Wireless in the Enterprise

By Ben Macklin

In the enterprise space, the successful implementation of wireless solutions will be measured in the ability to link the back office to the mobile device, so [users] have real-time access to the latest information and applications relevant to them. This is the promise of wireless technology in the workplace, and as the economy improves, an increasing number of North American organizations will be closely examining the benefits of an integrated wireless solution in their business.

North American organizations have been very successful in adopting new technologies to improve efficiency, and now that wireless data services are becoming widely available at speeds considerably faster than in the past, the possibilities to improve supply-chain management and customer service are expanding.

The International Data Corporation (IDC) predicts there will be 84 million wireless internet users in the US by 2005. Business users will make up 49 million of this total, or 58%.

Most companies have significantly cut back on the IT and telecom investment spending over the last year. This has delayed and may continue to delay the adoption of wireless solutions in the enterprise space. Morgan Stanley conducted its regular CIO study in May 2002, asking CIOs’ opinions on the status of their internet-enabled handheld integration strategy. The study revealed only 4% had actually deployed such a strategy throughout the enterprise, with a further 6% who were currently implementing one. A further 35% of CIOs indicated they were currently considering a deployment, and 34% had no intention of deployment.

According to a Yankee Group study, the main reason an enterprise is adopting a wireless data solution is for a specific corporate application or to have access to corporate e-mail. In general, companies are not employing wireless solutions for their customers, but rather, they are employing solutions so employees have remote access to company data and applications to improve internal efficiency.

The top barrier to implementing a wireless data solution is security. Network speed, geographic coverage and device limitations are cited as the next most important barriers, but these are factors that are increasingly being addressed by wireless operators and device manufacturers.

But a note of caution for enterprises considering mobile data solutions:

"The wireless carrier market is threatening consolidation, most 2.5G networks aren't fully deployed at this point, and data-friendly devices are emerging slowly. Additionally, the mobile middleware market is extremely confusing, and the cost/benefit justification of the investment in mobile data initiatives continues to be generally unclear. Overall, we believe it's a tough time for enterprises to invest confidently in today's mobile data technologies." --Aberdeen Group, August 2002

Ben Macklin is a Senior Analyst with eMarketer. You can reach him at bmacklin@emarketer.com with comments, questions or suggestions.

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