Features: February 17th, 2012

The size and scope of mobile working projects expected to increase dramatically across local government in the next two to three years. This article looks at the benefits and barriers to its development.

The report on mobile working from NDL analyses the results of detailed interviews with 160 local authorities and housing associations. It shows that around 60% now have a line of business mobile working project underway, while a further fifth have projects in the planning stage. By 2014, 56% of these projects are expected to involve more than 100 individual users while in 2011 only 17% of projects are on a similar scale. The figures also reveal that over 80% of mobile working projects have been running for two years or less than two years, while almost 50% were set up within the last 12 months.

Managing director of NDL, Declan Grogan, explained: “All these figures are for line of business mobile working projects which enable fieldworkers to carry out a transaction in situ to meet a citizen or organisational need. This might be anything from resolving an incident of fly tipping to carrying out pot hole repairs to housing maintenance tasks.

“The figures revealed certainly suggest that we’re on the cusp of a revolution in mobile working with the practice rapidly gaining credence in local government circles. Having said that, we all know the pressure local authority budgets are under so it would be wrong to ignore the impact this financial pressure may have on the future of mobile working.”

The report shows a mixed picture, with 57% of respondents saying the economic climate would have an impact on future mobile working programmes. However, of these 36% of respondents said budget cuts would encourage mobile working, while a further 8% said spending cuts were having both a positive and negative effect.

Mr Grogan commented: “Although feedback on the specific impact of spending cuts is mixed, overall the report shows that the barriers to mobile working are weakening while the benefits and a huge return on investment are becoming increasingly demonstrable.”

The Mobile Working Report shows that the cashable benefits recorded by respondents have increased significantly between 2010 and 2011, while the non-cashable benefits have remained high across the two year period:

Cashable benefits

• 71% of 2011 respondents reported cost savings, up from 27% in 2010

• 80% of 2011 respondents reported a reduction in administration costs, up from around 60% in 2010

• Approximately 75 % of 2011 respondents reported a reduction in travel costs, up from around 65% in 2010

• Around 45% of 2011 respondents had been able to reduce desk space as a result of mobile working, up from approximately 30% in 2010

Non cashable benefits

• Over 80% of respondents in 2010 and 2011reported increased efficiency

• Over 70% of respondents in 2010 and 2011reported improved service delivery

• Over 40% of respondents in 2010 and 2011reported an improved work life balance for workers

Declan commented: “We’re delighted that more and more local authorities are seeing concrete evidence of the benefits of mobile working. The growing recognition of cashable benefits is particularly welcome since efficiency savings are set to remain at the top of many council agendas, although it’s also worth noting that according to the report, money isn’t the biggest barrier to mobile working.”

When questioned on what was the single biggest barrier to the adoption of mobile working practices, the most common reply for both 2010 and 2011 was cultural change, with figures of 70% and 72% respectively. Interestingly, despite the Comprehensive Spending Review taking please over this period, cost remained relatively constant as a barrier to getting projects of the drawing board, taking second place in both 2010 and 2011 with figures of 59% and 67%respectively.

Declan concluded: “As with any emerging technology there are barriers to overcome but there are clear indications in the report that the issues surrounding cultural change and cost are surmountable. We predict that as the body of evidence on the benefits of mobile working continues to grow and local authorities are driven by the twin needs to improve efficiency and cut costs, we’ll see a boom in mobile working.”

NDL provides integration and mobile working solutions to local government organisations, NHS Trusts and housing associations.