Enterprise Mobility: So What?
April 2004 - By Bob Egan

Mobility is instinctive, but it’s not easy, and it’s not cheap. Not since the invention of the PC has the enterprise been faced with such disruption, to both technology investments and to business processes.

For almost 40 years I’ve been involved with some facet of what we now call mobility. It started at age 13, with a hands-on experience: getting zapped by the high voltage of a horizontal plate tube. Many years later at Digital Equipment Corp. (DEC) as an electromagnetic compliance engineer, I found myself “volunteered” into DEC’s ambitious wireless LAN program by the last-man-standing rule with an “all those antennas on his car” credential. My passion for two-way radio and antenna design, born out of the hobby of amateur (“ham”) radio, now was instinctively linked to my work. The geeky kid whom the girls tolerated only because he could make calls over his two-way radio was thrust into a fast-moving, highest-of-high-tech area: wireless. Technical Director, Emerging Products read my business card.

I still wasn’t cool, but we did lots of cool stuff at DEC, including the first implementations of mobile IP over CDPD and Mobitex, and WLAN over CATV. I was known to cut up many an analog cell phone to “dial in wirelessly.” And I was—and still am—the brunt of many “Can you hear me now?” jokes long before the dorky guy on the Verizon Wireless commercials became famous. The year was 1989, and I was convinced we would conquer the wireless LAN market by 1993!

The question on my mind when I joined Gartner as a research director for its mobile and wireless practice in the mid ’90s was: “Mobility: So what?” If we combined theories of remote access and wireless, we got Mobility (with a capital M). But who benefits, why and when? How do the core business objectives of an enterprise align with investments in mobility (with a lower-case m)?

I’m not the only one asking those questions. The business incentive for CIOs and IT managers to invest in mobility has remained elusive. Investing in mobile and wireless has meant not only higher costs, but also turning back the page on remote access initiatives to the low throughput not seen since the mid ’80s—and on a network that has more dead spots than a cemetery.

Those are just some of the issues I’ll discuss in this column each month. For now, here are a few predictions:

•The mobile phone browser will be all but dead by the end of 2005.

•The winners and losers among wireless LAN vendors won’t be based on which ones have the coolest, fastest access points, but rather the ones with the most effective management and security.

•By 2005, most CIOs will be challenged to meet their business initiatives due to runaway mobility costs.

•Mobility initiatives won’t succeed just because wireless networks are getting faster. Successful initiatives will center around simple, straightforward solutions that accelerate existing business processes.

Mobility: So what? It’s instinctive.•

Bob Egan is president of Mobile Competency (www.mobilecom
petency.com), an enterprise consulting and advisory service. He can be reached at [email protected]


Leisure Publications