Among a select few, the Blackberry email machine and personal organiser is regarded as the ultimate in corporate slickness. For some time now it has been a machine of the business elite, with users needing a full enterprise IT infrastructure in place as well as having several hundred euro lying around in order to avail of up-to-the-second corporate email no matter where in the world they were.
Esat BT boss Bill Murphy confesses to being an avid Blackberry user, enabling him to keep the jump on colleagues in Dublin on Monday mornings despite a weekly 5.30am red-eye flight from London.
When the Blackberry email machine debuted on the Irish market last year, it was previously only available to corporate users and companies that had an enterprise IT infrastructure. Each device would have retailed at around €590.
However according to Orlagh Nevin, head of business solutions at O2, new software is available that allows users with a POP3 connection – usually a 56Kbps dial-up link – to read their email on a Blackberry device. The company has also restructured the pricing regime to enable users in small or medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) or self-employed workers to have the device for €129 with a monthly service charge of €30, which includes 3MB of GPRS data (equal to approximately 1,000 text emails per month).
The new BlackBerry offering is a hosted service that can retrieve email from up to 10 internet hosted accounts such as: Eircom.net, Yahoo, O2.ie and Hotmail. The BlackBerry automatically pushes incoming emails to users’ BlackBerry handhelds allowing them to check and respond anywhere to emails instantaneously.
According to Damien Gallagher, business consultant manager at O2, the Blackberry family comes with new software, version 2.6, that enables workers on the move to open email attachments on their Blackberry devices. Users do not need to invest in software or servers or integrate with existing company IT infrastructure as it is a hosted service only. They also have no need to dial in to access the service as messages are delivered automatically.
Nevin explains that O2 is currently looking at new features and services that could be added to the Blackberry that would enable m-business and better flexible working. “We are identifying various business solutions and are willing to partner with fixed-line telecoms firms like Esat BT and Eircom to help them come up with good flexible working solutions,” she says.
To test out the new SME/SOHO Blackberry service, O2 conducted a trial with 25 different businesses, ranging from single SOHO workers to managing directors of SMEs, including advertising agency Limetree, telecoms player MinuteBuyer and the Merrion Hotel.
“Research shows that our corporate users save almost an hour per day by using Blackberry,” Nevin continues. “We are now bringing these cost savings, productivity gains and convenience to smaller businesses, professionals and sole traders.”
Peter McCann, general manager of the Merrion Hotel says: “The efficiency of BlackBerry has helped me to manage my time much better. I can get off a plane and check and reply to my email immediately. Email keeps me informed of everything that is happening back at the hotel. We saw immediate benefits.”
Ann Corcoran is managing director of start-up advertising agency Limetree and works with a network of up to 50 different freelance professionals to create and manage campaigns on behalf of her corporate customers. She claims that the use of Blackberry over the past few months has resulted in significant boosts in productivity. “I have weeks where I am out of the office and on the road 80pc of the week. Being able to get email instantly means I don’t have to be stuck in traffic trying to get back to the office or pulling over and trying to link my mobile to my laptop to check my email. Because I work on site with clients and have to manage a company on an outsourced model with 50 different people, which could mean 15 people at any one time, it means a lot of co-ordination and I cannot afford to drop the ball.
“To set up the Blackberry I only had to pass on my settings for Microsoft Outlook to someone at O2 and I was set up. The price point was also a significant incentive. I wouldn’t have forked out over €500 for a handheld device, but for €30 a month and with virtually unlimited email it is well worth taking the hassle of trying to get back to the office,” Corcoran says. She adds that because the Blackberry synchronises with her Outlook email application, she was able to transfer her contacts and calendar information onto the device and dispense with use of a Palm handheld. “It also means that with a headset attached I can turn the device into a spare mobile phone,” Corcoran says.
By John Kennedy
Pictured: Orlagh Nevin and Damien Gallagher of O2