he said.
"Ultimately, it is the business needs that will drive deployment of the mobile devices."
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