Firms spend too much on

It’s an old saying – walk before you run – but it still applies, and to some very new ideas.

Jordan Kendall, a Toronto-based analyst with Forrester Research Inc., said too many companies are rushing to embrace “cool” wireless technology without studying what the company really needs. That rush is costing valuable chunks of wireless budgets, he added.

“It’s interesting when you take a look at what people are actually doing with the technology,” Kendall said. “For the most part, companies are using it for things like wireless e-mail, wireless instant messaging. They are spending a lot of money on both buying new devices and supporting their functionality and there is little or no idea where they will get return on this investment.”

Kendall interviewed representatives at 35 Canadian businesses (most of which report more than $1 billion in annual revenues) about how much money they were investing in wireless and what are they using it for. He also found out how much of their budgets were allocated to wireless and what their experiences have been so far.

Forty-three per cent of firms said that wireless was very important to their overall technology efforts and 10 per cent said it was critical. Forrester predicted that by 2003, at least 47 per cent would say wireless is critical and 33 per cent will say it is very important to their business.

“What generally happens in a company in regards to wireless is that upper level executives buy them for themselves and people see some of the neat things you can do with them and they end up wanting it,” he said.

“It’s a bit of a cycle. The kinds of tasks these people are using them for aren’t really the kinds of things people should be focused on. Wireless email may be great, but it doesn’t guarantee you anything more than a soft return.”

This trend is the result of “vendor hype”, said Kendall

“It’s a bit of a buzzword right now,” he said. “People want to get on the bandwagon and they don’t want to be left behind.”

However, not everyone is guilty of buying into wireless just because it’s cool, Kendall said. Some businesses, like Toronto’s Grocery Gateway, have actually planned out and are now implementing wireless strategies.

“We use it in the fulfillment process,” said John Mozas, vice-president of marketing for Grocery Gateway. “We have used radar frequency (RF) technology to do our shopping, basically. We are communicating real-time on the floors of our warehouse.”

‘Shoppers’ – the employees who fill orders at the company – carry handheld computers equipped with scanners, which read the code on the shopping basket to communicate back to the servers. This method not only saves time at Grocery Gateway, but it also helps to ensure accuracy in the orders, Mozas said.

“We also use it in the confirmation at the truck to help figure out which trucks the food should go into,” he said. “And we use wireless at the door, so our customers can pay with VISA or MasterCard or debit right there, which gets them over the security hurdle that they don’t want to put their credit card numbers on the Internet.”

Forrester Research is at Grocery Gateway is at