The Great Mobility Shift

Globalcomm panelists provide a powerful look at a field in transition

June 6, 2006

2 Min Read
The Great Mobility Shift

At the big Globalcomm show this morning I moderated a fascinating panel on "Managing the Mobile Workforce" that showed just how much and how fast the job of IT manager is changing.

On the panel were Dr. Pat King, head of global electronics strategies for Michelin; Luc Roy, the vice president of product planning for Siemens AG (NYSE: SI; Frankfurt: SIE); and Nate Walker, the senior director of product management for Meru Networks Inc.

Roy showed a slide that displayed the overarching responsibility of the traditional IT department moving from "information technology management" to "mobility management." In other words, the entire job description and world view of IT are being shifted by the larger transition to mobility that we are seeing in enterprises today.

Along with that shift comes an array of challenges, many of which we touched on briefly on the panel: Security, naturally, tops the list, but others include managing the relationship with carriers and service providers (who will inevitably see declines in revenue as enterprises go fully wireless); coordinating the relationship with end users, who often have inflated or unrealistic expectations for new wireless deployments; and demonstrating the benefits of going mobile to senior management, who sometimes resist change and new investment not supported by hard ROI figures.

From the standpoint of IT departments, Roy noted, "things are definitely going out of control – but at the same time, we're seeing from a market standpoint and from a technology standpoint big discontinuities, and from discontinuities come innovation."

The struggle for control was exemplified by the comments of Michelin's Pat King, who noted that while the international tire maker is a leader in deploying RFID tagging systems in its products, wireless networks at this time are banned in Michelin facilities. New wireless strategies, King noted, were being spearheaded by Edouard Michelin, who tragically died last week in a boating accident. Now, he added, it remains to be seen whether the top management will continue to implement the vision of Edouard Michelin.

The benefits are clear. Nate Walker, of Meru Networks, cited the example of Osaka Gas, in Japan, which has gone completely wire-free in its 50 offices around the island country. Osaka Gas is saving some $4 million a year thanks to the shift, mostly in equipment costs and cellular fees.

Those kinds of savings – and the challenges in managing technological and human resources – are only going to increase as we go forward in the great mobility shift.

— Richard Martin, Senior Editor, Unstrung

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