Ready for the Wireless Deluge?
May 2003 - By Matt Purdue

s if managing your current crop of mobile workers isn’t challenging enough, you are going to have to push more and more of your staff into the wireless workplace to keep up with your competition. That’s the most sobering conclusion to be drawn from a recent study by Framingham, Mass.-based research firm IDC.

In a white paper entitled “U.S. Mobile Worker Population Forecast and Analysis, 2002-2006,” IDC predicts the number of occasionally mobile workers, generally defined as professionals who spend less than 20 percent of their working hours on the road, will actually decrease over the next three years. But just when you thought your wireless communications budget was safe, IDC foresees many of those occasional mobile workers becoming true road warriors, moving into the mobile professional category. IDC defines mobile professionals as employees who are away from their primary place of business 20 percent or more of the time.

The total number of occasionally mobile workers is expected to shrink gradually, from an estimated 29.3 million people in 2001 to 27.4 million in 2006. That equates to a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of -1.3 percent. “Occasionally mobile workers will show flat or declining growth over the forecast period as additional work responsibilities and increased access to mobile technologies catapult these workers into the mobile professional worker category,” write the authors of the report.

In fact, the ranks of the mobile professionals are expected to swell from 18.2 million individuals in 2001 to 24.1 million in 2006—a robust CAGR of 5.8 percent.

As enterprises drive toward true mobility, decision-makers are going to be tasked with integrating a raft of technologies into the corporate infrastructure. According to IDC, some of the key solutions will have to include:

•New wireless handheld devices
•Mobile access to company e-mail, directories and calendars
•Access to applications that manage customer contact information, inventory data, pricing specs and other details stored in back-end SFA and CRM systems
•Messaging applications, initially in the form of short messaging service (SMS)
•Mobile middleware
•Synchronization, mobile device management and wireless security applications
•Support for both public wireless LAN connections (hot spots) and virtual private networks (VPNs)

All told, IDC predicts that nearly two-thirds of the U.S. workforce will be mobile by 2006. Of course, the research firm tempers its analysis by pegging it to certain assumptions, including the continued growth of wireless LANs over the next two years; the widespread availability of 3G wireless services in 2004 and 2005; and continued increase in the functionality and decrease in prices of mobile devices such as PDAs, notebooks and smartphones.


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