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Thoughts from the Integration Consortium:
Enterprise Wireless Strategies: Five Key Things to Consider Before Implementation

online columnist  Integration Consortium     Column published in DMReview.com
March 31, 2005
  By Integration Consortium

This month's column was written by Jill Stelfox, the cofounder, chairman and chief executive officer of Defywire, Inc.

It's a well-established fact by now: mobilizing your workforce - by allowing remote workers to access information from anywhere using wireless technology - can help you serve customers better and faster while reducing staffing needs. But the process is not as easy as sticking a cell phone or a Blackberry in every employee's hands. Here are some things you need to consider when implementing a wireless strategy:

1. Put Applications in the Driver's Seat

Without usable applications, a wireless device is just an expensive piece of electronics. That's why the first step of deploying any wireless solution is determining what applications you need - and how they affect other choices such as device and network selection. For instance, if your application requires the transfer of large files, you might want to sign up to use a higher-speed wireless network. If the application is complex, it will require a device with greater memory and computing power. If the application is highly visual, it may require a device with a larger screen size. If it requires the user to input a lot of text-based information, a keyboard-based device might be the best option.

2. All Networks are Not Created Equal

When it comes to getting information wirelessly, there is no "ideal" network, meaning that it is critical to determine the needs of your workforce before choosing a provider or installing your own network. Some questions to ask include: Will workers be covering a large or remote geographic area? If so, a cellular or satellite network might be an appropriate choice. Do they need information while mobile or might they be able to log in using Wi-Fi at the nearest Starbucks?

3. One Device Does Not Fit All

The number of wireless devices available today is simply overwhelming, and it is highly unlikely that one device will fit the needs of all users in your organization. When selecting a device, some questions to ask include: Will the user be in a harsh environment? If so, you might consider a ruggedized device. Will the user need to access the data offline or be running complex applications? This can affect both device memory requirements and battery requirements. When selecting a device for a specialized application, such as barcode or RFID tag reading, make sure to note whether the required functionality is integrated into the device. Adding too many features externally can cause devices that started out as small and light to quickly become heavy and unwieldy.

4. Gaining a Sense of Security

If security is critical for your company, you will find that higher end processors such as those provided in more computing-based devices may be a better choice than phone-based devices, as they can process the algorithms necessary to support highly secure applications. It is also important to be able to "turn off" a device that contains sensitive information if a worker loses it. And it makes sense to put your security policy in writing to promote adherence to those guidelines.

5. Integration is a Must

The traditional method of deploying mobile applications is connecting a so-called "point solution" directly to the company's back end. But, as already noted, when it comes to wireless solutions, one size does not fit all. The solution that works for the remote sales force may not be the best one for the field service workers. Relying on a "mobile point solution" has other drawbacks as well. It is costly and time-consuming to make upgrades - which is a big drawback given that new, improved mobile applications and devices are becoming available each day.

Fortunately, there's a better way to mobilize your workforce. By relying on an integrated, platform-based approach to mobility, companies can use different devices to meet different needs. And they can more easily upgrade their wireless devices and applications as new features and functionality become available. The platform approach allows organizations to deploy many wireless applications and support many wireless devices using a single integrated architecture. Best yet, using a platform approach can help enterprises overcome some of the limitations presented by today's wireless devices and networks. For example, a mobile platform can be used to compress data at the back end, thus allowing files to be transferred more easily across bandwidth-constrained wireless networks.

The Smart Approach to Wireless: Steps to Get Started

  1. Identify the devices touching your network (employees might already be using more wireless devices than you think).
  2. Determine which classes of devices are allowed to touch the network and according to which policy.
  3. Strive to integrate wireless security and mobility products with existing enterprise identity management solutions.
  4. Identify a mobile platform that can grow with changing networks and devices.
  5. Identify your user requirements.
  6. Develop a plan for managing the devices, carriers, data fees, etc.
  7. Story board the mobile application, verify your user requirements - and only then start development.



For more information on related topics visit the following related portals...

The Integration Consortium is a non-profit, leading industry body responsible for influencing the direction of the integration industry. Its members champion Integration Acumen by establishing standards, guidelines, best practices, research and the articulation of strategic and measurable business benefits. The Integration Consortium's motto is "Forging Integration Value." The mission of the member-driven Integration Consortium is to establish universal seamless integration which engages industry stakeholders from the business and technology community. Among the sectors represented in the Integration Consortium membership are end-user corporations, independent software vendors (ISVs), hardware vendors, system integrators, academic institutions, non-profit institutions and individual members as well as various industry leaders. Information on the Integration Consortium is available at www.integrationconsortium.org or via e-mail at info@integrationconsortium.org.

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