Wireless workflow apps popular

At Cinesite Inc., a digital special-effects studio in Hollywood, Calif., artists pore over computer displays, banging out images for upcoming film hits using a variety of desktop platforms and programs.

The rigors of 200 artists creating digital images for films like X-Men put tremendous demands on the company’s information systems and help desk.

To adjust, the studio is installing a wireless workflow software package to replace its old paper-based system for tracking trouble reports from employees and planning new systems installations, according to Philip Rowe, senior systems administrator at Cinesite.

“What we’ve had until now is basically a clipboard list of information and people stopping you in the hall to ask what’s going on with a system,” he said with a laugh.

“Help desk jobs were not getting done, and we’d lost track of work issues, and there were problems with response,” Rowe added. “Nobody would know the status of a project, or the person who did know would be out sick.”

Wireless connections to workflow software products are gaining popularity, as they help workers move and file reports such as help desk requests and responses, analysts said.

“Wireless applications will give a shot in the arm to workflow vendors just because of the gains from wireless productivity,” said analyst Nathaniel Palmer at Delphi Group Ltd. in Boston.

Cinesite’s staffers initially will input help desk records on Palm VII devices that are tied to cputers with a synchronization cradle. But eventually, they will be able to work wirelessly from any location, even from home.

Cinesite bought three products from TeamShare Inc. in Colorado Springs to create the workflow automation and allow access to the data from PalmPilots. Pricing starts at US$840 per user for all three products, according to TeamShare. TeamShare’s wireless mobile functionality was added in July with synchronization help from Aether Systems Inc. in Owings Mills, Md.

Many companies use wireless LANs for workers to update work processes, but wireless access over a wide area network is “still very early,” said Phillip Redman, an analyst at Gartner Group Inc. in Stamford, Conn.

However, not all companies find wireless connections necessary.

“Some workers, like insurance auditors, can work in untethered mode, so they don’t need to pay the premium cost for a wireless network,” said Shawn O’Donnell, president of GlobalTech Source Inc. in Melbourne Beach, Fla. O’Donnell’s company provides Windows CE-based handhelds with keyboards to insurance auditors.

When auditors are on the road, they use handhelds equipped with preset forms from Ottawa-based JetForm Corp. and make a toll-free dial-up connection to GlobalTech’s portal to transmit the forms to the network.

But, O’Donnell said, “I can see where a delivery person or many others would want a wireless connection.”