As a result, workers are spending less time in the office, making the nine-to-five routine virtually obsolete. Research conducted for Intel by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) shows that this shift in working patterns has been accompanied by a significant increase in the incorporation of wireless technologies into the company infrastructure.
To keep staff connected and productive while they are on the move, many corporate employees are equipped with at least one wirelessly-enabled device, such as a mobile phone, laptop or PDA. The EIU's findings also show adoption levels of these and similar devices, such as Blackberries and Pocket PCs, are set to increase further over the next two years as wireless technologies develop.
As chief information officers consider deploying a wireless local area network (WLan) infrastructure there are numerous risks to consider - particularly security, to protect corporate and confidential data. The enhanced encryption and authentication offered by the 802.11i standard provides levels of security to satisfy the strictest confidentiality and data protection requirements.
To further improve the safety of the WLan IT managers can put protective elements into place, such as requiring users to connect through a virtual private network.
Healthcare organisations, in particular, are relying on aspects of security that a wireless network can bring. For example, hospitals are equipping staff with wireless devices that can be carried or wheeled around, to improve levels of confidentiality and reduce the threat of lost records, incorrect filing or unclear handwriting.
Aside from improved security, key factors in the decision-making process for implementing a more efficient IT infrastructure are cost and productivity savings. Initial installation and incremental costs when deploying a WLan are low, with the average cost per user dropping dramatically as more people are added, and the further expense of maintenance and wiring is removed. Wireless networks are quick to install, provide flexibility for IT and regular staff and can be easily reconfigured.
The productivity and flexibility from wireless usage in today's working environment is of vital importance, particularly in supply chain management, where efficiency is paramount. Installing a wireless network creates the opportunity for instant connection that allows quicker access to essential information, thereby enabling more effective and accurate decision-making.
For example, global retailer Metro Group is using wireless radio frequency identification (RFID) technology to achieve improved inventory control along with wirelessly enabled PDAs to place and track orders to greatly increase productivity.
As users become more reliant on mobile working models, chief information officers can take advantage of the different wireless technologies on offer, such as Wi-Fi, WiMax and 3G. A combination of these technologies can realise efficiency gains by lowering installation costs, improving staff productivity and delivering better business processes.
However, it is crucial that chief information officers carefully assess their employee needs and IT infrastructure demands to make sure they opt for the right wireless system, which will deliver maximum return on investment and get the best out of their employees.
Andy Greenhalgh is director of marketing mobile solutions, Intel EMEA
Where has mobile helped?
- 84% Supporting flexible/remote working
- 84% Reducing "deadtime" for travelling employees
- 84% Increased workforce productivity
- 77% Enabling more effective collaboration between dispersed teams
- 50% Reducing operational costs
- 45% Reducing infrastructure costs.
Source: The Economist Intelligence Unit
This was first published in September 2004