by Thomas Wailgum

Where Are Your Users Right Now?

Apr 10, 20063 mins

    I don’t mean the question in a figurative way. Literally. Where are they? For many companies, they’re sitting in their office or cube, chained to the good ole desk by their desktop PC and Ethernet cable.

However, it’s just as easy for me to imagine them sitting in their favorite Starbucks, or in the airport waiting for a flight, or on a visit to a customer’s headquarters, or even in their pajamas at home. They’ve got a wireless laptop, maybe a handheld, a mobile phone, even an MP3 player, and they are nowhere near the office. They are working, and they are happy.

My point is that users can be anywhere today and still be doing good work—checking e-mail, surfing the Web, updating sales information, listening in to an executive meeting from Europe or Japan, or scanning CRM data on a vacation in the Caribbean. What’s interesting is that today’s users gleefully accept the inherent work-life tradeoff of this mobile lifestyle. It’s just a part of doing business today.

In fact, many CIOs would say, users are demanding this ability to lead this technological lifestyle. Look at wireless e-mail access, for one. According to market researcher Ronin, 70 percent of on-the-go workers expect that mobile e-mail will “liberate” them, enable them to have a greater level of control over their workdays and allow them to be more productive. As such, 80 percent of respondents to a Ronin survey said they are demanding mobile e-mail right now.

And that’s where IT professionals find themselves today: Just when they thought they had figured out how to protect the castle (a.k.a. the hardwired network)—with a metaphorical moat, some flaming arrows and vats of hot oil to spill over the sides to keep the invaders out—IT people now realize that many of their inhabitants have left the castle and don’t want to return. However, those people still want access to every little thing they had before and expect the same level of protection from outside your perimeter as they had from within.

The Wi-Fi Alliance says that 90 percent of laptops out there have Wi-Fi capabilities. BlackBerrys, Treos and other beefed-up handhelds are standard issue for millions of the white collars and blue collars. CIOs whom I recently spoke with tell me that once your workers get a taste of unwired freedom, they will never let you take that capability away, no matter what the circumstance.

And that’s what this new blog is all about: CIO stories, innovations and ideas about the mobile computing space—wireless pitfalls and successes, mobile device and security management, wireless networking best practices and lessons learned from companies that are leading the pack with mobile and user management and connectivity successes. Of course, I’m going to need your feedback, your war stories and your insights into this evolving and complex part of CIOs’ and IT professionals’ jobs. Let’s start the dialogue.

So, where are your users right now?