Time to mobilise your business

Mobile phones have gone forth and multiplied to the point that in some places they have become a nuisance which requires a...

Mobile phones have gone forth and multiplied to the point that in some places they have become a nuisance which requires a banning order. Meanwhile, mobile computing lags behind, with most end-users still chained to their desktops.

But the scene is changing rapidly - the Blackberries sprouting from so many executives' hips are merely the heralds of things to come.

Much is made of lifestyle changes, with teleworking posited as the answer to people's demands for more time at home, but the real driving force behind the spread of mobile computing will be reduced costs and the fact that businesses which do not take it up will be left behind.

Just as the mobile phone progressed rapidly from dubious luxury to essential business tool, so mobile computing will become the norm for business.

Many businesses will see cost as the main barrier to uptake, and there is no doubt that the cost of equipping and supporting staff with mobile facilities easily outstrips the cost associated with "tethered" workers. But, as Jessica Twentyman demonstrates in our feature article, proactive IT managers are already finding ways to increase affordability.

BCS Elite chairman Ben Booth points out that telecoms suppliers will also need to sharpen up their act so that the benefits of cheaper connectivity and mobility can spread more easily to smaller firms. And our SME case study illustrates just how profitable the mobile approach can be for smaller companies.

The convergence of telecoms and computing wrought huge changes to business in the 1980s and 1990s. Over the next decade we can expect mobile applications to do the same. For those companies that get the timing right in terms of cost and business opportunity, the rewards will be enormous.

A year of reckoning

Given ministers' substantial investment in IT - both financial and political - the successes and failures of e-government are likely to feature strongly in the general election, which is expected this year.

This will bring twin dangers: first, that the government will push through pet projects before they are ready in an effort to reap politically beneficial headlines; second, that the opposition will mire all public sector IT projects as they slam the government for its expensive IT failures.

That is why public sector IT professionals will be redoubling their efforts to deliver projects that bring genuine benefit while hoping their work is not lost in the smoke and mirrors of party politics.

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