The Collaborative Technologies Conference provides best practices and words of caution for mobile workforces.
Posted Jun 22, 2005
Many mobile workers are not making the most of their wireless devices, using them only for simple operations like checking email, according to a panel of industry experts at the Collaborative Technologies Conference in New York City today. "For most mobile workers, wireless devices are good for keeping up to date, not for managing and working," said Bill Jones, vice president of product management of Intellisync and one of the panelists on Extending Collaborative Applications to the Mobile Worker. "Customers are losing out on their potential."
An independent study of 6,000 mobile users conducted by Intellisync found that the average mobile worker receives 110 emails per day. Of those, 60 percent are read and then deleted, while the remaining 40 percent are saved until workers can return to their desktop or laptop. Only half of 1 percent actually worked with the emails, or moving them from folder to folder, opening other applications, etc. "Email is clearly the communication medium of today," Jones said. "But people can do so much more on their wireless devices. We found that the complexities of equipping mobile enterprise workers with the proper devices, applications, and services can lead to this."
Equipping mobile workers, such as a sales force, with the correct applications is an important piece in making mobile devices more productive, said David Heit, senior product manager at RIM. Besides equipping these devices with functionality, Heit maintains that vendors must also provide applications to "expand the enterprise network to a field force. Technologies like client servers and customer portals allow enterprises the ability to give their workers on the road the ability to access more information quicker and easier."
Companies, depending on what vertical industry they fit and horizontal functions they demand, can tailor their mobile devices to better meet the demands of their workforce, Heit said. "With government, the main requirement is quick access to vital information, being responsive to an emergency situation, etc. In the financial category, being able to quickly transfer hard data from location to location is critical, because often times, time is money," he said. "Mobile devices and applications can be tailored to meet these needs."
For horizontal functions, applications that best fit the bill also can be selected. For executives, email, instant messaging, and business reporting are important; mobile professionals care about collaboration and scheduling; and sales forces want to interact with their CRM system. "Selecting the right vendor to provide these functions depending upon your horizontal needs is really important," Heit said. "Right now, Siebel and SAP are doing a nice job in these areas."
Defining where and when a company's mobile workers will be working is critical in determining a network provider, according to Marvin Chartoff, CTO of global outsourcing and infrastructure services for Unisys. With the ever-changing landscape of telecommunication providers, Chartoff said, "there's no long-term winner. You need to select a carrier who's going to meet your demands, and there are differences." Important factors include range of reception, network connectivity, and environment reception, and power (or bandwidth) to transfer information.
Security is becoming increasingly important as more workers hit the road. "Companies want to avoid that branding black eye that comes with having a major security breach," said Adam Dunn, regional sales manager for Credant. "Having thousands of employees walking around with these handheld databases of information can be a disaster just waiting to happen."
End-to-end authentication, including passwords and pin numbers, server and user-based encryption for data in transit, and centralized control by enterprises over certain applications within wireless devices are all critical in preventing the next data heist, according to Dunn. "These are all technologies that companies need to take advantage of. Today, an enterprise's security department can see which wireless devices are accessing what network, and lock that device down if need be."
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