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The Case for Mobility in the Enterprise

Wireless used to be more hype than reality. But forward-thinking businesses are actually saving time, effort, and money by going mobile, and the future is looking even better.
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The Future Is Wireless

The future is wireless. Of course, many of us have heard this before. Two years ago, there was a lot of hyperbole about wireless data technology and how much consumers would be able to do from a cell phone. Vendors were talking about the benefits of wireless application protocol (WAP) and how that would allow you browse the web and do things like trade stocks, buy books, and play Internet-based games from a cell phone.

Needless to say, this never materialized. I don't know anybody who trades stocks or buys books from a cell phones. And while my kids like to play games on my cell phone, the games are actually run from the phone itself. They don't involve interaction with a network.

There are two reasons for the failure of the market to take off:

  • First, the mobile data industry suffered from self-induced hype. Vendors convinced themselves that there was a market for some of the services they were dreaming up. The trouble was that buyers weren't interested. There was no problem that was solved by the new technology. After all, would anybody really care much about electricity if it didn't enable seeing at night, assembly-line production, easy household tasks, and so on? Absolutely not. If it didn't solve problems for us, electricity would just be some interesting aspect of nature that only a few university professors cared about.

  • The second reason that the market didn't take off is that the technology wasn't quite at the right state. Sure, we had data-enabled cell phones. But they had tiny screens, awkward keyboards, and limited computing power. There were very few wirelessly enabled PDAs, tablet computers, and notebook computers two years ago. Wireless networks only offered limited data services, and the coverage was spotty. Furthermore, there weren't enough applications for which the output was adapted to the peculiarities of intermittently connected small devices.

Ultimate Benefits of Mobile Technology

You probably don't need to be convinced that wireless technology will solve a lot of problems for us in the long term, once sufficient infrastructure is present and once the industry reaches the same state of maturity of the industries surrounding electrical appliances. Businesses will certainly benefit. For them, wireless technology will be put to use to provide friction-free sales and service. That is, customer-facing employees will benefit in the following ways:

  • All employees who interface with customers will have perfect knowledge. Or at least as perfect as the information that comes into the company. They'll be able to answer questions immediately and accurately, quote prices instantaneously, and even enter orders on the spot.

  • Orders will be entered on the spot. Therefore, a salesperson will be able to reserve inventory and promise a delivery date.

  • Field engineering will be more efficient. Engineers will be dispatched automatically based on skill set, proximity, and availability. When they reach the problem spot, they'll have easy access to technical specifications and problem history reports.

  • After rendering services, bills will be generated immediately. The bill will either be sent by mail or output to a nearby printer. Either way, the company cash flow will be improved because the turnaround on being paid for services will be greatly reduced.

  • Employees can work while traveling. Traveling professionals will no longer experience dead time. They'll communicate with colleagues, schedule meetings, and be alerted to problems that need their attention. They'll be able to participate in interactive training while waiting for an airplane.

  • Employees' lifestyles will be improved. People won't have to make special trips to the office to fill out annoying reports or to fetch documentation. They will no longer be so closely tethered to the office.

This all sounds very nice, but what can we do today? How much can companies benefit from today's mobile technology?

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