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Mobile Accessibility – two words that an IT Consultant can’t get enough. Normally, clients will call the one they used to access promptly. This post is about tips to enhance your presence to your clients, using a modern Business Handheld – some of You might find them fancy toys, though. After reading this article you might happen to change your opinion.

Having been a Business Consultant since  2000, I participated in numerous projects, that means lots of travelling and being far from the office or home. At the beginning, mobile internet connection was pretty rare, at least in our region. However, today almost all modern cellular phone provides access to the web. We only need to utilize this great opportunity as much as possible. 

Let’s see what are the key capabilities of a handheld device a SAP Consultant might need.

 

  1. Push email, calendar and contacts: the time of offline emails with periodic sync is gone. Push technology enables You to be alerted whenever a mail arrives in your mailbox. But there is more: your calendar entries are backed up to the mail server immediately as you save them on your mobile phone, so that those who are authorized to check your calendar have instant information about your availability. The same bidirectional syncing applies to mailing contacts, too. Please note that this level of email service is not only available with Exchange servers, but with some free providers, too (Yahoo! Mail, Gmail, etc)
  2. Push Notification: Instant Messaging is getting as basic in business terms as email. Some providers enable push notifications for your IM account, too. A practical example: you are on the train, travelling to one of your partners. Your handy is switched on. Let’s say You are using Skype for instant messaging and VoIP (internet-based audio and/or video conversation). There are web services, even free ones, that You can let listen to your Skype account, and push a notification whenever someone sends a message or initiates a VoIP call to You. Apart from IM, there are several services that might make use of push notifications. You can, for example create applications that push SAP Alerts to such handheld devices. Have a look at EcoHub at SDN for such solutions
  3. Remote Desktop Access: sometimes it is enough to have a look at the client’s desktop to realize what he/she is doing wrong. There are a couple of free applications for the most popular mobile platforms to support RDP to access Microsoft desktops, or VNC to reach almost any other remote computers. Please keep in mind that such features usually require VPN access, so make sure the device supports both the appropriate VPN protocol and RDP or VNC, too. A kind of workaround is an application for online conferences, eg WebEx. Using such an application is the easiest way to involve others in web conferences, or just share the desktop or selected applications with others. Another important point to check if the smart phone You are interested in is able to start / receive calls while connecting to remote computers
  4. Location based Services (LBS): actually, features that belong here are not strictly related to the IT Business, however, might eventually help a lot. You can easily find nearby ATMs, pharmacies, banks, etc, or navigate to meeting points
  5. Full-featured web browser: the term “full-featured” used to mean the support of HTML4, or even 5. With such a browser you can always check your bank account, start transfers, or even create an invoice – in case you, like me, use an invoicing web application
  6. Internet tethering: there is a point when it is worth changing for your laptop, instead of working on the small screen of a cell phone. When, for example You need to log into an SAP system, it’s no use to do it on a 480×320 resolution screen, even if its is possible via RDP. In this case You will want to share the mobile internet connection of your handheld with your laptop. Again, it is important that the device must be able to start and receive phone calls in the meantime
These are the features You can expect from an up-to-date business handheld. There are several types on the market. What I would strongly recommend when purchasing one is – apart from the functional checklist above – to test the user interface deeply to see if it really makes You effective
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