In doing research for today's news item about RIM Blackberries entering the Chinese market, I found this story at vnunet about a bit of vendor-sponsored research (not surprisingly, the sponsor is RIM) that claims Blackberries increase mobile workers' productivity by about an hour a day.
Whenever I hear claims about productivity and mobile workers, the first question I always ask myself is, "Exactly what is a mobile worker?" Having grown up professionally in publishing, I, of course, think of sales teams. The helpful vnunet piece adds a nifty little factoid that the Yankee Group reports 50 percent of European workers are classified as "mobile." So, maybe more workers are mobile than I instinctively assume.
Still, I tend to agree with the obligatory counterpoint in the article that contends mobile e-mail has created a culture in which employers think they have unlimited access to employees. In other words, employees are not more productive, at least in terms of their rate of productivity -- they just work more.
This additional data point, that only 20 percent of large field organizations fully exploit mobile platforms, would tend to shore up that argument. And analysts continue to chime in that rich applications -- which essentially turn a smartphone into an always-on laptop -- are the real watershed for mobile productivity.
I'm 39, so I fall firmly in the demographic of folks who find the idea of my boss expecting me to quickly answer an e-mail sent at 9 p.m. more than a little off-putting. Don't get me wrong -- I have a laptop, and I pop into company e-mail almost every night about 8 p.m. to check for anything critical and for evening submissions from our numerous freelancers. I carry a cell phone, in case something really important happens.
Otherwise, it can wait until tomorrow. Or Monday, for that matter.
But that's me, and I am certainly not representative of the always-on generation: I cringe when I see folks frantically firing up their BlackBerries the second they land after a two-hour flight. Obviously, my immediate whereabouts are not nearly as vital to my company (or my friends) as these folks' are. So be it. Generations.
It seems to me that from a business perspective, the emerging category of ultra-mobile devices (think iPhone 3.o) will need some process to filter urgent communication from run-of-the-mill stuff -- perhaps even a challenge to a mail sender to categorize the importance of the message being sent (beep at the receiver; it can wait till the recipient happens to log back on; just hold onto this until tomorrow).
If not that, then at least some approach -- and I don't think you can trust users to do this on their own -- to ensure that business communication and personal chatter are routed through different channels, even if they are going to the same device.
Pull just seems a lot productive to me; push should be used more judiciously.