by Gary Beach

The Disruptive Power of Mobility

Nov 01, 20052 mins
MobileNetworkingSmall and Medium Business

Bill Gates got it right in 1990 when he and Microsoft shared a vision of the future they called “information at your fingertips.” Four years later, during a Comdex Fall keynote, Gates saw a world where personal computers, fax machines and new computer-based devices will “give us continuous access to all kinds of information.”

I was thinking of Gates’ comment during a recent conversation with Andy Brown, CTO at Merrill Lynch. During a panel discussion on new technology, Brown said, “[CIOs] underestimate the disruptive power of mobility.”

As CIOs plan ahead for 2006, mobility, empowered by those new computer-based devices, is changing the way companies do business.

At the August CIO 100 Symposium, I moderated a panel on mobility with John Chen, CEO and president of Sybase; Kent Mathy, president of the Business Markets Group of Cingular Wireless; and John Davies, vice president and director of Intel Solutions Market Development Group. I asked the audience if they expected their employees to be more mobile a year from now than they are today. Most hands went up. They stayed up when I asked if it was more difficult to build a mobile enterprise. But a lot of hands came down when I asked, “Is your infrastructure optimized for mobility?”

Most businesses have, or are, mobilizing e-mail. Fewer are making their business applications mobile and fewer still are restructuring their business processes for mobile access. And when you factor in extending internal infrastructures to supply chain partners and external customers, the challenge becomes even greater.

Davies offered an interesting piece of advice to CIOs who want to untether their firms. Mandate that future PC purchases be mobile machines rather than desktops. Davies claims that did the trick at Intel.

Before our very eyes, eBusiness is morphing into “mBusiness,” a concept authored by Ravi Kalakota and Marcia Robinson in their 2001 book M-Business: The Race to Mobility.

For background music, as you finalize your 2006 business plan, I suggest playing “Going Mobile” by The Who. Andy Brown is right. Mobility is the most disruptive technology you need to get your arms—and your employee and customer fingertips—around, and fast.