CIOs: Wireless Still Not Ready For IT

LOS ANGELES –- The CTIA Wireless & Entertainment conference and expo kicked off this week with a little touch of California’s “governator” and a panel discussion

California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger talked about the movies. Specifically, he discussed his 1990 film “Total Recall” and the fact that he and director James Cameron didn’t think the futuristic technologies featured in the film would come about “in the year 2030.” But they exist now.

“Not too long ago, to buy a cell phone cost $1,400. Now I just bought one for my daughter for $69 dollars,” he said.

He reminded the attendees that they were doing great work and to keep it up. And so a group of CIOs gathered to discuss wireless devices in the IT world. The technology isn’t fully trusted, in part because many wireless devices tend to operate on their own volition some times.

“You want to maintain it like you would a laptop, so data is under some kind of control,” said Paget Alves, regional president and former senior vice president of enterprise solutions for Sprint Nextel.

“Many of these devices are self-employed and literally do their own thing. So IT departments have to take control of these things.”

Donald Goldstein, CIO of Trammell Crow Company, said the solution for his firm was to put wireless devices on a very short leash.

“Nothing can get on [wireless devices] unless we put it on,” he said. “We lock it all down and keep it inside the enterprise and decide what goes out.”

That said, the executives agreed mobile had the potential to transform how business is done.

“Early on, mobile data was a way to mobilize pen-and-paper things,” said Alves. “It was used for accepting deliveries, taking orders, and so on.”

But now, according to Paul Daugherty, chief architect with Accenture, mobility is used to provide broad support for field workers.

“The key from our perspective is how to use the technology broadly on how it can transform your company. When people look at technology, they tended to look at rather narrow slices of work. The real value is going well beyond that to change the process or the job entirely.”

By providing its technicians with mobile devices, Konica Minolta said it’s considerably easier to respond to customer calls.

“If our guiding principal is trying to enhance customer innovation, our next step is really focusing on the mobile sales force, giving them better access to leads and ways to be more proactive in doing their jobs every day,” said Nelson T. Lin, CIO of Konica Minolta.

Embracing mobility is not just a convenience; it helps companies keep their edge. Daugherty said he noticed that the highest-performing companies added mobility 75 percent faster than low-performing companies, and they kept their edge for it.

But there are issues to be worked out, he added, such as bandwidth awareness.

“Apps need to be smart enough to know a bandwidth limit,” said Daugherty. “They need a technology layer to access different networks and also how they should work in those different environments.”

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