Adopt wireless apps now or be left behind: analyst

Approximately 50 to 65 per cent of wireless applications deployed during the next year will fail, according to Jack Gold, the vice-president, Web and collaboration strategies, for the META Group in Stamford, Conn.

Gold spoke at a seminar in Toronto last month, held by iAnywhere, a subsidiary of Sybase Inc. The iAnywhere Solutions Forum on Wireless e-Business focused on the challenges businesses face when implementing wireless solutions for employees, and what the wireless e-business landscape will look like down the road.

Gold indicated that the reasoning behind the high amount of deployment failures will be in part due to the fact that many companies simply do not have the understanding necessary to deploy useful applications, on devices that people actually use. It is therefore important for firms to take a look at where the market will be.

“In the next three to four years, what we expect to see is a fundamental shift in the way people are going to be accessing information,” Gold said. “And that fundamental shift is going to be driven by the fact that the primary information access device is not going to be the PC.”

Gold stressed that the PC is not going away. But in the future, 75 per cent of knowledge workers will be mobile at least 25 per cent of the time, and by about 2005 or 2006, 65 to 75 per cent of users will employ alternative devices, he said.

With that in mind, Gold explained there is a definite need for businesses to take full advantage of wireless technologies, and to ensure their employees are armed and ready with a means of mobile communication.

But, he noted, there is also a need to support a variety of platforms, depending on the tasks that need to be done, because people will be using a variety of devices as opposed to just one. For example, Gold said that while people might use their laptops to create presentations, they would most likely use their PDAs to look up a phone number because it is more accessible and faster to use.

When deciding on whether or not to implement a wireless e-business solution, the real issue is that businesses – from a mobile and wireless perspective – should make sure they can deliver time-critical information.

“The rate of change of information is what determines whether or not you want to go mobile, and particularly wirelessly mobile,” Gold explained. “If I have information that does not change very often – if I have information that changes every week – there are much better ways, cheaper ways, (and) faster ways of getting information to people than giving them a wireless connection, at least for the next several years.”

If businesses have time-critical information that can help them to conduct business better, wireless is almost a necessity. Take, for example, the case of sales representatives out in the field. If they are visiting their clients, and are able to instantly tell those clients exactly how much merchandise they have back at the warehouse and how soon they can get it to them, then they are making an instant sale and are beating their competitor.

That is part of the reason why Gold stressed it is important to start looking at wireless today – because if you don’t, your competitors will.

“If you are not in the mobile and wireless space within the next 12 to 15 months, you will be behind,” he said.

Despite all the negative predictions surrounding wireless application deployments, as well as all the time and effort involved in wirelessly-enabling a company’s workforce, Gold said there is a payback to it all – if there is a business need for the implementation. It is important to first look at problems and find technologies that fit to resolve them, not the other way around, he suggested. Wireless and mobile technology should be implemented because there is a business need.

“ROIs [return on investments] need to drive the projects,” he said. “The return on investment is going to be big. If you can’t get around why, then why are you doing it to begin with?”