On the road with Changepoint

While it also doubles as the title of an apocalyptic motion picture starring Mel Gibson, the term “road warrior” largely refers to the growing numbers of mobile sales, services and management staff within the IT sector.

IT consultants who are constantly on the go need to capture time, expenses, customer and project information effectively and Toronto-based Changepoint Corp. claims to be up to the challenge with the availability of its PSA (professional services automation) solution via the Palm platform.

Changepoint said the Palm client was developed in direct response to customer demand and the proliferation of such devices within enterprises. The PDA-based client is compatible with Version 6 (and newly released 7.0 for the Pocket PC) of Changepoint’s PSA software.

“The key thing is we’re delivering an application (typically referred to as PSA) that really automates the end-to-end business of the services organization. So everything from managing opportunities or sales cycles, through to delivering on this service and then billing or invoicing,” said Lori Ellsworth, director of product management at Changepoint.

“What you find is that when people are on the road for two and three weeks, you can give them an opportunity to do those administrative tasks while they’re on a plane, in an airport, or in their hotel room…you’re allowing them to make much better use of their time and they’re able to be more efficient,” Ellsworth said.

The first release of the Palm offering involves a Palm-based application, databases and a conduit application to manage synchronization (via serial/USB cradle). Changepoint said the application supports Version 3.1 of the Palm OS and the PSA software features extensive project costing and budgeting, and unlimited user and customer hierarchy support to represent real-world relationships. Version 7.0 also provides time zone support in the request management and support desk areas, Changepoint said.

Ellsworth said the Palm client is the first piece of Changepoint’s mobile strategy and added that mobile solutions are also available for the Pocket PC platform.

“When we look at our customer base, we are really targeting the mobile client offering at those consultants who are on the road and what we are trying to do – in a effective and familiar environment and in this case the Palm client – deliver them the ability to enter their time, enter their expenses, status their tasks (and) do the things they need to do in an offline world and then they connect and synchronize the data when it’s convenient,” Ellsworth said.

It makes a lot of sense for IT organizations that need connectivity at remote sites to communicate information that must be archived, said industry analyst Margo Visitacion at Giga Information Group in Cambridge, Mass.

Organizations should only look at a mobile solution if their business and customer base supports it, Visitacion said, adding that some organizations can realize greater operational efficiencies and maximize cost-effectiveness.

She noted that from a PSA perspective, mobile connectivity becomes very attractive because the majority of project teams are not centrally located.

“You’re going to be dealing with people who are on the road and you need to get information shared quickly. Therefore mobile implementation makes sense, simply for cost tracking and for effort and duration tracking,” Visitacion said. ” It allows project managers to be far more aware of the health of their particular projects. It can then lead to an improved relationship between IT and the business or an outsourcer and a client, because information is immediate and you have a better picture of what’s going on.”

Changepoint’s Palm client solution is available now. Modules start at US$200 per user.