The ability of wireless networks to reach virtually any point on the planet makes mobile communications one of the most important and challenging frontiers for the enterprise. To be successful, organizations must absorb mobility into their way of doing business and shift from a culture in which technology is merely present to one in which technology is an integral part of key business processes. This fundamental transformation demands new methods—and a new mindset.
Forces of corporate upheaval—from the growth of ebusiness to the spread of wireless technologies—are tearing down the brick-and-mortar boundaries of the enterprise and replacing giant divisions with constellations of smaller, more agile business units. Yet, while the divisions (and devices) may be small, there is strength in their numbers—and in their connections. Pervasive technologies such as high-speed mobile networks and wireless modules allow organizations to fuse together in a fluid and interconnected real-time network that link companies, customers, partners, and stakeholders.
Against this backdrop, mobility is the new business mantra, observes Alan Panezic, senior manager of technical services at Research In Motion (RIM), a Canada-based designer, manufacturer, and marketer of wireless solutions best known for the BlackBerry mobile device. "The industry is moving away from talking about ‘wireless in the enterprise' because wireless is just a technology that has a bunch of elements associated with it. Mobility is about a new way of doing business."
Where It's At
For the notion of a business without boundaries to prevail, backend applications, data, and content must be re-engineered to take complete advantage of the features mobility offers. According to Panezic, "You need to ask: What is the information we have within the corporate enterprise that—if we could distribute it—would add value to our business?" Put simply, the organization should identify the key content that could allow it to do more business, close more deals, and be more interactive with customers. "Then it must develop a strategy to deliver it in real-time to the users who need it most." These mobile users include field service and sales employees who demand fully portable, real-time access to the same information resources and tools that, until recently, were accessible only from the desktop.
To this end, BlackBerry has evolved its offer from a secure push email service into a platform that provides users with seamless connectivity to a wide range of content and applications including email, phone, Short Message Services (SMS), and Internet- and intranet-based applications. RIM technology also enables a broad array of third-party developers and manufacturers to enhance their products and services with wireless connectivity to meet the unique demands of specific markets such as finance, government, real estate, healthcare, and legal.
An example of this is the April 2004 deal between RIM and LexisNexis. The alliance made LexisNexis the first information provider to offer business professionals access to comprehensive full-text news, business, legal, public records, regulatory, and legislative information sources via BlackBerry handhelds. LexisNexis also announced the option to search LexisNexis content via the BlackBerry, allowing users to access some 14,000 premium information sources and proactively search, refine, and edit results on the fly.
"Mobile enterprises require access to situational information," notes Elizabeth Rector, SVP of corporate and federal markets at LexisNexis. "Therefore, it is critical in the mobile environment to deliver targeted, relevant information. Our customers don't want to sift through large quantities of information on a wireless device; they will save this research for their laptop or desktop. Understanding the difference between a customer's needs while using the BlackBerry and their needs when using PCs is critical to helping them do business anywhere," Rector says. "It's really about how content is packaged and put into context."