The Economy & Your Mobility Plans

By  Susan Nunziata — September 30, 2008

The economy has loomed large in recent discussions at industry events and in interviews with end users, vendors and industry analysts.

When asked how the Wall Street meltdown would affect his business, one wireless vendor I spoke with at Interop in New York City in mid-September replied with a sigh, "Well, our biggest customer was Merrill Lynch." (Global investment bank Merrill Lynch failed in mid-September and portions of its business were purchased by Bank of America).

"Fortunately, we had already been paid for our work for them," he added.

Lacking a crystal ball, it's impossible for anyone to truly predict the long term effects of the current economic situation. But we can make some educated guesses.

Some enterprise verticals (such as healthcare) will likely prove more resilient than others (financial services) to weather the storm, notes Ben Guderian, VP Product Marketing for WLAN Voice Products at Polycom. 

Even so, Jim Laval, Manager of Corporate I.T. for Baptist Healthcare Services Inc., says cost was a major factor in his enterprise's decision-making process when it selected ADC's InterReach Fusion in-building cellular system. The organization looked at other solutions that would have involved also replacing an existing data network, but ended up saving a significant amount of money by retaining the old setup and adding in the InterReach solution. "You have to take a look at two to three years in the future and see, does it make sense to go this route?" he advises.

Bob Barrett, Director of Information Systems at Memorial Health Systems in Denver found other ways to cut costs in the healthcare facility's recent deployment of Mobile Access and GE Healthcare's Enterprise Access wireless voice and data network in a newly constructed building.

"One of our issues was, are we going to be able to get funding?" says Barrett. "We cut costs by leveraging an existing contract with labor to pull the wire [for the deployment] so we got economies of scale. We also saved money by buying our own cable."

When a mobile solution can save someone like Scott Haag, General Manager of Box Canyon Dairy, two to three hours every day, a business case can be made even in the toughest of economic times.

Box Canyon, a 2,500-acre dairy in Wendell, ID, deployed Windows XP-based software from ProfitSource on rugged tablet PCs from MobileDemand to implement an RFID system to help track cattle.

"It was a huge investment for us," says Haag. "We'll achieve ROI in less than a year, and after that it will all be gravy."

For more real-world examples of how enterprises are managing the total cost of ownership of their mobile deployments, download our free White Paper, "Don't Get TKO'd by TCO," written by longtime Mobile Enterprise contributor and industry consultant Craig Settles.

Catalyst For Change
David Yach, CTO of Resarch In Motion, says that while the economy will undeniably have a ripple effect on businesses of all stripes, "I do see it as a catalyst for change."

Using mobility solutions to improving enterprise processes such as workflows and customer relationship management ultimately save organizations time and money.
Tools that make it possible for employees of all kinds -- from high-volume sales executives to field service technicians --  to work more efficiently while away from their desks offer a cost-benefit to enterprises that make a lot of sense, notes Yach.

Push For Adoption

Eduardo Cervantes, CMO of NTRGlobal, says his company is seeing increased demand from enterprise end-users for solutions that reduce cost, improve customer satisfaction, and save fuel.

Chris Kozup of Cisco Systems adds that "the push for the adoption of mobility has been accelerated by the sheer number of devices coming into the workforce and onto the network. Enterprises now are saying, 'let me understand the technology and how it can benefit my business.' "

Nonetheless, "the economy is affecting things," says Mike Lang, EVP Sales & Marketing with M2M provider Numerex, particularly for small- to medium-sized business. "The mid-market folks are having problems getting funding, he says. "This year, more than any other year, we've been hearing the funding has been held up and there is more due-dilligence going on. There are more things to tackle before getting to the goal line."

Kevin Goulet, Senior Director Product marketing, Enterprise WLAN Division, of Motorola's Enterprise Mobility Business, says mobile and wireless solutions are going to be increasingly necessary as enterprises and CIOs are asked to do even more with less. That said, he's seeing "a little bit of caution" among enterprise end uers, with "customers looking a little deeper at ROI" than they may have done previously.

Showing enterprise customers how they can better serve their mobile workers more securely and with lower costs than in the past  is going to be key, adds Goulet.

Mike Potts, former CEO of AirDefense, which was recently acquired by Motorola and whose operation will now be folded into the new  Motorola Air Defense Solutions Group, adds that tough economic times can bring with them an uptick in crime, which means that enterprises may need to place even greater emphasis than before on keeping their networks secure.

Proving Productivity Gains

A 2005 CTIA report, updated in May 2008, predicts that by 2016 the U.S. is projected to have 81.9 million mobile enterprise users, with 83% using wireless broadband.

The report, "The Increasingly Important Impact Of Wireless Broadband Technology On The U.S. Economy," extrapolates the productivity value of all mobile wireless services to be worth $185 billion in 2005, which it says was greater than the total value of the U.S. pharmaceutical industry.

The report predicts that the value to the U.S. economy of productivity gains resulting from a combined use of mobile wireless voice and broadband in the enterprise will amount to $427 billion per year by 2016.

Among the factors resulting in productivity gains are: inventory loss reduction, replacement of desk phones, increased overall efficiency, health care efficiency, sales force automation and field service applications. 

Cathy Zatloukal, President/CEO of Mobile Access, says enterprises ultimately are asking "How can wireless either supplement or displace things we're doing on the wired network to make the enterprise more efficient."

What do you think? How is the economy influencing your enterprise mobility plans? Take our quick Reader Poll and share your thoughts. Or email me at Editor@MobileEnterpriseMag.com.

Poll results will appear in next week's Mobilizer.

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