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The Mobile Paradox

CHICAGO -- Globalcomm 2006 -- The good news: End users, from mahogany row to the mailroom, are embracing mobile technology in droves. The bad news: The IT department still hasn’t quite figured out how to manage it.

That was the message as panelists discussed “Managing the Mobile Workforce” at the Datacomm Enterprise conference here at Globalcomm. The roundtable discussion brought out the emerging paradox of mobile systems growth: The technology is outpacing IT’s ability to control it.

“Mobile technology has huge potential, but many IT folks are reluctant to fully deploy it because they are deathly afraid of a loss of control,” said Nate Walker, senior director of product management at Meru Networks Inc. “Think about it -- wireless LANs, phones, PDAs -- it’s a lot to manage.”

Patrick King, manager of mobile technology at Michelin USA, agreed. “From what we’ve seen so far, wireless technology has a positive impact on our business, but we’re still restricting access in some plants and locations,” he said. “There are some aspects of this that we’re approaching with timidity.”

For most IT managers, the key obstacles are performance and security. “The first priority is managing their own wireless infrastructure,” said Luc Roy, vice president of product planning for Siemens Communications Group . “The second issue is whether users are staying in a secure environment -- with Wi-Fi, for example, it’s so easy to log on to an unsecure access point.”

Enterprises need to make some decisions about how they will handle mobile technology, panelists said. Some companies, such as Michelin, allow employees to choose and own their mobile devices themselves, while others try to control device deployment by issuing it themselves.

“Since it’s impossible to control personal use of these devices, companies may eventually determine that it’s best to let the employee own the equipment and be responsible for it,” said Roy. “If you change companies, you’ll take your equipment with you.”

—Tim Wilson, Site Editor, Dark Reading

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