The mobile organisation is still a dream

Mobility has been one of the ever-present items near the top of IT managers’ priorities for some time. The potential for using mobile technology to get closer to customers, to improve employees’ work-life balance, and to reduce the cost of office facilities, is well known and obvious.

Yet for most organisations, mobile working means little more than a laptop with access to corporate applications through a virtual private network, or a Blackberry to read email on the move. There are few examples of companies truly mobile-enabling processes or systems to change the way they work for the better.

We have talked about “next-generation workplaces” and “paperless offices” for years, and the technology is certainly in place to make it happen.

So why hasn’t it?

Without doubt one of the reasons is a lack of confidence in the ability of mobile networks to support reliable, high-speed data and application access for critical corporate systems.

3G networks are fine for consumers wanting to access apps and the internet on the move. If the network connection is poor, they will tut and moan but simply try again five minutes later.

But for business users, those five minutes mean money, and time that would have been more productive sitting in an office on a wired network.

For all the desire of the mobile operators to encourage corporate use, to promote data traffic and support new services such as video, the reality is that congestion and patchy coverage makes the networks too unreliable for many businesses.

Our report this week from the Mobile World Congress event, highlights some of the problems. The rarely spoken truth is that if we all started pumping data and video and other such high bandwidth applications across the airwaves, the networks that are still essentially designed and operated for voice, would near collapse.

If companies are to realise the true potential of mobile technology, they need network operators to deliver the reliability and connectivity upon which corporate IT depends.

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Bryan is right that wireless networks have limitations, namely coverage and speed, but they have not limited the adoption of enterprise mobility for those forward thinking companies that have used mobility to enhance their business and competitive positioning: Pitney Bowes, Safelite AutoGlass, Xerox, Toshiba America Medical Systems, Heineken Ireland, Walmart, Coca-Cola Enterprises, just to name a few.

Any good mobile application is built to address the inherent occasional connectivity of the mobile environment. With offline access and guaranteed message delivery on their apps, the companies above have relied on mobility to be a mission-critical part of their businesses—and that’s no pipe-dream.
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