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Issue of November 2005 

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Large Enterprise Forum

Empowering an era of intelligent communication

The use of workforce mobility and wireless communication can help organisations move ahead in the new economy. by Kusum Makhija

Parijat Chakraborty
Sr. Manager
User and Communications Research Group IDC India

Security has been touted as a key concern when it comes to mobilising the enterprise. WLANs are already being deployed in many organisations, some limited to parts of the network, others to the entire network. The proliferation of Wi-Fi networks is increasing in many third world countries where organisations have installed Wi-Fi equipment to have their employees connected.

However, enterprise mobility goes beyond Wi-Fi. It is estimated that 30-40 percent of corporate information like e-mail and databases are found in mobile devices such as smart phones and not necessarily laptops. The mobile subscription by business and corporate users across the region is growing. As with any new technology or solution, it is important to match the users’ requirements with the benefits and limitations of the solution.

Is Mobility Right?

IDC believes there are eight major areas to look into before deciding if mobility is right for your organisation and how to best implement it to optimise returns. The first one being infrastructure, that is to have a stock check on what or who needs mobility and where.

The next one being quality management, which includes trials, documentation of processes, reports on usage, to identify problems, benefits to measure against expectations and goals for further improvements and modifications.

Business users expect immediate contact with others when the need arises. Hence, the strong desire for anytime, anywhere communication

This is followed by security. It is important to have multi-layered security checks, especially in case of remote access and guest log-ins. The organisation also needs to have adequate and well-measured standards for future proofing and scalability. With various solutions available in the marketplace today, it is important to know which standard works best for which application, users, and locations.

Training is next on the IDC list. It is important to ensure adequate education and awareness to manage expectations and prevent misuse or abuse of technology at people’s disposal. Equally crucial are applications and support. Organisations need to see how anytime, anywhere mobility can be properly executed.

Multiple Technologies

There are a lot of multimode, multi-standards, multi-technologies riding on client devices, applications, networks. It is therefore important to have a sort of technology monitoring to be able to give a transparent handover to the users.

At the end of the day, it is important to appreciate the benefits but recognise the risks. “The corporate information residing on devices is at risk and the employees must be educated about these risks. Security policies need to be enforced. Companies need the ability to control information on handheld devices remotely, including software, settings and other data. The limited use of handhelds will not eliminate the risks,” says Parijat Chakraborty, Sr. Manager, User and Communications Research Group, IDC India.

There are many signs of increasing need and use of mobility in the workplace in today’s scenario. Notebooks for instance, are proliferating. According to IDC, close to 60 percent of all PCs sold in 2009 will be laptops in Singapore. In India, the share of laptops is expected to be around 10 percent. The use of smart phones in Singapore will be almost double in the next 3-5 years. These figures are based a survey done by Avaya in June this year.

“From Avaya’s survey it came out that improving productivity via reducing time tied to the desk is the most important business benefit of mobile communications among Asian-based organisations,” says Niru Mehta, Vice-chairman & Managing Director, Avaya India. Satisfying customers was also cited as a very important benefit for those in India, Malaysia, and Philippines.

Generally, business users expect immediate contact with others when the need arises. Hence, the strong desire for anytime, anywhere communications.

A Business Meeting

The survey also showed that across the region, the largest number of respondents cited that business meeting was the most important thing they have missed for not being able to call or e-mail sometimes, followed by a customer query. In addition, missing an important contract or new business was also cited by a good proportion of the respondents.

The Applications

So far, the most common applications being deployed over mobile infrastructure is mobile e-mail. Mobile e-mail, therefore, no surprise has the highest penetration among all applications.

IM, access to corporate directories and personal info management (contact info) and wireless enterprise applications are the next two emerging applications over the mobile infrastructure. Examples of these wireless enterprise applications are mobile-CRM and mobile-ERP type applications.

The Next Wave

The next wave is expected to come from wireless vertical applications, especially those for different verticals such as manufacturing, logistics, and financial. This is touted as the next big thing in the enterprise applications space.

“Traditionally, some of the industries are already deploying these applications given the impracticality of wired infrastructure. However, the difference now is the move towards standards-based technologies and solutions,” says Parijat.

It is believed that while employees may find themselves increasingly mobile, their employers may not feel totally comfortable with them working remotely or telecommuting, especially beyond their travelling hours/days.

“In the Avaya survey, 51 percent of the respondents across Asia Pacific said that they would allow their employees to work remotely to improve productivity. In India, it was 55 percent. The survey also asked if the companies trusted their employees to telecommute. At least 70 percent said they did across the region,” explains James Haensley, CTO & Vice-president, Solutions, Avaya Asia-Pacific.

However, between 45-53 percent of them were wary of providing technology to allow telecommuting, because they fear loss of control. In India, 48 percent of them said so. Some organisations and employees believe that telecommuting can help to improve sense of work and life balance.

The best way to judge whether companies walk the talk, is by the amount they have budgeted or plan to spend on mobile solutions

The best way to judge whether companies walk the talk, is the amount they have budgeted or plan to spend on mobile solutions. In the IDC Communications survey, it was found that most of them were willing to spend up to US $10,000, each for Wi-Fi and Enterprise Mobility solutions, as a starting point to trial usage in parts of their organisations

A Converged Network Is The Key

The key to meeting the needs of an increasingly mobile workforce is converged networks. Many companies are deploying IP Tel/VoIP to take advantage of the cost savings of IP.

“Given the multiple features and applications used on such a platform, it is therefore important to ensure that these same functionalities and resources are made available to mobile workers, while they are on the road or telecommuting,” says Parijat.

The tie-up between IP telephony and mobility therefore is essential as organisations plan for the long haul to support their mobile workforce. It is important for the CIO, to ensure that he or she takes into account the mobile needs of the organisation as the company deploys an IP Telephony solution.

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