Business slow to embrace wireless
Confusion, fear, security concerns
Enterprise wireless technology is here. It has been here for a while now and it is not going away. Given the obvious truth of this statement, it may seem surprising that companies have on the whole failed to embrace wireless technologies in more than a cursory fashion. Despite the fact that productivity, total cost of ownership and return on investment measures are becoming ever more compelling...
According to interviews carried out recently by mobile operator O2 with 600 IT managers and CIOs - more than half of whom worked for businesses with 500 employees or more - 63 per cent of respondents said they had no current mobile strategy. And 52 per cent of these, 33 per cent of all those surveyed, said they had no plans to introduce a mobile and wireless strategy at all.
But confusion, it seems, is rife. Security, or a perceived lack of it, remains top of the average IT manager's list of objections to wireless, with the proliferation of mobile devices and the operating systems they support following on close behind. Yet in many companies these wireless technologies are allowed to proliferate on corporate networks with seemingly little control exercised over them by IT.
Of the companies surveyed by BT, 62 per cent allowed end users to bring their own PDAs on to the corporate network, although 40 per cent of those, almost 25 per cent of the total sample, were either moderately or very concerned about the risks of allowing these non-standard devices onto their networks.
Fear of the unfamiliar
Unfamiliarity with any new technology breeds fear among IT managers, and with good reason. Corporate assets worth millions or billions of dollars are at stake. But scare stories such as the cracking of wireless LAN's WEP encryption date back to early 2001 and are no longer representative of the current state of play.
And knowledge of new platforms and of radio technologies, while not currently part of the armoury of many IT professionals, cannot be avoided forever. Technology-savvy CEOs and other executives are hardly able to avoid the encroaching wireless world as they are bombarded by images and experiences on their business travels.
Today, much of the incentive for wireless deployments comes from the board with many sales targeted directly at finance departments. In this scenario, IT managers can be left feeling disenfranchised.
What should be different?
It is O2's contention that many, perhaps the majority, of IT managers and CIOs need to be more proactive in selling the concept of wireless and mobility to their board. Or at least to investigate more thoroughly how the technologies could benefit their business.
In addition, software and hardware vendors, systems integrators and service providers have an obligation to engage IT managers and CIOs and make wireless visible to them.
Right now, wireless technology is a little like the great explorers of old returning from far-off new lands with tales of weird beasts and people with strange customs. Without the evidence of their own eyes, those left behind are right to remain sceptical.