Porter Davis Homes is not allowing workers to use their own mobile devices due to high cost and lack of device control, according to the company's group BIS manager, Felicity Nutter.

However, while Porter Davis is saving time and money with a mobile enterprise application platform (MEAP) from BlinkMobile, the Victorian construction company is not satisfied with the Samsung smartphones it has chosen for employees, she said.

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"We're not doing [bring your own device (BYOD)] at all," Nutter told Computerworld Australia. "We did look at it. We did consider it."

A major downside to BYOD for Porter Davis stemmed from high turnover in the construction industry, Nutter said. "Because those people have client-facing relationships, we retain the phone numbers and we retain the devices so we control the whole space."

Choosing devices for workers is also a cost saver and ordering a large number of devices from Telstra opens up "better deals," she said. Porter Davis could not secure discounts with BYOD.

"And by the time you then administer expense reimbursements or provision of allowances, securing devices that don't belong to the business" means "not really having total control of data that gets stored on the device," added Nutter.

For example, Porter Davis would have "no jurisdiction to wipe [the device] in the event of fraud, theft or damage," she said.

Instead of BYOD, Porter Davis chose to make a bulk purchase of 190 Samsung Galaxy S2 smartphones, Nutter said. However, she said the company hasn't been happy with the devices.

"It's been quite disappointing, to be honest," Nutter said of the Galaxy S2. Porter Davis was hoping to give workers a standard device, but the devices shipped with different versions of the Android [operating system] and other software installed, she said. "We had quite a bit of internal work to do to get them up to standards.

The company also had numerous numerous issues with the handset itself, including frequent call dropouts and batteries overheating, Nutter said. Porter Davis has not had similar problems with the Apple iPhone devices used by its executive team, she said.

Mobile efficiency

Porter Davis Homes adopted a mobile enterprise application platform supporting smartphones and tablets.

Porter Davis turned to mobile to increase the efficiency of its extras process, where the company has to commit to a contract size with the client but then absorb unforeseen expenses within that contract, which is an industry-wide problem in construction, Nutter said.

"In the construction industry, it relates to theft, damage, incorrect orders or anything else that's an unexpected expense in the construction of the home," she said.

"It's always been a problem for the business, and it's been manually managed," Nutter said. Under the old process, when a problem arose, the construction crew would telephone the supplier and write down the issues in a log.

"Then they'd have to go back in the office once a week and reconcile their [work orders]... and sit down with a manager and have all of those approved.

"Situations would arise where the manager would disagree with what had been charged by the supplier," resulting in a back and forth between Porter Davis and the supplier that would increase time and costs, she said.

All the costs involved would be paid by Porter Davis without charging the client, and the whole process from order to payment would normally take two to three weeks, Nutter said.

"With the use of the mobile apps now we can go from point of order to payment within seven or eight days," she said.

Now, construction supervisors log in to a mobile app to make orders. "They choose the home and they choose the supplier, and the app brings all the products and prices for that supplier," said Nutter.

"Once they submit that, the manager receives it, approves it or rejects it, and it gets saved into SAP." The app can send the order directly to the supplier.

"It cuts out a whole paper trail [and] shortens time to payment for the supplier," Nutter said. "The guys spend less time in the office going through paperwork," giving them an additional six hours on the worksite per week.

The mobile system provides greater transparency of job costs "so the manager can see straight away what the impact on the job cost is going to be and can influence that decision right then instead of waiting for the invoice," she added.

Porter Davis chose BlinkMobile to provide the mobile platform after a recommendation from EcoView Mobile.

The construction company had sought a system that would integrate with the company's SAP enterprise platform, Nutter said.

Porter Davis also required a system that was not restricted to one type of device because at the time the company was going through a device refresh and hadn't yet decided which phones to buy. It also wanted to be able to scale to support multiple kinds of devices if required.

The company currently uses the Samsung Galaxy S2 smartphone for most employees and the Apple iPhone and iPad for higher-level officials.

Despite not having integrated with SAP before, BlinkMobile was willing to do it "with very little expense," she said. And BlinkMobile's ability to support multiple types of devices was relatively unique when Porter Davis was looking 18 months ago.

The investment "paid back within six weeks," Nutter said. "It's definitely doing everything we wanted. Our very lovely challenge now is going to be to hold back the floodgates" of staff wanting to add more and more features to the company's mobile apps.

The construction company plans to increase its use of mobile in the future.

"We've got another project that's about to go live" for post-construction inspections and the company is exploring customer-facing applications, she said.

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