Next-generation wLANs will drive productivity gains

As our vendor clients already know, I’ve been busy surveying over 20 enterprise wireless LAN providers to learn more about their wLAN offerings and support plans for 802.11ac, BYOD, UC, etc. for ESG’s upcoming wLAN Market Landscape Report. I’m happy to report that from the supply-side, there are plenty of innovative enterprise wireless systems to choose from and a very competitive marketplace. And we will be fielding our enterprise wireless networking survey shortly, so we’ll be able to better match enterprise wireless needs to vendor offerings.

However, I do have concerns about the demand-side, where many enterprise CFOs are still concerned about continued economic uncertainty, and are holding the line on IT budgets. Recently, change in information and communications technologies (ICT) seems to be accelerating toward light-speed, but many CFOs just want to spend to keep the lights on in the IT department. Organizations that don’t invest in new IT technologies will find themselves at a competitive disadvantage - period.

IT needs to better communicate to Finance the risks of inaction as peppering Finance with capital budget requests to fund BYOD and 802.11ac will often have disappointing results, particularly as their cost-saving story isn’t all that compelling. Since IT is from Mars and Finance is from Venus, perhaps the answer to improved communication is to focus on broader organizational benefits, especially investing in organizational productivity gains. Successful IT professionals have learned they need to be both technology and organizational multilingual.

Most organizations define productivity as a measure of output divided by input, where output could be revenues or inventory and input is commonly labor or capital. IT has been quietly driving significant productivity gains across all sorts of organizations for the past 30 years, but often too myopically focused on technology to notice. In the past 5 or so years, mobile and ‘always connected’ employees have been a key ingredient for productivity gains, and looking forward, connected sensors and gizmos will be, too. Policy driven automation fills out the forward looking productivity improvement scenario, but only if organizations invest in these technologies. In addition, enabling collaboration speeds organizational agility, and wireless enables increased collaboration.

Most CFOs are familiar with Moore’s Law, which predicts computing ‘bang for the buck,' but very few are familiar with Metcalf’s Law, which states the value of a network is proportional to the square of connected users. Connecting more employees, partners, customers, and devices via cost-effective wireless will drive greater returns on investment, and that is what CFOs and CEOs want to fund.

Another emerging trend is shifting IT personnel from a general to specific departments, like Marketing–IT or Sales-IT, where this was done mostly with pricey consultants in the past. What is the value to marketing of seeing a ‘heat map’ of in-store traffic via Wi-Fi location analytics, or designing ‘push’ marketing campaigns to mobile customers? Consider partnering with other departments to explore their wireless needs and for budget to expand Wi-Fi coverage and ‘big data’ like capabilities. It could also make you an IT hero! If there are any unsung wireless IT heroes out there, drop me a note and so I can write about your accomplishment to inspire others!

Topics: IT Infrastructure Networking Enterprise Mobility