Getting the Bang For Your Buck Now - and in the Long Run
By Barbara Kay, Tue Mar 12 00:00:00 GMT 2002

Today companies are focusing on wireless solutions that can deliver a faster ROI and increased productivity in their own business.

Business is witnessing a major shift in enterprises' mobile wireless plans. Where once firms greenlighted wireless initiatives with indefinite though promising payoffs, the sluggish economy now has executives sharpening their pencils and focusing inside the enterprise for operational savings. Today, many view mobile wireless technology as a prime tool for increasing employee productivity and reducing costs for an immediate positive effect on the bottom line.

Analysts agree that despite (or perhaps because of) the economic downshift, mobile wireless technology spending will continue to increase over the next five years. According to a report by Jupiter Media Metrix, IT managers are budgeting for enterprise wireless deployments. In a recent survey of IT executives, Jupiter found that 27% expect to apportion at least $2 million of their budgets to wireless projects within the next three years. Yet despite this leaning toward implementing wireless, businesses are cautious and more demanding of return on investment calculations.

Build a better business

Instead of employing mobile wireless technologies to deliver services to customers, many companies are focusing on wireless solutions that can deliver cost reductions through efficiencies and productivity enhancements, which can confer powerful competitive advantages. In particular, many firms are investigating wireless solutions that enable employee collaboration, that enhance communication and data access between the field and the office, or that streamline key business processes.

In a recent report entitled, "Ten Key Trends in Mobile eBusiness," IDC Research stated enterprise applications such as customer relationship management (CRM) and salesforce automation (SFA) will be in the spotlight in the near term, offering firms the chance to derive measurable benefits in both the revenue and cost sides of the equation.

Plan ahead before you go

Regardless of whether firms seek short-term savings or recognize a longer return horizon, mobile wireless initiatives should incorporate components that help increase efficiencies, reduce uncertainties and focus on the bottom line. In a challenging economy those wireless strategies that will succeed are those that drive savings in the short term, without being shortsighted. With this in mind, below are a few considerations to bear in mind when pursuing a mobile wireless strategy:

∑ Think Evolutionary, Not Revolutionary. If firms wish to get the most out of their wireless efforts and see a faster ROI, they should view wireless not as an entirely new infrastructure, but as an extension to their existing wireline data infrastructures. Leveraging a single, open, integratable infrastructure significantly decreases the complexities of implementation and management - and will enable enterprises to scale and evolve to meet future needs.

By implementing a wireless solution that leverages existing infrastructures rather than all-new ones, firms will find the results are more manageable networks at lower cost. The focus should be on an open architecture that builds upon and integrates with existing IT infrastructures. Instead of "rip-and-replace," an evolutionary approach that builds off a successful base is in order.

∑ Demand Open Standards and a Scalable Platform. Open standards enable firms to select among best-of-breed solutions without fear of vendor lock-in. This frees firms to choose the best solutions for their individual goals and needs throughout their end-to-end infrastructure-hardware, operating system, services infrastructure, development environment, application software and access devices. Open standards-based solutions are easily integrated into heterogeneous infrastructures and allow for optimal cost and performance effectiveness. By utilizing open standards, an enterprise can truly "future proof" its technology investments and position itself to take maximal advantage of new technologies and business opportunities.

∑ Choose Integrated Solutions, Not Point Products. Ad-hoc point product implementations, although sometimes easy to implement, usually result in long-term management headaches and burdensome support overhead, which can mean prohibitive cost of ownership and missed market opportunities due to an inflexible services platform.

Conversely, best-of-breed solutions designed to meet a firm's individual needs will confer greater return on investment and increased business agility in the short term and beyond. Such solutions bring a community of experienced vendors together to provide customers a scalable, proven combination of systems, software, financing and support services that provides optimal functionality and performance, minimizes cost and maximizes return on investment.

From wireless vision to market leadership

Because no firm can be certain where its wireless strategy might one day lead, planning for success demands a scalable, extensible data services infrastructure able to integrate new capabilities as business goals and needs evolve. A firm evaluating its wireless opportunities should look to a systemís vendor that can leverage strong partnerships with experienced, best-of-breed partners to deliver on a customer's business vision. By selecting a trusted advisor to help guide them from business vision to market leadership, customers can expect to enjoy the benefits of business agility, increased efficiency and effectiveness, and true competitive advantage.

Barbara Kay is Director of Marketing for Sun's Wireless Business and Content Delivery Group. In four years with Sun she has managed the iPlanet Communication Services marketing team and led the Desktop Software and Technical Computing Vision efforts. Prior to Sun, she spent several years with a networked multimedia systems vendor, Parallax Graphics.