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Mobility Becomes a Strategic Goal, Not Just a Productivity Tool

By Allan Alter  |  Posted 08-05-2005 Print
Our survey found that advancing business processes, not personal productivity, is the most important business goal companies seek through mobile devices. CIOs can dramatically change the way their businesses operate, if they can pick technologies with tre
Pedestrians gabbing on cell phones and office workers checking their PDAs are as much a part of the street scene today as traffic signs. But mobile and wireless technologies are no longer just a convenience; for most companies they have become a necessity. In this month's survey, 83 percent of the 357 IT executives who responded said their IT departments support mobile technology. And of those, 72 percent said mobility is essential to their business strategy.

Mobile phones, laptops and PDAs began as personal communication and productivity devices, but today, along with wireless networks, they are now tools for improving business efficiency and customer service. Our survey found that advancing business processes, not personal productivity, is the most important business goal companies seek through mobile devices. A 2004 study by consultants A.T. Kearney Inc. put it this way: "Wireless networks have left home and gone to work. . . . CIOs across a range of business sectors have seized the opportunities provided by wireless technologies to dramatically change how their operations operate."

Consider two organizations in the healthcare industry that have adopted mobile technology to enhance service and efficiency. Saint Luke's Health System, a group of nine hospitals based in the Kansas City, Mo., region, is opening an all-digital, wireless-networked hospital in Lee's Summit, Mo., in February 2006. By connecting to the hospital's wireless network, says John Wade, Saint Luke's vice president and CIO, doctors and nurses will have access to medical records and digitized images on most kinds of wireless mobile devices. And by replacing bar-coded bracelets with RFID tags, staff will always know where patients are. This, he claims, will allow them to provide better care and use their time more effectively. "It's very inefficient for physicians to come to Saint Luke's and look for a patient on the ninth floor, only to find they've gone down to the X-ray department. And why are we subjecting our nurses to those kinds of inefficiencies?" asks Wade.

Meanwhile, Scot Nattrass, director of operations at OTN, a $3 billion distributor of oncology medications and supplies in South San Francisco, Calif., says, "Mobility is essential. We believe in being a high-touch company." By making company information—financial reports, productivity reports and more—available online through the company intranet, "we're trying to take away the need to be in the office, so our executives can go out and press _the flesh," Nattrass adds.


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