Magazine Article | May 1, 2005

No Silver Bullets

Source: Field Technologies Magazine

Wireless and mobility technologies have to be part of your enterprise strategy today. Or, your tomorrow might be pretty bleak.

Integrated Solutions, May 2005

RFID (radio frequency identification) is a wireless technology. But, the much-hyped acronym shares another commonality with what is typically considered wireless and mobility technologies. I'm referring to the adoption mentality that exists at many companies.

Too many companies are looking at RFID as a panacea for all that ails their enterprises in terms of point-of-work technologies. Instead, they should be shoring up their traditional data collection technologies and methodologies, which will serve as the foundation for any sort of RFID implementation. By the time RFID becomes accessible in the minds of these companies, it will probably be too late for them to catch up.

Unfortunately, the same mentality is pervasive with more traditional wireless and mobility technologies. Enterprises may leverage Wi-Fi technology in their warehouses and campuses, but what about extending those benefits outside the four walls? Most companies haven't standardized on handhelds for their mobile workforces, and smart phone decisions are pretty much left in the hands of employees. As for extending applications - such as CRM (customer relationship management) and SFA (sales force automation) - it tends to be a departmental initiative and not the case of enterprise optimization.

This seems to be a short-sighted corporate stance that serves just the immediate needs of a few employees. Additionally, it leads to multiple problems as wireless technologies spread throughout these companies in an ad hoc manner. Support becomes a nightmare as every employee seems to be using a different handheld device. And with departments acting on their own, security is an obvious concern.

The only way to address this wireless dilemma is to adopt an enterprise strategy that either embraces these technologies and applications or completely expels them from your company. The latter will solve the problem, but it will also send a strong message to your employees and partners - "We won't be around much longer." Obviously, the best alternative is to embrace the use of wireless and mobility technologies throughout the enterprise. That means a long-term strategy that addresses the immediate needs of the company, but is flexible to adapt to the changing landscape of wireless technologies.

It's a similar quandary faced by those companies that are now bombarded with information on RFID. In both cases, these technologies are not a silver bullet. And, they never will be. If your enterprise doesn't adopt the current set of proven technologies right now, then the problem just compounds as more advanced technologies become available. That's because these technologies typically build on the current infrastructure that is in place within the enterprise. And, they also presume a set of business processes exist that can be migrated to take advantage of new hardware, software, and data.

RFID and wireless technologies promise many benefits. One promise I can make, however, is that the pervasiveness of these technologies within your enterprise is - ultimately - inevitable. It's easier to accept that fact now and plan for the future. If you're currently turning a blind eye to wireless adoption within your enterprise, then what will your response be to WiMax and satellite technologies as they become more accessible? Truth be told, you'll have no response. And, you'll be in the same hole you're in right now. Except, of course, the hole will be much deeper.