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Managing growth in enterprises: Mobility

Maximum Mobility
The next big change in the workplace will occur outside of it—thanks to a new breed of mobile technologies and services.

It’s called the mobIle Internet, and it’s going to change the way companies conduct business. Indeed, experts liken the emergence of an untethered Internet to the arrival of the personal computer on the corporate scene some 25 years ago. this is not hyperbole or exaggeration. the reality is, the convergence of wireless networks and enterprise applications could lead to greater workforce productivity, innovative ways of collaborating with suppliers and, perhaps most important, new revenue streams. of course, the concept of a mobile Internet has been around for years. It is already a reality for many enterprises. e-mail, instant messaging and other basic Internet services are widely used to help keep mobile employees in the loop and to communicate such crucial business intelligence as sales leads and revised
ESCH COLLECTION/PHOTONICA/GETTY IMAGES

product information. Wider Borders but recent advances in wireless technology—particularly faster links and more powerful receiving devices—have expanded the boundaries of mobile communications. mobile workers are now gaining access to the business applications they have been using in the office. at the same time, managers in the workplace are analyzing real-time data entered directly from the field. companies that stay ahead of the

new business technology broadens the boundaries of the workplace.

curve hone a competitive edge; falling behind puts them at risk. Wireless technology delivers compelling benefits for executives at large companies with a mobile workforce. but for It managers at those large companies, however, a mobile world presents intriguing new challenges as they connect applications with appliances, programs with platforms and data with destinations. John

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Managing growth in enterprises: Mobility

namovic, global technology principal with deloitte consulting llP, says, “bottom line, it’s all about getting the right info at the right time to the right person, no matter the place.” Device Drivers the key to mobility, say consultants, lies in figuring out which wireless devices will best support a company’s business plan. businesses face an array of laptops and handheld assistants to choose from, not to mention more than a half-dozen different operating platforms for those products. rob enderle, principal analyst for the enderle Group, a technology research firm, suggests focusing on no more than one or two product types. “It’s unlikely that you’ll have the resources to support more,” he warns. but which technology should your company select? “Pick the one that’s strategic to you,” enderle advises, adding that how, when and where the device will be used should be taken into account. “then, based on the capabilities of that platform, make a decision as to which application capabilities you would like to shift over,” he says. once an enterprise has decided exactly what it expects to get out of its mobile workforce and which types of devices its employees will be using, it is time to begin evaluating software. strategies will vary by industry. service-oriented businesses, for example, will likely zero in on real-time sales analyzers and customer-relationship programs. manufacturers, on the other hand, may be more focused on supply-chain software and inventory-management systems. What’s essential, namovic says, is determining whether a particular mobile application can provide some measurable value to the business. “to be beneficial,” he says, “a mobile solution needs to deliver information more quickly, more efficiently or more effectively— or all three.” It managers should expect their primary software vendors to supply mobile versions of key applications, says derek Kerton, principal analyst with the Kerton Group, a wireless consulting firm. but software as a service (saas) technology, which delivers applications to users via the Internet, provides an alternative route. With a high-speed wireless link, a saas application that runs on a notebook computer is generally as easy to use as its desktop counterpart. many saas vendors also offer mobilized versions of their applications, designed to accommodate the smaller screens and restricted input capabilities of handheld devices. For businesses with very specific—or very unusual—needs, customization often makes sense. Using a development tool kit supplied by a major software provider, in-house or third-party
Choose mobile devices and software that will bring clear value to your business.

on the road again
wireless e-mail is commonplace at today’s enterprises. • 71% of large companies use wireless e-mail • 66% of large companies use wireless calendaring
CORBIS/VEER

• nearly 20% of the enterprise workforce now use mobile data applications
Source: ForreSter reSearch, “the State oF enterpriSe network and telecom adoption: BuSineSS technographicS® north america,” 006

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Managing growth in enterprises: Mobility

Remote Control
developers can create a mobile program that matches a company’s exact needs. Kerton notes that a business might, for example, use a tool kit to build an application that lets traveling employees view inventory levels, real-time pricing information and shipping times from any warehouse to any customer location. like ordering a personalized suit, “a custom application can be tailored to the device it will be used on,” says Kerton, “rather than forcing the device— and its user—to accommodate software that’s designed to run on a variety of different platforms.” All Roads Lead to Roam as mobile technology advances over the next few years, businesses will likely be able to place even more powerful and practical mobile devices in their employees’ hands. “the phone will adhere to the Internet protocol in everything it does,” says tim Wilson, a partner of Partech International, a venture capital firm. “eventually, everything will travel as IP traffic, making it easier for software developers to integrate voice, data and video.” on the hardware side, increased memory and storage capacity will allow mobile devices to store greater amounts of data, giving users the ability to work with larger, more complex files. “Flash drive technology is not going to let up,” Wilson says. high-quality streaming video. that, in turn, means workers can conduct on-demand presentations and demonstrations and participate fully in videoconferences and Webinars. Widgets are yet another promising technology. desktop and laptop users can already take advantage of these easily downloadable Web-based mini-applications to do everything from viewing currency exchange rates to managing an appointment calendar. It managers, working with developers, can fashion custom widgets to meet almost any mobile business need. at the top of the list: keeping mobile employees apprised of essential business data, such as current inventory levels, delivery schedules and production timetables. and market watchers the same push can be seen in mobile processors and network connections, which continue to get faster. the added horsepower— along with more robust network bandwidth—will let mobile employees tap into sophisticated multimedia applications, including point out that widget technology is increasingly being moved onto Web-capable mobile phones. “We’re just at the dawn of this new mobility era,” Wilson says. “the possibilities that lie ahead are truly endless.”
Improves retention and employee morale through enhanced work/life balance Increases productivity by reducing commute time Don’t know Saves money by requiring less office space Allows hiring of employees in locales with lower wage rates Other
Source: roBert halF technology, “telecommuting gaining ground” preSS releaSe, July 6 007

The mobile workforce is here to stay; in a recent survey, CIOs cited what they consider to be the most important benefit of telecommuting.

6% 4% 12% 16% 28%

34%

“We’re just at the dawn of this new mobility era. The possibilities that lie ahead are truly endless.”

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