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Two Hours a Week

In the last decade, Intel has shifted the percentage of desktop PCs to mobile laptops and notebook computers in its work force from one-fifth to more than four-fifths -- and in the process gained about two hours in extra productivity per employee per week.

The shift has not come without costs, according to John Johnson, Intel Corp. (Nasdaq: INTC)'s CIO and vice president for finance and enterprise services, both in terms of work/lifestyle adjustments and in terms of dollars.

"You can't make this shift to mobility without a cost associated," said Johnson today at the Mobile and Wireless World conference in Orlando, Fla. "For us it's been about $400 to $500 per laptop."

That cost, however, has been repaid quickly in the extra productivity Intel has gained. Leveraging mobility to reduce costs and increase productivity has entailed not only shifting from desktops to laptops, but creating primary wireless campuses at Intel facilities worldwide, and deploying smartphones to the company's sales force as well as its executive corps.

Intel's mobility shift began in the late 1990s, as managers realized that employees were spending less and less time at their desks. In 2000 the average Intel "knowledge worker" spent 62 percent of the workday at his or her desk, and the rest in the company cafeteria, in conference rooms, traveling, telecommuting, or simply at the local coffee shop. By 2005 that percentage had dropped to half, Johnson says, and in five years it could be as little as 25 percent.

Leveraging mobile devices and applications has become particularly critical for Intel's salesforce, many of whom spend essentially zero time at a conventional office. "It's all about getting more face time with customers and less time chasing down information to get back to customers."

At the same time, the total cost of ownership has declined for both desktop PCs and for notebook computers, from almost $10,000 per machine in the mid-1990s to around $2,000 today. The drop has been steeper for desktops -- thus the premium companies face in replacing them with notebooks -- but those two curves are converging.

Today, with the shift to mobility entering its final stages, Intel has 85,000 notebook computers in use, connecting wirelessly via 4,685 wireless access points at 236 Intel facilities worldwide. Laptops now represent some 84 percent of Intel's total computers, up from 66 percent three years ago.

The result: a productivity gain of 5 percent per employee per week, representing a gain of two hours a week.

The company reached that conclusion from research that included a self-reporting survey.

"We had some people claim they were getting an extra eight hours a week," Johnson notes. "That seemed a bit overstated. We looked at the numbers with a healthy skepticism, and judged down the mobility savings in a lot of cases."

Next up on the mobility agenda for Intel: reducing the number of wired LAN ports from one per employee today to one for every four employees in 2009, and deploying smartphones with specialized business applications to a larger percentage of the workforce. The value of wider smartphone distribution, Johnson believes, will be validated after they're in use.

"To me it's reminiscent of when we adopted instant messaging," Johnson told the audience of IT managers in Orlando. "I had a debate with our CEO at the time and he said 'Why do we need IM? We've already got email.' We debated it for a few minutes and he said 'Well maybe 25 millions kids have got to be right.' "

Today, Johnson says, IM is considered critical to Intel's business.

— Richard Martin, Senior Editor, Unstrung

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