Are We There Yet? The Long Wait to Mobilize Content

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Low-Cost, High-Value Sales Application
Enterprise mobile platform provider Air2Web helped broadband service provider ADC deploy a wireless field-force solution that increased productivity of ADC's 200 North American sales representatives by 6 to 10%.

ADC evaluated several wireless startups before selecting the privately-held Air2Web to help it minimize the number of computing and communications devices its sales personnel needed in their jobs. The company also wanted to improve the ability of those workers to check the status of their orders and access the company's network, internal phone book, and email, which previously required use of a wired connection. Air2Web supplied the back-end mobile Internet platform. ADC created the ap- plications, and several third-party vendors came on board to install and manage the system, which runs on Sprint PCS smart phones that use the Palm operating system.

ADC says it intended to deploy the system in 2001, but delayed implementation until 2002 because of the telecom downturn. What finally enabled the company to pull it off? It abandoned its regular cellular service provider and signed on with Sprint PCS, which offered a money-saving contract that more than easily funded the entire wireless program.

Success Yes, but Adoption Still Slow
Despite the operational benefits that these and hundreds of other successful wireless content case studies provide, enterprises have been deliberately cautious about mobilizing their company data and processes.

In a 2003 study of 1,052 corporations that have 100 or more employees (half of those companies claiming 10,000 or more workers), iGillottResearch found that barely one-fifth of the companies surveyed (17%) had deployed mobile data (WLAN or WWAN) systems within their organizations. More than half of the companies contacted (54%) are evaluating wireless data solutions, however.

Additional perspective comes from a December 2002 Yankee Group report examining how corporations with 500 or more employees assess and choose wireless technologies. This study assessed WWAN and WLAN approaches separately. In a sample of 212 companies examining WWAN data deployments, the firm found that only 8% of companies surveyed have adopted a WWAN data solution although 62% said they plan to pilot or deploy such a system within the next two years. In a sample of 81 similarly-sized companies, the firm found that 41% are using WLAN data solutions and that 93% will have wireless LAN or WAN systems in place within the next two years.

Clearly, enterprises are poised to bite, but they still find that adoption of mobile content solutions is not clear-cut or easy.

In fact, most companies that have adopted mobile solutions are doing so using straightforward applications like email or PIM programs that they deployed to a small user base within their companies, according to Matt Vartabedian, senior analyst at iGillottResearch, Inc. "We interpreted that to mean (a) that the application is simple and (b) that they were testing the waters to see what can be done," says Vartabedian.

Companies often list a variety of challenges impeding their ability to deploy more feature-rich applications in formats that resemble their corporate LAN experience. The issues surround network reliability, data speed, and coverage issues; the incompatibilities between competing wireless wide area networks and between those WWANs and existing LANs, among other things.

Less recognized are challenges associated with culture change. ADC, for example, said the biggest hurdle was getting employees to agree to give up their cell phone numbers, which many had used for 10 to 15 years. Accenture found it necessary to work closely with its client's employee union when evaluating the impact of new processes on worker productivity. Such adjustments can be expected with new technologies, but must be considered during system design and testing for new solutions to fully succeed.

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