Once again the public sector and its suppliers are under pressure to perform. In a recent report published by government think-tank the New Local Government Network, entitled Cutting the Wires, public sector bodies were entreated to exploit mobile technology to improve the quality of service delivery to the citizen, while reducing costs.
But without targeted funding, or any clear direction as to how best to exploit the mobile platform, public-sector organisations often pass the problem further down the supply chain to the contractor.
Most invitations to tender include a requirement for contractors to have a mobile solution in place. This can place a burden on contractors. These are not just large national organisations, but small, local companies. For many smaller companies this could be the final straw in the cost of doing business with government. They may perceive that there is little choice but to hand over the market to the larger players. Surely this was not the objective for the Cutting the Wires initiative?
A few Housing Associations and Local Authorities have already adopted mobile technology for their direct labour organisations. But in many cases these solutions have been complex and expensive to deploy.
The only way mobile technology is going to attain widespread adoption is to make it easy to use and to deploy. By combining the use of standard web browsers with familiar PDA technology, organisations can provide their end-users with access to key information.
By providing end-users with access to information from a familiar, easy-to-use PDA, organisations can transform working practices. Real-time information ensures that job details and availability of spare parts are up to date and accurate. Productivity is increased by reducing the time spent trawling through suppliers to buy parts, while stock control is transformed.
Mobile technology can transform the delivery of service, as recognised in the Cutting the Wires paper. However, while full of good intentions, the paper fails to address the cost of mobilisation and the dangers associated with passing that cost down the supply chain. Housing Associations and Local Authorities cannot afford for local contractors to walk away from public-sector business because of the perceived cost of doing business.
Martin Taylor is managing director of Impact Applications.
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