Mobile Data Comes of Age
Mobile Data Comes of Age
By: Paul Lee
Sep. 23, 2003 03:48 PM
The good news is mobile data has gotten a foot in the door at the majority of the largest enterprises in the U.S. The challenge is to convert what are often initial and departmental assignments into large-scale, company-wide deployments. This requires a level of coordination between myriad parties that haven't worked well together to deliver meaningful and profitable mobile data solutions.
Enterprises recognize the logic for deploying mobile data. Like e-mail, mobile voice, and broadband, mobile data can deliver significant benefits by making information move more productively within a business ecosystem of employees, suppliers, and clients.
In early 2000, however, when many enterprises first began to demand mobile-enabled services, supply wasn't ready. Packet-switched networks weren't installed. Devices were inappropriate. Business software was still designed predominantly around wireline networks. Just a few partnerships joined all the dots. Hope and hype existed rather than solid business cases. And the predictable response from U.S. enterprise involved hesitating and deferring decisions.
Mobile Data Is Coming of Age
This profound change prompted Deloitte Research to poll 50 of the largest U.S. companies as part of a global status check of mobile data adoption.
Our questioning of chief technical officers (CTOs) and other senior managers who oversee their companies' mobile data strategies revealed that major progress has been made to introduce mobile data into the enterprise, but much work remains before the fullest benefits of the technology are realized.
U.S. Enterprise Is Widely but Thinly Adopting Mobile Data
The positive assessment of, and actions regarding, mobile data by U.S. enterprises is even more impressive when considering the negative perceptions of technology driven by the failure of wireless application protocol (WAP) and the delayed introduction of GPRS and CDMA 1x.
Companies Generally Prepare Poorly for Mobile Data
U.S. companies using mobile data predominantly connect existing applications on existing devices. For 73% of the companies that had deployed, e-mail ranked number 1 as the mobile-enabled application, followed by the laptop (39%).
In effect, many of the companies surveyed appear to be applying cellular mobile technologies to applications designed for fixed communication links. As we interpret it, the mobile data deployment is often based around PCMCIA cellular mobile cards inserted into laptops.
From a short-term financial perspective, this approach is understandable. It implies a minimal capital investment a cellular data card costs less than $200 typically below the amount that would require sign-off. It works with an existing device, and can be sourced from an existing service provider. In sum: minimal disruption.
But this approach too often delivers little benefit. While the investment may be small, the return on investment likely will be inferior to a better thought out, but initially more costly, deployment.
Why is this? While cellular mobile is employed as an additional connectivity option, working with devices and software designed for a fixed-line environment, mobile data tends to be used as the bandwidth of last resort. It is little used and may work poorly.
We worry that when the marriage of mobile data and the fixed-line computing environment delivers meager returns, the technology rather than the execution will get the blame.
The Case for the Business Case
Yet only one in five companies surveyed has undertaken an in-depth
business case when all companies deploying mobile data should develop such a
business case. Our research suggests distinct benefits emerge when companies
conduct an in-depth business study. The benefits include:
Business-case development should address at least the following key
A Roadmap for Mobile Data Deployment
1. Mobile access: Mobile data is deployed to provide an additional or unique connectivity layer. An example: when mobile data provides a further
connectivity option for access to e-mail or to sales force data. According
to our research, this was the most commonly adopted approach to deployment.
Vehicles would transmit their speed and position periodically via a built-in mobile modem. If the car's speed dropped, indicating a traffic jam, data would be sent more frequently. The more congested the area, the greater the flow of information. Thus, during summer months, traffic information for coastal areas would automatically improve, reflecting the higher concentration of vehicles. A service based on this approach would be possible only with embedded mobile.
Conclusions and Recommendations
Over the next 12 months, mobile data's capability will improve, increasing the imperative on U.S. enterprises to deploy the technology. GPRS and CDMA2000 1x networks will become even more stable and their coverage will grow. Communication devices specifically designed for mobile data will be increasingly available. More business software will be tailored for mobile data applications. System integrators' understanding of mobile data will mature. And the companies that collectively supply mobile data solutions will work together even more closely.
To maximize their benefit from mobile data, U.S. companies must:
In sum, American enterprises should adopt mobile data, but pursue much more than connectivity. As with mobile voice, mobile data can improve the way we work fundamentally. But as history shows, deploying technology based on insufficient process and organizational change can easily disappoint. Technology has matured to the point where the choice to create a mobile enterprise is a simple one. It's the bolder moves that minimize money left on the table.
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