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Business Transformation – “Out of Pocket”

I was talking with a co-worker a few weeks ago and they mentioned they would be “Out of Pocket”. It got me thinking, what exactly does that mean anymore?

When I joined the work-force during college, many of the higher-ups had Blackberry phones. “Out of Pocket” meant I won’t be in the office or in front of my computer, but I can answer phone calls, texts, and emails. It seems that the phrase means something different now.

1980s – Wide-area, numeric pagers are available and by the mid-90’s 61 million were in use. “Out of Pocket” no longer means tracking someone down on a landline. Workers can be paged and go to a phone of their choosing to call and check-in on what’s happening at the office. A numeric-language evolved where short messages in numeric-code or number combinations that resembled letters could be sent without needing to pick up the phone.

1993 – IBM releases the first smart phone with paging, email, a stylus, a full keyboard, and a Calendar (not integrated with Outlook). Only 2,000 were made, and the cost was what is equivalent today of just over $1,500. This was the beginning, but large transformation would require many more users to participate.

1997 – Cellphones with call and text capabilities have become wide-spread and the first full keyboard is available. There’s no longer the need to hunt down a landline and the ability to type messages has allowed responses in situations where the ability to answer a call may not be an option.

2002 – Cellphone Cameras were integrated into phones. On the jobsite and need to be able to communicate a problem with a piece of equipment? No long-winded, verbal explanation necessary. I’ll text you a photo, then we can chat.

2003 – Blackberry releases their first phone with email and a web browser. Now, while traveling, I can easily perform research online and respond via email. The written responses can now include more people and more consistent communication can be maintained, keeping everyone in the know. Instead of my Out of Office message saying to call for emergencies, I can now add that I have access (or limited access) to email while I’m away.

Today – When you are “Out of Pocket” it is far more likely that you are only unavailable if you choose to take a break from work or if you happen to not have coverage. The amount of data accessible from mobile devices is endless, everything at your fingertips while on the go. You can view up-to-date, interactive reports to understand business health, conduct video conferences, manage bank accounts, interact within and outside of your company and the activities that require access to a desktop or laptop have greatly decreased.

Not only has the expectations changed for response time and availability after hours, business models are changing as well. Businesses and consumers don’t need to invest in a laptop or desktop to engage, and work environments (ex: warehouses and farm fields) that were previously not technology friendly, are less of a hindrance. Mobility has also opened up more point-in-time information. Problem on the manufacturing floor? Diagnose, communicate, and manage the issue right where it’s occurring.

We expect to be able to not just check-in, but to be able to conduct business without a desk. The question has now changed to – what can’t you do when you’re “Out of Pocket”?

Research Reference – 5 Major Moments in Cellphone History