Working from the wireless office

The wireless workplace was once a futuristic ideal that some aspired to but others saw as superfluous gadgetry. That was when...

The wireless workplace was once a futuristic ideal that some aspired to but others saw as superfluous gadgetry. That was when work was a place you would drive to every day, then leave at night. But now the workplace has become wherever you happen to be, triggering a real need for wireless mobility.

Cultural and legal changes have made working away from the office standard practice, but before you take the leap into a wireless mobile technology you should consider your business needs and what you want to achieve from technology.

As with all technology you need to assess why you need it and what function it will perform in line with your business

John Murphy, network specialist for Allnet believes the growing rise in adoption levels of wireless devices was understandable. “Being always on is an appealing idea for a busy executive keen to capitalize on time spent traveling and out of the office it enables constant contact, mirroring the capabilities one has when at a desk,” he says.

But now the convergence of mobile wireless devices such as laptops and PDAs with traditional office technology such as printers, projectors and fax machines is becoming ever more commonplace. Far from being an extravagance beyond the budget of most businesses, Neil Dagger iPAQ and wireless device business manager at Hewlett Packard, believes wireless technology could play a critical part in your business process.

“It gives you a competitive advantage to be able respond faster to clients you can not only tell them what you have in stock, in what colour and size but you can do it immediately,” he insists.

Dagger stresses wireless technology is only unnecessary if you have exaggerated its benefit to your business. “If it’s appropriate to the way you work it is not a superfluous toy,” he argues. “You need to look at how many of your staff work from their desk and even desk based people spend only 40% of their time there. If these people aren’t able to read their emails then they are leaving the door open to the competition.”

Although wireless connections to devices such as printers and projectors could save your business much valuable time and money the benefits you reap depend heavily upon the type of business you run and what you want to achieve.

Marie Thirlwall product solutions marketing manager mobile devices business group at Microsoft says, the most satisfied customers are the ones who align the technology with the needs of their business. “Do a lot of work and really understand your own requirements and why you want to invest,” she advises.

Wireless printers, once considered a superfluous luxury or gadget are now considered critical mobile office equipment for printing out contracts, orders, customer details and other uses on the move. Similarly enabled digital cameras can save vast amounts of time writing out documents that can then be printed out and used for legally binding contracts.

Danny Devriendt, account director at Bluetooth, believes printers could provide essential benefits to your business. “Wireless printers have a practical purpose, if you are on the move all the time a wireless printer is a real benefit, people used to send faxes but now you can print out your SMS messages with wireless technology,” he says.

The advance of wireless networking and devices means availability is much improved, but one issue that has to be considered seriously is security. Patrick Mazeau, technology showroom manager at Xerox Research Centre Europe, says security is improving. “We think wireless has its security limitations but these can be overcome we are working towards making it more secure,” he says.

Also the difficulties and challenges surrounding the enforcement of proper control over remote devices have resulted in support costs spiraling. Says John Murphy: “In the PDA arena these problems are sure to be exacerbated by issues such as the blending of personal and business use and the likely diversity of devices in the hands of users.”

In a work place that is constantly evolving away from the fixed office towards a more mobile environment, the relevance of wireless is becoming clearer. But before you decide whether wireless technology can benefit your business, it’s vital you establish what you want to achieve from wireless devices in terms of your business objectives. The question you should ask is not whether mobility can benefit your business but what your business hopes to gain from mobility.

This article was part of Computer Weekly's enterprise mobile business channel, sponsored by Nokia 

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